How to Find the Right Publisher for Your Nonfiction Book

23 May 2023


Every aspiring author’s dream is to have their works published. Having a reputable publisher accept a manuscript for publication provides authors with the ultimate validation.

However, the process of going from a finished manuscript to getting a full-length nonfiction book published is not an easy one. That is why understanding how nonfiction book publishers work is essential in making its publication a reality.

In this discussion, we will focus on how to find a publisher that resonates with an author’s specific goals. We will also consider the steps involved in transforming a book idea into a publishable nonfiction book.

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

The term “traditional publishing” is frequently used in the nonfiction book publishing world. But what exactly does “traditional publishing” mean?

Traditional nonfiction book publishing refers to the process of publishing a nonfiction book through a publishing company.

This process typically involves an author writing a book, finding a literary agent to represent them, and submitting their book proposal to publishers specializing in the book’s genre or topic.

If a publisher is interested, the agent will negotiate a contract on behalf of the author, and the publisher will work with the author on editing, design, production, marketing, and promotion of the book.

Traditional nonfiction book publishing is a highly selective and competitive industry. Still, it can offer authors greater exposure, credibility, and the potential for greater sales and financial rewards. Nevertheless, the process can be long and filled with many rejections along the way. As a result, going the self-publishing route has become increasingly popular recently.

So, what does self-publishing involve?

Self-publishing a nonfiction book refers to the process of an author publishing their book independently, without the help of a traditional publishing company.

In self-publishing, the author is responsible for every aspect of the publishing process, including writing, editing, design, production, marketing, and promotion.

Self-publishing, such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press, can be done online. The author has complete creative control over their book and receives all profits from sales. Still, they are also responsible for all costs associated with self-publishing, such as editing, cover design, and printing.

Self-publishing can be a good option for authors who want to maintain control over their work and have a larger share of the profits. Nevertheless, it requires much hard work, time, and investment. Please bear in mind that the investment required is not a financial one only. Authors must also invest time and effort when choosing the self-publishing route for a nonfiction book.

When considering traditional publishing versus self-publishing, choosing the better option depends largely on the author’s goals, needs, and circumstances. That is why considering the following factors is crucial when making a choice.


Self-publishing gives the author complete control over their book’s content, design, and marketing. In contrast, traditional publishing usually involves some level of compromise and collaboration with the publisher.


Self-publishing can often be faster than traditional publishing, as there is no need to find a literary agent or wait for a publishing contract. However, the author is responsible for all aspects of the publishing process, which can be time-consuming.


Self-publishing requires the author to invest in editing, cover design, book images, and marketing, whereas traditional publishing usually covers these costs. However, traditional publishing also involves lower royalty rates for the author.


Traditional publishing can provide greater credibility and exposure for an author, as their book has been vetted and endorsed by a publishing company. Self-publishing can sometimes carry a stigma of being lower quality or less professional. However, this perception is changing as self-publishing becomes more mainstream and self-published books improve in quality.

Ultimately, the decision between self-publishing and traditional publishing depends on the author’s goals and priorities. If the author wants complete control over their book and is willing to invest time and money into the publishing process, choosing to self-publish may be a good option. If the author values the credibility and support of a traditional publishing company and is willing to compromise on some aspects of their book, traditional publishing may be a better fit.

How to Find a Publisher

Choosing a traditional publisher over self-publishing mainly boils down to authors seeking the credibility and support that comes with a traditional publisher.

However, finding a publisher can seem like a daunting task. That is why authors must be aware of the process involved in finding a publisher.

Research publishers.

The first step in finding a publisher is researching publishers specializing in a specific genre or topic.

For example, authors looking to publish a book about their company’s history should find publishers that specialize in company history books or corporate histories.

While one might think a business publisher might be interested, the fact is that “business books” is a broad topic. Therefore, finding a publisher focused on corporate histories or company history books makes sense.

The following are helpful tips to consider when researching publishers:

  • Before researching publishers, it is important to determine the book’s genre. Doing so will help identify publishers who specialize in that area of interest.
  • Use online resources such as Google, social media, and online directories to find publishers who are a good fit for the book. Some websites like Publishers Marketplace, Writer’s Digest, and Poets & Writers offer databases of publishers, their submission guidelines, and details.
  • Look at the best-selling books in the specific nonfiction genre and take note of the publishers. This tactic can help authors identify the top publishers in that specific nonfiction book genre.
  • Attend writing conferences and workshops to network with literary agents, authors, and publishers. Attending events allows authors to learn about the industry and connect with potential publishers.
  • Check the publishers’ websites to learn about their submission guidelines, the genres they specialize in, and recent releases. Submitting a manuscript directly to a nonfiction book publisher is a good way to start the publishing process.

Taking the time to research nonfiction book publishers can help authors find the right nonfiction book publisher.

Submit a manuscript to a publisher.

Authors looking to get their foot in the door can submit a finished manuscript to a traditional nonfiction book publisher. Many publishers have open calls for manuscripts as they search for new material for digital and online release.

