Adventures in Publishing Part 1

Many of you know I’ve been working on getting my book together for publishing. The book isn’t done yet, but from what I’ve read it is important to start the publisher/agent search as soon as possible. And, as crazy as it sounds, launching into wedding season has brought back my writing inspiration. So not only am I traveling all over the place photographing, planning and attending weddings but I’m also working on, editing and finishing my book and starting research into publishers and literary agents to get my book published within the next… 6-12 months. Yikes!

I don’t know many people who have ever published a book – a professor or two in college would be all I can think of – and I’ve never met an author or talked with anyone about publishing, so what little knowledge I started with came from watching TV, listening to conversations and trying to think about the process rationally. Where has that led me? To sharing what I learn step by step with you all.

ADVENTURES IN PUBLISHING

PART 1: PUBLISHERS, AGENTS AND SUBMISSIONS (oh my?)

One thing everyone should know about publishing is that a publisher needs to be involved (if you don’t know this, you might want to think about getting a little more life experience before publishing a book). Whether it’s a publishing company that will do everything for you from start to finish or a self-publishing company where you do most of the work and shell out the dough, the book actually needs to get published somehow.

So, how do you go about finding a publisher?

Well, you should probably start with knowing what your book is going to be about. Some publishers will only publish certain types of books, so you’ll need to know what category you fall under in order to know what publishers to look for. Your category should be fairly broad for this step – non-fiction, poetry, fiction, sci-fi, self-help, religious, inspiration, biography…  Then start searching for companies that publish that type of book. In my instance, I went decently general with my search and typed “Christian Book Publishers” into Google and hit search (I’m a “Google is your best friend” advocate, in case you didn’t know by now). I went ahead and opened up a bunch that looked legitimate in tabs in my browser to then sort through and see if my book fits into their guidelines.

I recommend starting a list of publishers that interest you that includes the company name, website address and main location. I’ve started a list like this on my own and it has already been so helpful – and I’m just in the first few stages!

Why do some publishers require you to pay for your book while others would pay for it for you?

There are three main types of publishing companies and publishing options. After discovering this all through my own research and experience, I found a great article on eHow about different publishing types to help me break everything down to share with you all (check out that article here).

  • Traditional publishing companies read through sample manuscripts and proposals and select only the ones that they think have great potential and could make them good money. They edit, market, and polish everything in-house or with contractors that they manage. They foot out the bill and pay for the production of the book and will then share the profits from the book with the author – an advance before the book’s release and then payments based on how many copies the book sells. The author does not have to pay into anything.
  • Vanity publishing companies offer the same services a traditional publishing company can offer, but they are generally less selective and require authors to pay the bills themselves. Only a handful of authors are selected that will not have to pay.
  • Self-publishing companies are typically the easiest way to get your book published (there is no selection process by the publisher – anyone and everyone can publish their book) but the production, editing, revision, polishing, marketing, etc. will all be entirely up to the author’s wallet. Self-published books generally do not make it to bookstores as they would through vanity or traditional publishing companies, and generally sell only small quantities of the final product.

My route? Traditional publishing. I know it seems like a no-brainer to most – I mean, you don’t have to pay anything and you get paid. How could I even think about another option? The whole super-selective process makes this tricky. I need to convince these publishing companies that my book stands out from hundreds of other manuscripts enough that they will want to pay for its production – and pay me. I do think my book is good enough (and will be better once it’s finished), but I know it’s going to take some hard work and a lot of revisions to ensure a publisher agrees with me.

Don’t you need to have the whole book finished before you can submit it to a publisher?

No! I actually thought the same thing, but most publishers will accept manuscript submissions when you have just a few chapters and an outline finished. When you submit your manuscript/proposal (which I will discuss later), you typically just need to include an exerpt of a few chapters. My goal is to have at least the first 40-50 pages finished (my book isn’t going to be Harry Potter thick) 100% completed and the outline for everything else in place before things get in the hand of publishers. Just be prepared if you go this route that the publisher is going to work with you on a timeline for getting that book finished – and it could be pretty tight.

How do you find out about submitting your manuscript to a publisher?

