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Thread: How Real Publishing Works

  1. #1
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Thumbs up How Real Publishing Works

    There are so many strange versions floating around about what publishers do and don't do. I think it's time to give a sort of overview of the process.

    1. Acquisitions

    Acquisitions editors are in charge of finding new manuscripts/proposals for the publisher. There are a few ways your work may end up in front of an acquisitions editor:

    -The slush pile. This is the term for unsolicited manuscripts. If you mail a publisher a manuscript or proposal that they haven't requested, some of them will just mail it back to you unread. Others will pile it up in their offices until a reader gets around to checking it out. This can take anywhere from days to many months.

    -Request from a query. If you send an editor an e-mail or letter about your book, the editor may request sample chapters (a "partial"), the whole manuscript, or (in the case of nonfiction books) a book proposal. Now your work isn't "unsolicited" anymore-- it's solicited. Solicited work tends to get read faster than unsolicited work, but it can still be several months before you get a decision.

    -Through an agent. Your agent can get your work read fast if he/she has any clout. Publishers trust agents to bring in projects that are appropriate and of high quality. Particularly if you write novels, it's to your benefit to have an agent. Real agents don't charge you anything upfront-- they take a commission from your advance and royalties (15%, usually).

    -Recommendation or personal meeting. An author may recommend you to his/her editor, or you might meet the editor at a conference or workshop. This puts you into the "solicited" category.

    You don't need an agent to submit to most publishers.

    I have never heard of an editor just mailing someone a contract-- the editor will call you or e-mail you to tell you that he or she is interested.

    At most publishing houses (except the very smallest), the editor will have to pitch the book at an editorial meeting. The editorial board (or the publisher alone) will say yes or no. The marketing people do their projections to see how much profit they think the publisher could make, and what the budget should look like. They research competing books and figure out how well they sold. They may suggest a new title. Then the editor makes an offer. You or your agent go back and forth negotiating until everyone's happy. You sign the contract and get the first part of your advance. (Advances are typically paid in 2-4 parts.)

    2. Developmental Editing

    Now you have an editor. If you sold the book based on a proposal or partial, the editor may advise you about what direction he/she wants the book to take, the word count, etc.

    You are NOT expected to hire an editor before you submit your work. You are not expected to pay anyone anything. The editor (hired by the publisher) will work with you, making substantive suggestions. The editor may point out where the plot is getting too hairy or complicated, where things are dragging or getting confusing, a character that needs to be cut or better developed, etc. You work back and forth with the editor until you're both happy with the substance of the book.

    3. Copyediting

    Then it goes to the copy editor, who works on grammar, spelling, continuity, fact-checking, etc. You will have a chance to review the copy editor's work. The copy editor may have several questions for you marked on the manuscript. If you disagree with any of the copyedits, you can mark "stet" next to the copy editor's marking. ("Stet" means "let it stand.")

    4. Proofs

    Then it goes to layout, then proofreading. At this point, your manuscript is laid out just how it will be when it's printed. The proofreader checks for last-minute typos and formatting errors (A-heads that should be B-heads, widows and orphans, wrong italics, tables in the wrong spot, etc.). You get the proofs (also called galleys/gallies) and this is your last chance to review before the book is printed. If your book cover hasn't been finalized yet, it should be now.

    5. Publicity

    Now's when your publicist should swing into high-gear. You've probably already filled out a questionnaire by this point detailing any publicity avenues open to you, your speaking experience, your travel plans, etc. The publicist will write a press release, go over a list of where to send advance review copies (the major trade magazines such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, etc. get them first), ask you if you want to do local book signings, figure out publications and media venues likely to feature you and make contact, etc.

    When people complain that publishers "don't promote" their books, what they usually mean is that they rarely send authors on tours anymore, and they rarely take out ads in papers, magazines, or TV. Simple reason: They typically don't pay off. Imagine paying for an author to fly around the country and stay in hotels, only to find that no more than a dozen people show up at these signings. Imagine paying big bucks for an ad and finding that it sells two copies. Much more important are reviews, interviews, speaking engagements, bookstore placement, etc.

    Your book's cover art and description will go into the publisher's seasonal catalog, which then gets sent out to bookstores and libraries. The distributor's sales reps pitch the current season's titles (and any backlist titles that the publisher wants to draw attention to) to the bookstore buyers. The sales reps tell the buyers about any planned publicity-- buyers are more likely to order the book if they know it has a big publicity budget or the author has guaranteed media mentions coming up.

