The Hard Facts about Getting Published:
I have two things to say about getting published: One, it is almost impossible. And, two, it is the easiest thing in the world.
Many people believe that if the writing is good, the author will be offered a traditional publishing deal. Sadly, that isn’t necessarily the case. So many other factors come into play. Publishers, despite their protests to the contrary, exist mainly for one thing. They want to make money. You are basically on a hiding to nothing, even if you have a good product, if you are an unknown writer trying to break into the business. You really need to be a film star, a famous sportsperson, a celebrity of some sort, or an already established writer.
Actually, even the chances of you getting to present your MS to a publisher are pretty slim. Nearly all of them require that your work comes to them through an agent. This presupposes that the agent has done all the preliminary dismissing of rubbish and has held on to MSs that might make money. And getting an agent is even harder than finding a publisher. All they want is a guaranteed 15% of a money-maker and they are going to waste no time on any MS that doesn’t immediately smell of money.
And if, by some fluke, you find a publisher who is willing to take what they call unsolicited MSs, you first have to make the pitch….the preliminary letter, the one page synopsis, the three page précis, the opening chapters. All of these preparations have to be top drawer, eye- catching, impressive … just to get a reader to look at the early pages of your book. A poor pitch, your MS doesn’t even get opened. And that is only the start. These early pages have to grab the reader. Don’t think, ‘Ah, well, it gets better as it goes along’. No publisher’s reader will ever reach to where it gets better. Your work has to rock from the word go. Even the first line is vital. One of the many famous first lines in literature is from a book called Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier…yet, it is the essence of simplicity. ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ What could be more simple? Yet it opens the mind to infinite possibilities.
So, first line, first paragraph, first chapter…if you want to grab a publisher’s reader’s interest, you need to give your opening all your attention and all your skill. And note this, very rarely does a publisher’s reader ever go beyond the first 20 pages of any MS. He has usually decided by then whether your MS goes forward to be read by someone else, or whether it gets dumped on what they call the ‘slush pile’.
Then there is the other side of the coin. Ebook or self-publishing. This has never been easier and there are some very reputable and reasonably priced firms out there to to help you do it. One of the best is the Amazon KDP, i.e., Kindle Direct Publishing for Ebooks.
Getting your book published as an ebook is a matter of getting a few technical details right, getting a cover designed, getting the text properly formatted to fit the Amazon requirements If you are technologically aware, you could do it yourself and many do. The technologically illiterate, among which number I include myself, generally have to pay someone for such help. But once you have these basics sorted, you can have your book published as an ebook within a couple of days and…suddenly, there it is for sale on Amazon, or Smashwords, or Barnes and Noble, etc.
If you want a paperback version, Lulu and CreateSpace are very well respected POD firms (Print-on-Demand. No stock-piling!)) But they’re American and while you get great value for your purchase prices and high royalties, the postage from the US is crippling. There’s a very well respected UK firm call XLibris. Pretty much the same services but the postage is a lot cheaper. If you are thinking about going this route, do a bit of internet research. There is plenty of information out there.
So which route?
Well, there is a third little known option
Small Press Publishers. With these firms, agented and unagented submissions are equally considered. You still have to be accepted, but if the work is good, it will have a great chance. You don’t need to be a celebrity or famous and, unlike the big houses, the authors are involved in every step of the process and their input is highly valued. And they pay for the editing, formatting, designing, the cover, and all the other expensive stuff, although authors are asked to do some marketing (for example, sharing social media posts, FB and Twitter, participating in blog tours).Royalty rates are competitive and books are made available (ebook or printed) through all major online vendors, such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Nook, Smashwords, and distributed by Ingram.
So there you have it. Three different options.
The chances of finding a big publisher, or even an agent, are very slim. And even if you find an agency, you might still have to wait forever before you hear back from them. You won’t even know if they are still trying to sell your book or have simply abandoned it. They don’t seem to care about keeping the writer up to speed. So, publish your book on kindle while you search for a publisher…whether a large publisher or a small press. At least the book will be out there.
And Watch out for scammers. There are firms out there who say they would love to publish your book. They will have a very professional approach, hugely impressive websites, photographs of their stands at famous world book exhibitions, reports about the successes about their famous clients. Run for the hills when you see these.
How will you know you’re dealing with a scammer? Simple. No credible publisher will chase after you for your book. Scammers, on the other hand, do chase you. They offer you discounts, usually with a deadline like, “We can only hold this offer open for one week. After that we will have to off it to another deserving writer.” No matter how attractive and genuine all this sounds, it isn’t. Delete, delete, delete…or it will cost you serious money with nothing to show at the end of it.
How did I find a publisher? I read somewhere a note by a published author who said, ‘If you are not receiving five or six rejection slips a day, then you are not sending out enough MSs’
Lots of well known best seller writers have faced loads of rejections before finally finding a publisher: Stephen King, James Joyce (‘baffling’), George Orwell (‘unconvincing’), John le Carré (‘has no future’) Herman Melville (‘Does it have to be a whale?’)
So, persistence is the answer. If you have faith in your product, keep sending it out there. You might just get lucky.
This post is contributed as Guest post by Brian O’Hare.
Brian O’Hare, MA, Ph.D., is a retired assistant director of a large regional college. He graduated, in retirement, from academic writing to fiction and is currently writing a mysteries series, some of which have won awards.
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