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  How Do I Get My Book Published
by Lee Masterson

So you've finished your manuscript, packaged it up and sent it out to every publishing house and literary agent you can find a listing for.

You wait the obligatory several months for the replies to come in, hoping that one of them will contain a contract for your book - along with a hefty advance cheque and a promise of heaps of royalty payments for years to come!

Does that sound like a favourite day-dream of yours? I'm guessing it will be for most people reading this article. It's why you're here after all.

The unfortunate truth isn't quite so appealing.

Recently, a member of the
Fiction Factor Forum asked the question: - "How do I get published?"

The easy answer is: Find a publisher willing to pay you for putting your book into published form. I'm guessing that's not the answer you're looking for.

I'm assuming the real question is: "
How do I find a pubisher willing to pay me to publish my book?" That answer is more difficult.

According to Writer's Digest, less than 5% of the estimated total number of manuscript submissions are published at all.

Of that 5%, only 15% of manuscripts accepted are for debut books.

Not very promising for a new author, huh?

There is no bias within publishing houses or literary agencies against publishing new authors. Quite the opposite. Agents and editors hope to find a new rising star, one in which they can build a promising backlist and boost sales.

Why is it so few new authors manage to get a foot into the traditional publishing door?

Most editors and many agents will tell you the predominant reason for rejecting any work - from new or established authors alike - is simply poor quality writing.

The other major factor which detemines whether a book is published or rejected is the marketability of the novel. After all, if there are no sales, there's no profit and no one gets paid.

Publishing is still a business.

So how do I get my book published?

Before you can submit your work anywhere, you need to have written a great story that a publisher will want to buy!

Look over your manuscript carefully, then edit your words so your story gleams at a professional, publishable level.

Learn all you can about strengthening your writing skills. Make sure your characters jump off the page and grab your readers by the collar with how vivid they are. Read what other authors are writing and learn how their stories are crafted.

Remember - an editor will happily reject a manuscript that is poorly written, regardless of whether the author is a professional or a complete beginner. Make your manuscript stand out from the rest of the slush pile.

Yes, but how do I find a publisher?

Basically, there are plenty of ways to locate a publisher and get your book published.
Here are just a few suggestions.

  • you can get an agent to represent you

  • you can query the editor directly

  • you can buy a copy of the Writer's Market and submit your manuscript directly to the publisher (for those that allow this)

  • you can try a 'small' press instead of a huge publishing house

  • you could self-publish

  • you could e-publish

The choice is yours, of course. Some writers will only ever be happy aiming at the very biggest, highest paying publishers. These are also the hardest to get into. (Incidentally, these are also the toughest on a new writer's career). Agents are no longer easy to get representation from these days.

Self-publishing is something I would only recommend for those writers who already have a solid background and training in business.

Which Publishing House?

The next thing to consider is "which publishing house do you aim for?" Most writers want to see their names alongside the industry best-sellers. That's natural. Those same writers also want to see the same huge publishing houses releasing their books and offering the same huge advances on royalties.

Example 1: Let's choose Random House for this example. If an editor at Random House decided to accept your book and publish it - you'd be thrilled! I'll bet you can think of 100 good things about being accepted by Random House all on your own, so I won't list the obvious good points.

Let me point out some not-so-good points instead.

  1. Random House is HUGE. As a first time writer, you would receive a very tiny advance and a 'small' print-run (around 5,000 books).

  2. Publishers work on the "sell-through" rate - meaning that you would need to sell around 4,000 of those 5,000 to see another contract

  3. Because you are a 'small writer' - they would spend ZERO time and money on promoting your book. It's all up to you.

  4. The 'shelf-life' of a book through a large publisher is around 3 months. You need to promote and sell 4,000 (minimum) books in 3 months, or the bookstores can and will return unsold copies to the publisher and ask for a refund

  5. If you don't sell the minimum amount of books that they require, they can ask you to pay back the advance.

  6. Royalty payments on sales are usually around 8-10% of sale price.

Not so pretty, huh?

Example 2: Let's look at a really small (but reputable) print publisher for our second example. We'll call this publisher "Dragon Moon Press". Are you thinking a lot of negative things about this example yet?

Would you be willing to trust your writing career to a publisher you've never heard of before? You won't be able to tell anyone you know about your GREAT book deal, because they won't have heard of your publisher either. So why would you consider this small print publisher for your prized manuscript?

Here are some good points:

  1. Dragon Moon is only small. The writers they have might only sell an average of 1000 books each. When that 1000 is sold, the publisher may print more and so on... So, to a smaller publisher, a new writer with a print run of 5,000 would be HUGE. The author would be treated like their own in-house Best-Seller.

  2. A small publisher would be keen to help a promising writer to sell more work - so their promotional efforts will be greater and their advertising will be aimed at helping to increase sales - thus helping the writer's career!

  3. The 'shelf-life' of a book through a small publisher is for as long as you want!. Bookstores can't return copies to publishers who print using On Demand technology. They have to sell them!

  4. You don't have to pay back any advances - usually because you aren't paid one.

  5. Royalty payments on sales are usually around 10-30% of sale price.

  6. A bigger publisher will be very interesting in an upcoming author who can show high sales via a small publisher - and may even want to offer you something bigger and better!

And then there's the option to e-publish.
Many writers are reluctant to publish books digitally. Ebooks are still going through a stage of trying to develop some kind of credibility among the thousands of scam sharks releasing four pages of crap bound as an 'ebook'. Admittedly, epublishing is still in its infancy, but it doesn't look as though it's going to go away any time soon.

Negative sides to e-publishing include:

  • People assuming no one else would publish your work

  • People assuming a real print publisher wasn't interested in publishing your book

  • People assuming your work must be of a sub-standard quality

  • You can't hold a digitally published book in your hand - or curl up in bed with it at night, either!

  • Many people still don't trust buying things online

But there are some positive sides to e-publishing.

  • You create an audience in countries you probably wouldn't reach with print publishing

  • You can increase sales globally by having an effective web-site

  • You can show future editors and agents that you already have an established audience for your type of work

  • The royalty payments are usually larger (from 30-60% of sale price)

  • There have been some (only a few!) authors who were 'discovered' after publishing an e-book.
    (e.g. MJ Rose sold more than 2,500 ebooks (Lip Service). A big publishing house heard this and offered her a nice contract to publish it - and several of her subsequent books, too. Douglas Clegg released ONE horror novel as an ebook download (Purity). He recorded more than 80,000 downloads. The rest of his novels are in print and he's growing in popularity quickly. I guess that one download also introduced 80,000 people to his other books...)

These ebook success stories are rare. Although I'm sure I could find more success stories with a simply search, I can only think of two off the top of my head.

So - I hope that gives you a bit of an insight into getting your book published. You have plenty of options. Your decision comes down to which publishing avenue you would prefer to take.

And please, PLEASE remember - NEVER pay someone to publish your work. A publisher PAYS the author - never the other way around.

Copyright Lee Masterson. All rights reserved.


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