    The buyer places orders. The publisher decides whether or not to pay for front-of-the-store placement. Those books you see stacked on tables in the front of the store aren't there by chance-- they're there because the publisher paid for those spots!

    The publisher also decides whether to invest in direct mailings (postcards, usually), Amazon promotions, a launch party, etc.

    6. Exploiting Other Rights

    If the publisher kept these rights, they will attempt to sell the book rights to overseas publishers, book clubs, film companies, etc. You will each get a share of the money. If you kept these rights, you or your agent can work on selling them.

    7. And So On

    Your publisher may enter your book in contests, put an ad for you in Radio Television Interview Report or similar guest-finder services, bring your book to book fairs, seek out "special sales" (bulk sales to corporations or organizations), offer your book as a giveaway in contests, and other such ongoing promotions. Generally, your publicist will have a limited window of time (3-6 months) when your book is actually on the "top of the pile"-- then the publicist needs to concentrate on other books. But even years later, you can still ask the publicist to send someone a review copy, send you flyers to bring to a speaking event, etc.


    All the above is based on my experiences. I have written for the following companies, listed in approximate order from smallest to largest: Moo Press, JayJo Books, Mason Crest, Nomad Press, Hunter House, Lyons Press, Adams Media, Andrews McMeel, McGraw-Hill, Penguin Putnam, and Simon & Schuster.

    Okay, other published authors and editors, what did I leave out? Anything else you want to add?
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Writer and Music Producer Vanessa's Avatar
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    I'm not a published author or editor, but Jenna that was deep!


    Nah, that was some good info. Thanks for sharing.
    "As long as my mind speaks to my fingertips, the conversation is endless!" -Yeah I said it!


  3. #3
    Say no to this face? Not sure I can Storyteller5's Avatar
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    Thank you for the rundown. It's sometimes easy to forget all the stuff going on at the other end!

  4. #4
    Finestkind underthecity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JennaGlatzer
    Okay, other published authors and editors, what did I leave out? Anything else you want to add?
    Excellent overview, Jenna. I would add:

    Good communication. Obviously it's not recommended that you constantly bug your editor, you are normally able to call and/or email during the production process. In the last phase of my recent project, the copyeditor spoke to me on the phone about several points throughout the manuscript.

    Author's copies. Publishers normally offer a set amount of free author's copies, but the author can request more--and will get it. The author also gets a good discount from the publisher when he wants to buy some copies for himself. Or will sell the author copies against future royalties.

    Distribution. Bookstores will stock the book from sea to shining sea. All the author has to do is show up and sign on-hand copies. Even regional and small presses get their books into stores without the author having to do anything.


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  5. #5
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Publishing is a huge interlocking collection of counter-intuitive systems. Understanding it is ... difficult. Just getting an overview takes years.

    Here's one thing to keep in mind any time you're trying to understand publishing:

    It's about the readers.

    When writers talk about publishing often times it sounds like publishing is about agents, editors, publishers, bookstores, and, of course, writers. But that isn't publishing. Readers drive publishing.

    There's no one more selfish than a reader standing in a bookstore. The first and only question on that reader's mind is "What's in it for me?"

    Readers control book prices, book length, subject matter, styles of writing, and packaging.

    Remember that any time someone tells you something about publishing: Reality-check the statement from the readers' point of view. That will keep you out of many kinds of trouble.
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 10-15-2005 at 08:12 AM.

  6. #6
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Thanks for starting this thread, Jenna! Egem asked me on the NEPAT how I found a publisher, and I didn't want to answer there as it is off topic, but this is perfect.

    To Egem:
    I suppose you could say I found a publisher by writing a publishable book. It took me years to do it, and I had to write a whole novel and NOT see it published, and endure all the heartache that entails, before I finally found my stride and wrote something that deserved publiscation. All in all, this took me about six years.

    When I had finished a few drafts of my novel I wanted to make it as good as possible so I sent it to an assessment service for a critique. I got some excellent advice, did some revisions to the book, and sent it back to the person who had critiqued it. She thought it was now great and sent it straight to an agent she knew, who also thought it was great, and sent it to a few publishers, who also thought it was great and made some offers, and I got to choose one of them, which I thought was great. It all happened very quickly, within the space of about two weeks.

