Sunday, June 12, 2011

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How it works

I haven't posted in a while. Mostly because I haven't known exactly what to post. Most of my writing I want to get published so I can't reasonably post online. I considered doing some book reviews, which I still may do.

But now I have a new plan. I've come to realize that most of the people I talk to have no idea how the publishing industry works. It's complicated. Confusing. And slow. There are a ton of hoops to jump through. A ton of quirks. I have been learning about it for over two years and I still have a lot to learn.

So there are two things I'd like to accomplish with this blog. One, walk through the steps as I go through them explaining how they work, and why, to those who care. Two, help others who would like to one day be published, learn the basics of the publishing industry. 


I'll start with an overview- How it works.

First you write a book. It had better be good because there are thousands, tens of thousands, of people who have also written books they'd like to get published. It must not only be written well but also fit into the market. It must sell.

Next you make a choice. A literary agent or straight to publisher.

Publishers- are like this big over whelming power. Untouchable. Or so they seem. Some people think you need an agent to get published but that isn't true. There are different types of publishers. Some you need an agent for. Some you don't.
First there are the big publishers.. These publishers only accept submissions from agents. They don't have time to read books from nobodies so they expect agents to find the books and authors worth their time and they read only those.
Then there are the average and small publishers, there are a ton of these. Many of these you do not need an agent for. You can send them your manuscript and, after waiting a very long time (sometimes over a year)  they will tell you yay or nay and give you an offer if they are interested.
 Then comes the contract. I've heard lots of things about contracts. They are scary things. You don't really know what they say, or what those things mean and sometimes you can be trapped.
     One horror story i heard was about an author signed a contract she didn't know she was signing, or more of less, who she was signing with. She signed with a packager, not a publisher (something i still don't know a lot about myself) and signed away all creative rights. Now they have someone else writing the newest books, her books, because she didn't want to write it their way. She was fired from her own book because of the contract she signed. Other contracts are slightly less scary but can still make a big impact on a career. Some I've heard will say you can't publish any other books in the same genre. Many people would suggest getting an agent even if it is after you get a publishing deal because of the contract (and rolyalties, it's hard for a writer to track those correctly) The publisher will offer an advance, a certain amount of money that they think the book is worth upfront. Once your book makes enough money to cover that you will start making royalties for it. An average advance for a first book is under 10k. (not enough to make a living on by any means)

Agents.-- You go through mostly the same process to get an agent. You write a letter saying what your book is about and if you have any experience writing (any other books, short stories published ect.). If they find it interesting they will request to see more. Usually a few chapters or 30-50 pages. They call this a partial. If they like that they will request to see the whole thing. If they like the whole manuscript enough they will offer representation. You sign a contract with them, (it is not as full of pitfalls as a publishers contract but you should still ask a lot of questions. There are still things to look out for.) and you will work together to sell the book to a publisher (if you accept the offer of course).
 Agents know publishers, they work with them on a regular basis. The publishers trust them (if they are any good). With an agent your work will get read faster, by bigger editors (basically a publishing scout, finding work to be published), and they will negotiate a better contract for more money.
Even with an agent though, you are not guaranteed to be published. Sometimes even good agents can't make a sale.

There are also two other options for publishing.

 1. Self publishing. Websites like Creatspace.com will allow you to upload your written work, whatever it is, whatever quality, and make a book. You will have to pay for any books you actually print, but you can sell them on amazon.com both in print and as ebooks. It's not a bad choice if you are not willing to get your feet dirty with traditional publishing (its complicated and insanely hard) but the truth is the chances of selling more than just a few dozen copies is rare. Self publishing success stories do happen (The Shack for example) but they are insanely rare.

2. Vanity publishing, like Publish America.  I don't know a ton of details about this but I know you pay them  publish you work and they almost never reach shelves.

Make sure you do a TON of research into what ever publisher you choose because there are a lot of traps out ther. I know many people who consider PA a complete scam.  Publishing with companies such as these are not the same as with a traditional publisher. To many professionals in the writing industry, having a book published either of these two ways means nothing to them. Unless you prove you have had significant sales, you are as good as an unpublished writer.




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