Surprisingly, few people know that not every publisher will accept submissions. Sure, you can send them your manuscripts or proposal for your book if you want, but chances are it will be put right in the trash – and it’s not because your book is garbage. Each company will have its own procedures on what types of manuscripts they are accepting during a given season as well as its on process for how accepted manuscripts must be received.

First, you should look around the publisher’s website for a section on manuscript submissions (sometimes under About Us, Contact or Authors if it doesn’t have it’s own section jumping out at you). This page will have all types of good information from whether or not they are accepting any submissions, what types of submissions they are accepting, and how to submit your manuscript.

If through your digging you see that a certain publisher is not accepting unsolicited manuscripts and you send your manuscript to them anyway, it will be trashed. If a certain publisher says they will accept submissions through a publishing or literary agent/agency only and you send your manuscript anyway, it will be trashed. In these two instances, you must have a publishing or literary agent who will submit your manuscript and proposal in order for you manuscript to make it to that publisher’s desk.

What is a publishing or literary agent? Do you need one?

A publishing/literary agent is someone who knows the publishing business – what companies are looking for, how to present proposals well to publishing companies, and who is ultimately paid by either their agency or the publishing company for sorting through manuscripts to only submit the best of the best to be considered for publication. You do not have to pay a publishing/literary agent. If you meet an agent who asks you to pay them, find another agent asap because you’re about to be scammed. Publishing agents get paid a percentage of the royalties that you receive from the publishing company – if you receive $5000 in advance from the company and say teh agent was to receive 15% of your royalties, they would get paid $750 of your $5000, and then a percentage of each check you get from the publishing company as your book sells.

Publishing agents know what they’re doing in terms of contract negotiations with publishers – they know what your book deserves, what you deserve, and how to ensure that the agreement is fair without you getting run over. If you know your way around the publishing business and feel prepared to go in and knock the socks off of publishers, then you may be fine without an agent. If you have no idea what your doing or if you don’t want to deal with all that stuff, an agent might be just what you’re looking for. You will need an agent if you want to submit to a publisher that is not accepting unsolicited manuscripts or will only accept manuscripts through an agent. This is the only way to ensure that your book doesn’t hit the trash before the envelope even gets opened.

I’ve decided to go the route of finding an agent. I still want to know as much about the publishing process, my rights, etc. as possible as I go into things, but I really want to have someone who does this for a living to help me get my book published. I’m a writer, not a publisher (or an agent) and I would like to focus more on that then negotiating contracts and all that jazz. I also have a feeling that having an agent who can vouch for my work will go a long way in front of the publishers who don’t require an agent.

How do you find a publishing agent?

While I’m sure there are many ways to find a publishing agent, I just went to trusty ol’ google. There are two ways you can target your search – finding an agent in your local area and finding an agent who deals with the specific category of your book. I actually did both searches – “publishing agents near Nashua, NH” and “christian publishing agents”. I’ve got a good sized list that I plan to go through tonight and learn more about – I won’t submit a proposal to all of them and would like to find someone who is decently close by, so we’ll see how that narrowing process goes. And, as strange as it may sound, some literary agents are not accepting submissions, so you should also check on that when looking into their specialty areas.

What do you need to submit your manuscript to a publisher or agent?

This varies. Some places will accept just a proposal with an exerpt of your manuscript, some places require the full manuscript and a proposal, others require a handful of chapters plus a synopsis of each chapter and a proposal in addition to your own biographical information and qualifications for writing the book. This information can typically all be found under the same section where you found if the publisher was accepting submissions and what type.

There are some variations in how to format a manuscript, but for the most part they are the same – definitely check through what each agent and/or publisher’s guidelines are before you submit your manuscript to be sure. For a place to start, read William Shunn’s Proper Manuscript Format guides.

That’s actually what I’ll be doing tonight – working on my proposal and formatting the completed portions of my manuscript. I’ll keep you all posted as I continue on through this journey and hope that this has helped even one future author. : )

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2 Comments to “Adventures in Publishing Part 1”

  1. Your Grandpa wrote a book called, By Hook and Crook, and your Great Grandmother wrote a book that your Grandmother published!

  2. I never knew that! Did they sell them somewhere?

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