    The rest happened the way Jenna outlines it above. I never had to spend a penny on anything, certainly not on promotion, which was all taken care of by HarperCollins. They paid me a sizeable advance for each of the three books they published and took care of getting it into bookshops around the world. I also got several free copies; they even sent some copies abroad for me, at their own expense, to friends and family. I get to buy as many copies as I want at 50% of the cover price.

    My agent sold a few of the foreign rights, which was a nice bonus.

    I have no agenda with my anti-PA stance. I lurked on this (NEPAT) board for a few weeks, reading the posts as they came in, without ever posting. That way I was able to form an opinion, and, knowing how real publishing works, I was horrified at the way PA operates, and how it sucks in inexperienced authors. I also read the PA message boards and realised how very little PA authors know about real publishing, and yet how they spout pure nonsense about it as if they are experts . It seemed to me like a cult, or an authoritarian party, where everyone spouts the same party line and pats each other on the back for their loyalty. I watched all this from an entirely neutral point of view, as I had never heard of PA previously. But I couod tell at a glance that it was a scam.

    All of my first posts here were to quite simpy refute what PA stalwarts were saying about publishing. I think I began posting about the time that a loyal PA author, Shelagh, did. She would say things like "It's not possible for a first time author to get published" and I would say "that is not true", and prove to her it's not true. At no point was I angry or aggressive; I simply pointed out how things work in real publishing - and I don't care whether the company is small or big, as long as it's legit.

    This is what I still do, and what I did with your posts. You said "authors and agents have to pay for editing before submitting a ms" and I said that is nonsense, which it is. It's just not true.


    My only "agenda" is to make sure that people who have not yet signed up with PA, and are considering it, know how real publishing works, and I shall continue to speak up in this fashion for their sake; and I will continue to help those who HAVE signed up and regret it. I don't care at all about "happy PA authors". I do believe that in a year or two they will not be happy any more, and that they will either slink silently away in shame, or enter here and speak up.

    I don't consider myself "better" than other authors for having a big publisher. I was very naive when I started looking for a publisher in 1998 and didn't know the first thing about how they work. In fact, I was very lucky in that I didn't have to look for a publisher at all, but it all fell into my lap. I dread to think what would have happened if I had been using search engines, as back then there was no info at all about PA as a scam.

    I didn't have internet back then, but if I had, and I'd found PA at first try, I might very well have signed up with them, and that same book which launched me as a professional author would have been tied up for seven years and never seen a bookshelf anywhere. I think of PA authors with the feeling "there but for the Grace of God go I."



    As I am very bad at self-promotion, and didn't have the money to buy my own books, I would not have sold a single copy as a PA author. I don't have any figures right now and have trouble understanding royalty statements, but I do know that in its first year my first book sold 20000 copies worldwide, and in its first season the French translation sold over 100000 copies. It climbed to the top ten on the French bestseller lists; right now, I am looking at a French bestseller list from 4th July 2002, and my fist novel is there at number 6, after John Irving's The Fourth Hand, and above Paul Auster with "le Livre des Illusions" (number 8) and John Grisham with "La Derneiere Recolte" (number 15).

    I'm not saying this to boast; just to show you the difference. Remember what I just said: due to my inexperience I could just as well have been a PA author. With the very same book.
    Last edited by aruna; 10-15-2005 at 03:11 PM. Reason: toned down
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  7. #7
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by underthecity
    Excellent overview, Jenna. I would add:

    Good communication. Obviously it's not recommended that you constantly bug your editor, you are normally able to call and/or email during the production process. In the last phase of my recent project, the copyeditor spoke to me on the phone about several points throughout the manuscript.
    I met my editor several times; she took me out to lunch on many occasions, or I went to see her in her office. Once, she and her agent came down to my home town for the day to visit me. There were launch parties and, once a year, a big summer party where you get to meet authors like Dorris Lessing.

    PA authors, I understand, do not have a developmental editor and certainly never get to meet any of the staff.
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  8. #8
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by underthecity
    Excellent overview, Jenna. I would add:


    Distribution. Bookstores will stock the book from sea to shining sea. All the author has to do is show up and sign on-hand copies. Even regional and small presses get their books into stores without the author having to do anything.


