Dear Author Enabler,
I have written almost all of a novel. Of course, I am still working to complete it. My questions are:
1) When I submit the novel to a publisher, should I submit the entire novel or just the first few chapters?
2) Should I attempt to have the novel edited before it is submitted, or will the publisher edit it if the novel is considered?
3) In determining which publisher to contact, is it good to contact the publisher of a novel that is the same type as mine?
Tallahassee, Florida

You are asking good questions. I’d like to focus on the second one, regarding editing. Your first, essential task is to complete a good novel. I recommend that unpublished novelists have a completed manuscript in hand before submitting anything to an agent or publisher. Since it is the quality of the writing that will sell your work, you want to make sure it is in the best possible shape. A skilled editor can definitely improve the writing—every author benefits from editing, including those with a long record of success. (Most authors gratefully recognize the help of their editor and other pre-publication readers in their acknowledgments.)

However, the time and effort of a good editor costs money. It’s definitely worth the expense if you are really ready to take your manuscript to market, but I am not certain you are there yet. Are you part of a writing group, or do you have one or two trusted readers who could give you an honest assessment of your writing? A smart, good read by a friend or relative might help you tighten up the work before you spend the money on an editor. But I still recommend hiring a good editor, if you can swing it, budget-wise.

Once the manuscript is in tip-top shape, your next task is to find an agent, or to find a smaller, less traditional publisher who will accept submissions without an agent. Finding an agent still seems like the best bet for an unpublished novelist. It isn’t easy—good agents are overwhelmed with submissions—but the effort is definitely worth it. A good agent will know the publishing houses and imprints that will be most likely to take an interest in your kind of book. This, by the way, is the answer to your third question: Yes, it is best to try and sell your work to publishers who handle books that are similar to yours. If you’re working without an agent, you will need to do your homework to find the right publisher.

Dear Author Enabler,
I am 90 years old, and I have written my life story. Can you help me to get an agent and publish my book?
Bernice “Bee” Page
Novato, California

Autobiography/memoir is a crowded field and not easy to sell, unless the author is already famous. As I mentioned above, getting an agent is not easy, but it is usually worth the trouble. However, in some cases I think it may not be the route to go, and I think your book might fall into this category.

You’ve written your autobiography, and you are ready to get it into print. Rather than going through the trouble and potential disappointment of trying to acquire an agent, why not publish it yourself? First, have someone edit your manuscript for errors and misspellings. You can either pay for this, or have a trusted friend or family member do it—if he or she has the necessary skills.

Once this step is completed, you have a choice to make: You can have the pages photocopied and bound by a local printer/copier and sell or give them to your friends, relatives and other interested folks; or you can do a more formal version of self-publishing, using something like the Ingram Spark program. Then you can see if your local bookstore will stock the book. Have a book release party. Enjoy the ride. No matter what route you choose, congratulations on writing the book!

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