Saturday, June 27, 2015

Basics of Traditional Publishing

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     Last time I talked about self-publishing, which is considerably easier to carry out. This time I will talk about traditional publishing, which, though easier to wrap your head around, is much harder to accomplish. Either way, success is very difficult, but traditional publishing gives higher chances, which is why it requires more effort to even begin.

     A traditional publisher is one that accepts manuscripts from authors (sometimes through agents or by request), works with them to improve the manuscript, provides a cover, marketing, printing, and distribution, and then pays the author royalties, and occasionally an advance.
     Getting accepted by a publisher is a rather complicated process, and you can expect it to take several years (or decades, if you are unlucky) and dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of rejections. Here are some tips to improve your chances and shorten the process.

Have a good product

     I mentioned this in the last one too, but it is very important. Don't send them the first book you write, and preferably not the second or the third, until you have written several other books as well. Rewrite your book several times. Send it to friends, maybe even an editor, preferably a developmental editor.
     Continue to work on your book as you submit it. A book can always be improved. This becomes especially important if you get something other than a form rejection letter. That is a good sign, it means that you are getting close.

Have a good cover letter

     Hardly an easy thing to accomplish, but this is your first impression. If your cover letter isn't good, your novel won't even get a glance. Keep your cover letter short and informative. Do not use a form letter. You will probably want to use the same synopsis each time, perhaps tweaked for the particular publisher, but the rest of it needs to be made completely new for each one. Use the editor's name, say why you think they are a good fit, name some of the novels that they have published recently that have similarities (but aren't too close!) to your book.

Choose the right publisher

      Please, please, please do your research. There are lots of companies that look great that you should never go near. If they ask you to pay them (aside from, maybe, a reading fee) then they aren't good. That means that they don't have enough confidence in your book to take a risk.
     In the part about cover letters I said to include why you think that your book is a good match for them. Well, you should actually believe that you are a good fit for them. Otherwise, what is the point of submitting to them?

Get an agent

     This is optional. Agents are kind of odd, because they make getting published easier, yet to get an agent requires the same process, just to the agent's company, rather than the publisher's. However, the truly important thing that agents do, is they negotiate the terms of publication. They will get you a better deal by far than you can get yourself. In fact, if you decide to forgo an agent during the hunt for a publisher, once a publisher accepts you, go find an agent. They will jump at the chance to represent an author whose book is already accepted.

Build an author platform

    An author platform is essentially your following. Building a following while you still don't have anything published can be difficult. One of the most commonly recommended methods is to make a blog, though I would say that the most necessary is a website. A website won't really build you a platform, but it is a place for people to look you up at where you can put your contact information.
     I would recommend also using one or two social media websites, like Pinterest, Twitter, or Tumblr. Experiment with different ones and find which you will be able to keep doing. Pinterest tends to be a favorite with authors, and it is the easiest one to advertise with that won't annoy people, but is also the least direct. Don't go overboard with building your author platform, but don't neglect it, either. This is one of the things publishers look at when considering a book.

     Traditional publishing is a hard route, and there is less creative control, however, you have much more assurance that you will end up with a fantastic product, and once a publisher accepts you, your chances of success skyrocket. Don't think that once you're accepted that you can quit your day job, though. Writing for a living is a hard job, no matter what way you go. The publisher will take most of the profits in exchange for the work and money they put into it, so you will need to either because a huge bestseller, or, the more likely, publish a lot of books.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK and on Tumblr here:

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