    Allen
    If you are published in the UK, your books will be sent all over the world (I don't know how this works for US authors). I have a "schedule" of where my books are sold, a list of over 100 countreis starting with Andorra and ending with Zimbabwe, including countries such as Israel, Seychelles, Monaco; in fact, every single country in the world EXCEPT USA and Canada!

    That is because I would need a separate contract for US and Canadian rights.
    Despite this, a few of my books were actually stocked at amazon.com for several years; now they have run out.
    OUT NOW!
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    Do you know what you are? You are a manuscript of a divine letter. You are a mirror reflecting a noble face. This universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself; everything that you want, you are already that ...
    ~ Rumi

  9. #9
    egem
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    Sharon,

    I said I would not be back to this board, but I couldn't resist. First I completely agree with you that people can be published and that first time authors get deals all the time. It does happen. I think for a novel or even short fiction PA is a waste of time. I don't see how it would be all that helpful for a writer, but not every writer is writing the same kind of material. Some will never see their books up in print. It just won't happen. If that writer was going to go with a POD anyway, which many writers do, why wouldn't they us a company like PA?

    The reason I seemed so coy before was because I wanted to bring up alternative publishing. About your story of being published, I think it is great, but how often does this happen? Do you think your story is a typical story of being found and published? I don't think it is. I think that the vast majority of published authors are published by very small presses. Those pressed do not promote their author's books either anymore than what PA does. They really do not edit their authors books either. You can take a look at some of the publishers that I'm talking about: http://www.whitepine.org/ http://livingstonpress.westal.edu/ http://members.aol.com/lsmithdog/bottomdog/
    http://www.csuohio.edu/poetrycenter/contests.htm http://benito.arte.uh.edu/

    Now do you think that someone published with these houses would have the same experience you did? The authors published by all these houses are very good. They've won awards they write at universities, and many have published more than one book, but no one knows who they are. You can't walk into a bookstore and buy their books, I've tried. I like reading these authors but few do. So if all of what I say is true what more do these companies do that PA does not? I don't know if this posted in the right place I'm sorry if it isn't.

  10. #10
    egem
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    Okay, if this is the place for "How real publishing works" then I would like to post some information about literary writing. It is a much different bird than genre writing, and I think this might help some writers that read this board. I read what Jenna wrote, and it is very good. Much of it does not apply to Literary or "Little" writing as Writer's Market likes to call it. I know I'm going to get a lot more attacks here, but this is the truth as I see it. Again it is for "little or literary" writing (the stuff that wins all the awards like those artsy films eveyone hates) and not Scifi or other more publishable works. I am not downing Scifi or other genre writing in anyway.

    Can you become wealthy from writing literary works?



    The short answer is it is very unlikely. Most literary writers must keep their university jobs to support themselves even after publishing countless books. Novel writers have a better chance of making a living at their writing than poets or short fiction writers. Poets generally find it very difficult to sustain themselves on writing poetry. Most of the time even our most famous poets like Billy Collins or Stephen Dunn still keep their day jobs. Genre writing can bring in more money, but it is still fiercely competitive. If you are looking to make a lot of money in writing go elsewhere. Literary writing especially poetry is about your worst bet. Do it because you love it.



    Can you become famous?



    It depends on how you define fame. Will the best literary writer in the country get a spot on the Tonight Show? No. Are they famous among literary circles? Absolutely. Among other writers well published authors are famous. They are asked and paid to speak and teach at universities. Other literary writers respect and look to them for inspiration. So fame is very possible in a sense.



    What are we hoping for?



    In the literary circles the point is to place your work in the best possible publications. If you look at the compiled list on our Every Lit Mag page you’ll see that there are thousands of magazines and lit zines out there publishing people’s work. Some of these magazines have powerful influences in the writing world. This means that one publication in a magazine like Tin House, Glimmer Train, Poetry, or even a university publication like the Mid-American Review can bring a writer a book deal. Yes. It is that quick. Many writers will publish hundreds of times in smaller lesser known journals and webzines and never be able to land a book deal, but one publication in a very reputable publication can bring your collection of poetry or short stories to print.



