Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Wonderful World of Publishing

I’ve been working on getting published for several years. Now, if you are not a writer or new to the writing world, you may not realize how difficult/frustrating/virtually hopeless this process is. While there is a light at the end of the tunnel, the path to publishing can be a maze.

There’s self-publishing (costs money), POD publishing (print-on-demand, another form of self-publishing, but cheaper), and traditional publishing (where the author makes no money until they sell a book. Depressing, really, but these publishers don’t want your money when they say yes.)

There are also agents who search for the best publishing house for your manuscript. Once you land a contract, the agents get paid a commission of your sales. They have, after all, helped you make that money.

I will be talking about various forms of publishing (as I understand it) for the next few weeks. Alas, there are people masquerading as those who will sell your book, but only want your money. We’ll talk about what to watch for later on. But before we do any of that, we must discuss how to make someone want your book.

Step One: Convince The Publisher You Are Brilliant

Once you’ve written your book, edited it, had a friend read it and tear it to shreds, cried, and then fixed said shredded book, it’s time to send it off so someone will read your masterpiece. The reaction you’re hoping for after you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into this story is for someone in the publishing world to recognize your brilliance and offer you a contract. Signed contracts, so I’m told, lead to advances in the traditional publishing world. Once your book sells, your royalty payments start adding up. When your royalty payments exceed your advance, you get another check from the publishing company.

But payments are the last step in the long road that is the publishing world. First you must convince someone of your brilliance. To do this, you must catch a publisher’s attention in a good way. Don’t misspell things. Use the right words. Use proper grammar. Finally, you must send them what they want.

Some publishers want a query first – one page telling them who you are, what your book is about, and how it’s going to make money. Other publishers want the whole manuscript, a cover letter, a chapter by chapter synopsis, and an author resume. What they want varies. What genre the publisher takes varies. Who the publisher takes varies.

After you’ve studied the guidelines of this particular publisher and have assembled exactly what they want, you bite the bullet and contact them. Then you wait for a response. It will most likely be “no.” Some publishers send out their answers in as little as two weeks. Others take six months to respond. Some don’t respond at all. If you don’t hear back after a certain amount of months, they aren’t interested.

When contacting traditional publishers, keep in mind that only some of them allow simultaneous submissions – contact with more than one publisher at a time over the same manuscript. Others want exclusive rights while they’re thinking about the manuscript and don’t wish for you to contact anyone else about it until they’ve given you their answer.

Sure, you know that you’ve written the next bestseller. But you have to tell the publisher that in a way that doesn’t come off as arrogant, naive, or stupid. Published authors merely have to quote what they’ve done and how well it did. Unpublished authors have to convince the publisher of the need to speak to their target audience on this particular subject, give an air of authority on said topic without being arrogant or naive, and write each sentence flawlessly.

After that (yes, there’s more), you must then pitch your book. Your idea for your entire book needs to be whittled down to a short and sweet summary that leaves the reader wanting to know more about your characters and book. If the reader is intrigued with your idea in a few hundred words, they’ll likely want to read more. Once you have this summary down, you just have to worry about following the publisher guidelines in the initial contact and hope you don’t somehow look like an idiot while doing so. If your summary rocks, your other material is spot on, and you have managed not to land in the “arrogant idiot” pile, you may have convinced your first reader that you are brilliant.

There are more steps and more kinds of publishers. We will talk about them in the weeks to come.


  1. *looks around nervously* psst...hey. I just escaped from a forum at the ABNA site and followed you here. Nice blog. Perhaps you had ought to read one of mine seems custom made for you! And me! And anyone else foolish enough to try and write a novel!

  2. Dear Jen (or is it Jenny, Jennie, Jennifer?)
    I completely agree with your take on publishing/selling and would like to push it further - for every day you spend writing a book, you probably have to spend a week editing and polishing it and at least a month promoting it if you want to get any kind of return.

    I'm basing this on the fact that I wrote 5 books in a year (although Archer only took 18 days, it was *gifted* to me by the universe!). After 23 rejections from agents (another 4 months) I self pubbed and organised my own launch party, inviting archers, knights and a medieval healer to a ruined castle. The syndicated pictures were awesome and published by 4 local rags.

    This was August 2010 and 2.5 years later I have sold around 300 books at numerous signings in bookstores and festivals (Pagan, Renaissance and Faery). I have given away another couple of hundred paperbacks and at least that many electronic copies to event organisers, hard-up people who promise to comment (and never do) and donations to schools, libraries, hospitals, charities and the press. The amazon/lulu sales account for another 50-100.

    It's been a long hard slog, but the feedback is finally starting to pick up, although way more people email me stuff than put it on amazon. I will admit to carrying business cards with me wherever I go (I'm on my 3rd 1000) because I will engage anybody and everybody and as soon as they show even a hint of interest, I give them a card.

    I strongly recommend putting as much time and energy as you can into the launch - although not much may happen on the day (we were lucky to coincide with a "living history" event), it makes a good splash on your website/blog. You can see more about the details of my exploits and read about the launch and see press clippings on my website: