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Over the past few years Fiction Factor has published many articles over alternative publishing methods in an attempt to help our readers decide how to pursue their own dreams of becoming a published author. We've talked about everything from small press, traditional publishing, agents and self-publishing but we haven't covered the number one killer of dreams: impatience.
The desire to hold a copy of our own book in our hands is a huge driving force for many writers seeking publication. There's nothing quite like it because it validates the writer's time, effort and belief in his/her ability to write. Many writers feel that they're not truly writers until they've seen their work in print.
When I opened the box of The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy and held the book in my hands for the first time, it was a very gratifying experience. It's a feeling I wish I could give everyone with the dream to write. However, the desire to hold your own work should be tempered with an understanding of how the publishing industry works and what it means to "hone your craft". Too many writers either don't take the time to learn about the publishing industry and fall prey to dishonest agents or publishers, or they allow what they've learned to frighten them into making hasty decisions. Often this fear leads them to seek publication with companies that are little more than printers. They assume that getting their name into print is the best way to build a reputation for their work and they set out to do that without regard to the market or the end results.
Not every publisher is created equally.
Over my last four years on the Internet in a variety of online writing groups, I've heard a wide variety of reasons for seeking publication with many of the self-publishing companies available today. I've been to many of their websites and I can see why a new or inexperienced writer might be drawn into their sales hype. They make it sound so incredibly easy and practical. After all, they're right about one thing: seeking publication with a traditional press means you're going to receive rejection letters. And if you submit more than one story, you'll probably receive a LOT of rejection letters.
Nobody likes rejection. Even when you know the reason might not have had anything to do with the quality of your writing but with the publisher's budget or space constraints. Being rejected is never a pleasant experience and it's one that most people would prefer to avoid, but you can't. Not if you want to be published by a traditional publisher. The sheer volume of submissions received by most traditional publishers is huge. Your lonely manuscript is but one received by that office, so acceptance becomes more of a numbers game. The more you submit, naturally the more rejections you will receive - but you also increase your chances of receiving an acceptance, too.
Sadly for the writer, there are so many talented writers out there that editors have the ability to pick and chose only the very best for their magazines or novels. It also means that well-written stories can be rejected because they didn't suit the editor's personal tastes.
Not only do you have to face the risk of rejection but you also have to deal with the waiting. I've had short stories and novels out under consideration for more than a year and the waiting can be agonizing.
Stories of long waits and years of rejection can lead many new or even experienced writers to seek alternative forms of publication. Some of these paths can lead to traditional publishing contracts, but others are dead ends.
Unwilling to wait and build their careers through the traditional method, thousands of writers will self-publish their novels this year. A tiny percentage will be successful and might even find a home for their work with a traditional publisher but the odds against them are astronomical. Most will pay exoribtant sums of money to have their books printed, but will then be unable to get their novels into brick and mortar stores because the company they've chosen doesn't have a return policy for unsold books, nor do they have a distribution agreement with the major book distributors in the country.
A recent mailing I received from Xlibris stated in bold letters that they'd paid thousands of dollars in royalties to their authors this past year. When I did the math, it averaged out to $26 per author. That means the average writer didn't earn back the money they invested in printing their work. It also means that some of the authors earned less than $26 in royalties. As Xlibris does not pay an advance, that pitiful amount is all the authors earned.
Every month I
receive requests to review books by new authors. Many are
published through vanity presses or by self-publishers.
If the author has a website with an excerpt, I visit the
site and read what's there. What I often find are
snippets that have potential but lack the polish
necessary to make the book truly marketable.
End of a Dream
What distresses me most about self-publishing, is that after finding it almost impossible to sell their books to anyone other than friends and family, many self-published authors surrender their dreams and stop writing. Dreams are too few and too precious to surrender because impatience led a writer to take a path that is even harder to succeed at than the traditional route of submissions and rejections to established agents and publishers.
There are times when self-publishing can and does work but before jumping into that venture DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Researching and Learning
Yes, they are
two different things. You can research subsidy publishers
until you turn blue in the face - but if you don't learn
the difference between a subsidy publisher, a traditional
publisher and a self-publisher, then you've technically
learned nothing from your hours of research. Knowing how
businesses make their money can seriously help to
determine which route you wish your writing career to
So... researching does NOT mean visiting the different subsidy publishing sites and reading the hype they have there. Remember, they want your money. What you will find on their website is a sales pitch aimed at your dreams. Protect those dreams. Ask yourself the following questions:
Why am I willing to pay a subsidy publisher
money as opposed to submitting to traditional publishers?
Am I prepared to market my book every
opportunity I get? Even if that means cutting into family
and work time?
Does my book fill a certain niche in the
Do I have a degree or life experience that
will help me sell my book?
Do I want to earn a living off my writing?
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