    What most well informed writers try to do is place their writing in the best possible magazines. This gives them credibility when they submit their book manuscript for publication. You might be contacted by an agent or even a small publishing press after ending up in a publication like Mississippi Review, but you might have hundreds of publications in smaller lesser know zines and magazines and still not get noticed. Many writers end up getting NEA grants or being asked to teach as a visiting professor at a university after publishing a well received book manuscript. Prizes and recognition awards work the same way. If one of your poems is chosen for publication in The Best American Poetry or a story is published in Best American Short Stories you can expect a fellowship at a university and a publication. This still doesn’t mean you can live off your writing, but you can make a living in a field that will promote your writing. That seems to be the goal of many literary writers.



    Remember many literary writers are university professors or university graduate students. The motto of the university profession is publish or parish. So many professors have to place their work to get tenure and other perks from the university. They also gain speaking engagements that can pay a decent amount of money. Some famous professors add a great deal to their yearly income by going from university to university and reading their work. Some only gain a modest reward. The more well-known and well published they are the more money they can make from speaking.



    What about the long shot?



    There are literary writers who make a living off their writing. I know my above paragraph on this matter sounds grim, but the long shot is always possible. Take a writer like David Foster Wallace. He went to Brown University for his MFA came out and won the National Book Award. His work sells well, and he is an excellent writer. Sandra Cisneros wrote one well received novel The House on Mango Street and has lived on the royalties for a long time. The work is read in many high school classrooms and is able to sustain her well. It does happen. It can happen. Generally to be a well received literary writer you must have an MFA backing you, but this is not always the case. Some just have the talent and the eye and they soar to the top. IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE.



    What about Genre writing?



    This is a different bird. The most famous genre writers many times have little university training in writing. Stephen King, John Grisham, and Tom Clancy weren’t schooled in the traditional sense in creative writing in workshops at universities. They took their special areas of interest and made them into well told and interesting stories. Their fame is based on many different criteria. They are all gifted in the art of story telling. Many of these writers have a background that promotes their knowledge on their subjects. Their imaginations thrill people, and at some point, like all writers, they were lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Remember their works are not literary works. Their works are based on a subject area outside of literary writing.




    What is literary writing?



    This is not an easy question to answer. My best definition is writing that tends to focus on character and theme while giving insight into some part of human nature. If you read a story or a poem that reflects back at you and symbolizes life and theme through every day objects and landscapes you are probably reading a literary story. For instance Raymond Carver wrote about working class people whose lives were being changed in someway during the story. They are not glamorous to read. The plot twist, if there is one, is subtle. Little suspense is involved, but these characters reflect something in everyone. The situations are painful and quiet. Many people would say the stories are boring to read. Literary writers are many times mesmerized by his works because they capture so much feeling in so few words in such a subtle way. It is literary writing. It is not glamorous. It is not sensational, but it does comment on who we are.

    These paragraphs come from my website. I won't post a link here. I'm not promoting. The site is really just a big list of literary magazines and ezines, and it has few words on writing. Please remember all of this is pointed at literary writing. Most literary authors do not have agents. They do not make a living on their writing. I can give examples if anyone is interested.

  11. #11
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    egem, I know my story is not typical and I realise that not everyone can be published by one of the big houses. But I believe just about ANY publisher is better than PA; that is because, if indeed you have a good book which COULD be published elsewhere, and you have simply made a mistake, that can be rectified if you had gone for almost any other POD publisher, including vanity presses (or so I believe).

    All I can say it read the stories of what happens to PA authors after a year or two of being with PA, and you'll get the picture. I believe Lucia (AnnaWhite) is compiling a list of such stories, but many of them are scattered all about the NEPAT. It is truly horrifying.
    I think that PA should by any author's very last choice. It shouldn't be even a choice at all.
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    ~ Rumi

  12. #12
    egem
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    Most PODs don't do any editing at all unless you pay them. If you send them a book it will look just like what you sent them mistakes an all.

  13. #13
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JennaGlatzer
    There are so many strange versions floating around about what publishers do and don't do. I think it's time to give a sort of overview of the process.
    Jenna, great list but you left out one other major element:

    Advances. The advance your publisher gives you is an advance on royalties. The amount you get represents the amount your publisher thinks they can make with your book, and is usually at least a few thousand dollars or pounds. Even if your book does not "earn out", you never have to repay the advance.
    A publisher which only pays you one dollar advance is not taking a chance on you. It is telling you that it doesn't think your book can earn back more than a dollar.
    OUT NOW!
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    ~ Rumi

  14. #14
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Egem, you're talking about fanzines for MFAs, and as such there's nothing wrong with them. Just don't mistake the works they publish for commercial works, or the presses that put them out for commercial presses.

