It's All About Publishing

It seems apropos that the final post in a series on writing is about publishing. Writers think about publishing even before they start a manuscript. Publishing is what writing is all about. Authors don’t do it just for themselves.

Before I finished my novel, I started to research possibilities for publishing. Conventional wisdom at the time was that I needed a literary agent in order to be signed by a mainstream publisher and that self-publishing was not a good thing to do.

Enter Amazon Publishing. The new Amazon model shook the publishing world to its very core and caused both mainstream publishers and self-publishing businesses to develop alternative business models. Some mainstream publishers established self-publishing divisions while self-publishing firms improved services by offering (for a charge) editing, cover design, interior formatting, and marketing.

Things are still changing in the world of publishing, so anything written about it today may be outdated tomorrow. Despite that, I’m sharing a few of the things I have learned.

  • Mainstream publishers prefer that authors to submit through literary agents.
  • Large publishers have limited the number of unknowns from whom they will accept manuscripts.
  • Royalties paid to authors are directly proportional to estimated earnings of books.
  • Large publishers assume risks and invest in marketing for well-known authors, including book tour expenses.
  • Lesser-known authors may be expected to share in marketing expenses, including assuming costs for book tours.
  • Small publishers assume publication risks, but pay smaller royalties to authors. In lieu of royalties, some small publishers provide authors with a predetermined number of books.
  • Marketing by small publishers is usually done online and authors are expected to be involved in marketing.
  • Submissions to small publishers may be limited to particular genres or to authors from given areas. They might accept fiction or non-fiction from or about a particular location (e.g. Virginia, Colorado, Illinois) a stated type of literature (e.g. women’s fiction, self-help, biographies, Christian, fantasy, poetry), or a single topic (e.g. health related).

  • Guidelines for university presses are similar to those of small publishers. However, works they publish are usually deemed to be of academic value or are written by well-known graduates.
  • Royalties are generally not paid, though the presses absorb publishing costs.
  • Marketing is limited and prices of books are usually high. 

  • Self-publishing can be contracted with an independent company or with the self-publishing division of a mainstream publisher.
  • These publishers charge authors to print books. They print manuscripts exactly as submitted by authors.
  • Most self-publishing firms sell additional services. Charges for these services are competitive with general market fees.
  • In order to publish quality books, authors need to purchase (at a minimum) conventions and conceptual editing, custom cover design, interior formatting, an ISBN number, an assigned distributor, and availability for eReaders. Additional services are related to marketing (e.g. book trailers, web sites, posters, etc.). 

  • Independent publishing is the most recent model to enter the publishing world. This type of publishing, introduced by Amazon, has both advantages and disadvantages for authors.
  • Advantages:
    • Authors determine the price of their books.
    • There is no requirement to cut word count based on editors’ preferences.
    • Books arrive on the market in a shorter period of time.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Contracting for hard copies is expensive.
    • Authors are responsible for conventions and conceptual editing. Therefore, prior to formatting and publishing, authors need at least one set of outside eyes to evaluate their writing. No matter how many times an author reviews a manuscript or reads it aloud or backward, errors will still go undetected and the story will still have “tangles.”

Planning ahead is the best way to avoid stress. It is prudent for authors to research and meet publication requirements while writing.
  • Formatting: Using a style manual, appropriately formatting headings and chapters, double spacing the document, and using an accepted font will save on frustration at publication time. 
  • Word Count: 1) Some publishers set minimum word counts. It is appropriate to provide approximate acceptable counts for children’s and young adult literature, but these guidelines are based on how much can be handled by an age group rather than being a requirement for starting the presses. A minimum word count of 80,000 for a publisher that accepts books written for adolescents is unrealistic. Some middle level students might look at a book with that many words and decide it is too hard. (Reading specialists refer to this as the “Charlie Brown Effect,” referring to Charlie’s aversion to large books – once even fainting at the mention of one). 2) I feel that stories written for adults should not have limits. They end when they end. One best selling work of fiction, Bridges of Madison County by Robert Waller, has approximately 38,000 words (I have not read this book). Another best selling book, Mary Called Magdalene by Margaret George (which I have read), has somewhere in the neighborhood of 160,000 words. Most publishers want fiction to be in the range of 70,000 - 80,000 words. This suggested range has more to do with publishing costs than it has to do with stories.
  • Author Visibility: Publishers are more likely to accept manuscripts written by authors who have visibility, and they research to determine how well authors are known. In other words, they want to know how much influence an author might have on sales.
  • Author Credibility: 1) Credibility is important for writers of non-fiction. Credentials are needed if authors write on specialized topics. 2) Fiction writers who are graduates of well-known MFA programs are considered to have more credibility than are authors without prestigious degrees. 3) In the book publishing world, fame, fortune, and heroism are equivalent to credibility.
  • Author Reach: Some editors require proof of an author's reach. In order to confirm reach, they look at e-mail newsletter lists, website traffic, blog traffic and comments, and pre-publication reviews by recognized individuals.

  • Good editing leads to being an admired author. More than once I have removed a book from my eReader before finishing it because I was annoyed with errors and/or a nonsensical plot.
  • Strive to make your book error free.
  • Start your publishing strategy now.

Happy Writing!

Previous post about changes: Change, Change and More Change 

No comments:

Post a Comment