However, reading the specific submission guidelines is important since following them closely increases an author’s chances of publishing their work. Additionally, authors must consider the specific topics and genres publishers look for. Authors must consider this condition for their manuscript’s topic carefully, and the content must match what publishers want.

Also, when submitting a book proposal, authors are encouraged to include a strong query letter summarizing the book and stating why it would be a good fit for the publisher. This letter should be professional, engaging, and succinct. The letter should match the writer’s particular tone and personality so publishers are enticed to check out the manuscript.

Work with a literary agent.

Working with a literary agent may be a great way to facilitate the process. A literary agent is a professional who represents authors and their written works to publishers and other media outlets in order to secure publishing contracts, licensing deals, and other agreements on behalf of their clients. Literary agents work closely with authors to help them refine their work, develop a professional platform, and navigate the publishing industry.

Agents have extensive knowledge of the publishing industry. They can help authors to negotiate contracts, protect their intellectual property, and advocate for their interests. Literary agents typically earn a commission on the works they represent, usually a percentage of the author’s earnings. Working with a literary agent can be a valuable way for authors to gain access to the publishing industry and increase their chances of getting published.

Please keep in mind that authors unwilling to share earnings with a literary agent may prefer to represent themselves throughout the search for a publisher. Nevertheless, up-and-coming authors may prefer to work with a literary agent to become acquainted with the inner workings of the nonfiction book publishing industry.

A good rule of thumb is to use literary agent databases like AgentQuery, QueryTracker, or Publishers Marketplace to find literary agents representing nonfiction authors in specific genres. Otherwise, old-fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations can be extremely helpful in finding the right literary agent.


Preserve your legacy

Things to Consider When Looking for the Right Nonfiction Book Publisher

Choosing the right nonfiction book publisher is the single-most important decision that can greatly impact the success of a nonfiction book. The following factors play a key role in choosing the right nonfiction book publisher:

  • Reputation. Research the publisher’s reputation in the industry. Look at their history of publishing successful nonfiction books in specific genres or topics.
  • Distribution. Consider the publisher’s distribution network and ability to get nonfiction books into bookstores, libraries, and other outlets. A publisher with a strong distribution network can help publications reach a wider audience.
  • Editorial support. Consider the publisher’s level of editorial support, including copyediting, proofreading, and cover design. The quality of these services can greatly impact a nonfiction book’s overall quality.
  • Royalties and advances. Consider the publisher’s royalty rates and advance payments. Ensure that you understand the contract terms and that they are fair and reasonable.
  • Marketing and promotion. Consider the publisher’s marketing and promotional efforts. A publisher invested in promoting a book can greatly increase its chances of success.
  • Author relations. Consider the publisher’s relationship with their authors. Look for a publisher who values their authors and is committed to developing long-term relationships.
  • Contract terms. Carefully review the terms of the publishing contract before signing. Make sure you understand the terms to avoid misunderstandings.

Above all, understanding the financial and contractual considerations are critical in working with the right publisher. Accepting unfair terms for the sake of getting published is a decision authors commonly regret.

What happens when a nonfiction book gets published?

Once a book gets accepted for publication, authors can expect some or all of the following steps to take place:

  • Editing. The manuscript goes through several rounds of editing, including developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading. This book review process may also include peer review to ensure quality. Also, a book editor may suggest additional changes before passing the manuscript off to a book proofreader for a final revision.
  • Design. The book’s cover, interior layout, and typography are designed and finalized. Traditional publishers use original book images as opposed to the public domain images used by self-published covers.
  • Printing. The book is printed, either through offset printing or digital printing, depending on the publisher’s needs. One of the key events during the printing process is assigning an ISBN. An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique identifier assigned to books and other publications. It is a 13-digit number used to identify and track books for inventory and sales purposes. For many authors, an ISBN is a milestone, meaning their book has been officially published.
  • Distribution. The book is distributed to retailers, wholesalers, and other outlets through a distribution network.
  • Marketing. The publisher markets the book through various channels, including book reviews, author interviews, social media, and advertising.
  • Sales. The book is sold through various outlets, including bookstores, online retailers, and direct-to-consumer sales.
  • Royalties. The author receives royalties based on book sales, typically calculated as a percentage of the cover price.
  • Reviews. The book is reviewed by critics and readers, which can impact its success and visibility.
  • Author events. The author may participate in book signings, readings, and other events to promote the book and connect with readers.

Please remember that an author’s post-publication role is to promote their book whenever possible. Doing so allows the book to gain popularity while increasing sales.

A Final Thought

For many authors, publishing a book is about personal satisfaction.

While they have financial motivations behind publishing a nonfiction book, most authors view getting published as a major milestone in their literary careers.

Overall, publishing a book can be a rewarding experience, both personally and professionally.

However, authors should carefully consider their goals and expectations and the time and effort required to produce and market a book before deciding if it is worth pursuing.

The nonfiction book publishing process can be lonely and filled with rejection. So, authors must be prepared to view this endeavor as a marathon, not a sprint.

Zach Richter 

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