  15. #15
    egem
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    I left advances out of my info about literary writing too. Literary presses usually pay in copies for advances. Most of the time it is between 10 and 250 copies.

  16. #16
    egem
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald
    Egem, you're talking about fanzines for MFAs, and as such there's nothing wrong with them. Just don't mistake the works they publish for commercial works, or the presses that put them out for commercial presses.
    Yes, and we are talking about two different parts of the publishing world. PA doesn't claim to be a commercial publisher, but I don't want to get caught up on PA again. My point here is that many writers are not commercial writers. I've never heard the term MFA Fanzine before, but it did make me chuckle. Literary writers do not have the same options as commerical writers, but it doesn't mean they are not part of the writing world or I would guess apart of the forum.

  17. #17
    egem
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    Sorry so many posts, but I do have a real question on the commercial side now that you bring it up. One of the reasons I came on this board before I stumbled across PA was to get some advice on publishing a book that I'm writing. Let me explain futher. This "book" right now is in a pile on my desk. It is mostly hand writing and it is novel, and no I wasn't thinking of going with PA on it. That would be silly. Poetry maybe, a novel would just be a waste. Anyway the book is based on my experiences at an innercity school. It is much different than anything that I've ever written (usually poetry and short fiction) so my question is do you feel that having it professially edited before it goes to an agent is a good idea? Mind you I am a long way away from that, but I really don't know anything about commercial publishing well save what Jenna wrote above which was really helpful.

  18. #18
    egem
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    Okay, I'll post another question and see if the resounding silence is truely due to making everyone mad at me and then asking for help. Not usually the best thing to do. Please keep in mind that here it is 4:30 in the morning. Jenna wrote: "You don't need an agent to submit to most publishers." I usually use Writers Market for my info on where to submit work. Many of there listings ask for an agent to submit. Is there another place that is helpful in finding commercial publishers?

  19. #19
    Around and About SuperModerator Birol's Avatar
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    Egem, I think the silence you are hearing is due to the time of day. Most of the members of the AW are located in the contiguous US and Canada, making it between 2:00 and 5:00 on Saturday morning for most folks. If you check the list at the bottom of the forums home page, you'll see very few people are actually logged in right now. Give it a few hours. People will start checking the board and posting while having their morning coffee.

  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW LloydBrown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by egem
    I wasn't thinking of going with PA on it. That would be silly. Poetry maybe,
    Again, why? Why would you let PA print anything of yours, poetry or not? They offer nothing that you wouldn't get by going directly with Lightning Source, the printer they use.

    Furthermore, they lie about how often they get money from book sales, and they underpay royalties.

    a novel would just be a waste.
    Anything is wasted at PA.
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  21. #21
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    Errr...and not to be a rabble-rouser, but Stephen King did go to college and take English and creative writing...he talks about his experiences having done so.

  22. #22
    practical experience, FTW roger's Avatar
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    A message for Sharon (Aruna) - I loved reading the story of your publication. Those sales figures are truly impressive, well done! And to be in the French bestsellers list above Auster and Grisham! Wow. That must have felt good.

  23. #23
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing your perspective, egem. I feel like I understand much better where you're coming from now.

    I know very little about the literary, academic, and poetry worlds. In fact, I know little about fiction at all-- the vast majority of my books are nonfiction, plus a few children's books ('cause they're fun!).

    We've had strong debates here before about whether or not it's smart to hire an editor before marketing a book (maybe someone can find the link?). As Aruna's example shows, sometimes it's a very good idea. Many other people think it's a waste of money to hire an editor before submitting.

    Truth is that I don't think even the most talented editor can make an unpublishable book publishable, so it depends on what you're starting with and what your objectives are.

    Let's say you have this manuscript that you think is great-- but you know it has some problems. You have a few options; one is to join a critique group (online or in person) and learn from other writers. Another is to pay for a critique/editing. Ask around for recommendations if you're going to hire an editor, and make sure you're dealing with someone who specializes in your genre.

    You may find out, after the editor is done, that your work still isn't publishable. To me, that's the test of your objectives: Let's say you know up-front that even if you hire this editor, you won't sell the manuscript-- but you will learn a lot and grow as a writer. Will it still feel worth it to you? Then it may not be a bad idea.

    When I took writing courses in college, I didn't wind up selling the assignments I wrote, but my writing skills improved tremendously because of the feedback from my professors. So even though I spent a lot of money on the courses, I never felt "cheated" because I didn't make a direct sale from my coursework-- their instruction has paid off ever since then.

    Now, if your only real concern is spelling/grammar, it's enough to have a friend who's good at that sort of thing go through it for you and make sure the worst errors are gone. It does NOT need to be perfect before the publisher (or agent) sees it-- they have copy editors on staff who will take care of that when the time comes. You just don't want it to be so sloppy that an editor cringes and it distracts the read.

    To answer your second question, the Writer's Market is a good place to start. However, many of the publishers that say they don't accept unagented material in there... actually do, if you know how to approach them.

    One good way is this: Check out books that are somehow similar to yours-- in subject, genre, style, whatever. See if the writer thanks the editor on the acknowledgment page. Then go back to your Writer's Market to see that publisher's contact info and guidelines. Even if it says "agented only," there's no harm in sending a query to the editor's attention.

    In your letter, be sure to specify why you think she's the right editor for this book-- "I very much enjoyed XYZ by So-and-So, which shares a similar theme as my work. I note that you edited this book, and thought you might enjoy mine, as well"... that sort of thing.

    I know it's worked for me. I have an agent who I work with on a nonexclusive basis. She's sold two books for me to mid-size publishers. I got all the other deals on my own-- starting with unsolicited query letters. Now editors bat me around to their colleagues and I don't need to query anyone anymore, but when I was starting out, I just did a lot of research to figure out which editors and publishers might like my work best. Very, very rarely did I get letters back saying, "Sorry, we don't accept unagented submissions." You just have to convince the editor in that letter that your book is going to be terrific.

    Like I said, the other way around it is to get a recommendation from another writer or editor, or to meet an editor in person at a conference, seminar, book fair, etc.

    Best place to look for a publisher is probably on your own bookshelf. We tend to read the same kinds of books we like to write, and if it's on your bookshelf, you know the book was able to be found in bookstores (assuming that's where you bought it). So I'd check out the name of the publisher and the imprint (if applicable), then jump onto Google and see if the publisher has writers' guidelines posted. Even if it says no unagented submissions, I'd risk the stamp and try anyway, as long as I had the name of a specific editor to send it to.

    You can also watch the PublishersLunch newsletter (www.publisherslunch.com) to see who's buying what (and which agents are making the deals), or read PublishersWeekly for the same purpose (expensive to subscribe, but usually available at libraries).
    Last edited by JennaGlatzer; 10-15-2005 at 03:20 PM. Reason: adding link
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  24. #24
    Agent of Doom Unique's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by egem
    <snip>

    If that writer was going to go with a POD anyway, which many writers do, why wouldn't they us a company like PA?
    <snip>
    .
    Would someone answer this question for egem, please? I believe the answer is: '7 years', but perhaps someone could start there and elaborate.

    I don't follow these threads in great detail, but this is one of the most obvious differences I've noticed.
    Eat right, exercise, die anyway.

  25. #25
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JennaGlatzer
    We've had strong debates here before about whether or not it's smart to hire an editor before marketing a book (maybe someone can find the link?). As Aruna's example shows, sometimes it's a very good idea. Many other people think it's a waste of money to hire an editor before submitting.

    Truth is that I don't think even the most talented editor can make an unpublishable book publishable, so it depends on what you're starting with and what your objectives are.

    Hi Jenna!
    Very true about the strong debates... , and since the last strong debate I'e revised my vocabulary a great deal! So I no longer speak of "editing" a manuscript before submission, as that is what caused all the trouble - a misunderstanding, that was in fact a storm in a tea-cup. In the meantime I also believe that "editing", as is commonly used here and which I used wrongly before, is not much use before submission; though a qualified critique almost always is, at least for first time authors. So I had a "critique" done by a freelance "editor", but didn't have my manuscript "edited"...
    Hope this is now as clear as.... mud????
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