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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Wednesday on Writing: The Publishing Process (Part 1 of a weekly series)

 Welcome back! 

So let’s begin with a few disclaimers. I am not an expert.  I don’t pretend to be an expert.  But I have picked up a thing or two along the way and I’m more than happy to share.  If what I say works for you or opens your eyes to something you didn’t know, I’m glad.  If not, ignore me and move on.


Second disclaimer.  The opinions stated here are my own.  They are not intended to represent the opinions of any publisher, including those for whom I have worked or currently work.  They are all in my own little head.


Now eventually I’d like to get into the whole “how to write a book” thing, but for now, since nobody had any suggestions for a jumping off point, we’ll start with what’s on my mind.  The Publishing Process.


Let’s assume you already have written a book or at least have one in progress.  First of all, good for you.  A lot of people want to write a book, but it takes commitment and dedication to make it happen.


The good news is that we live in a world where self-publishing is just a click away and you can do it all yourself. There are pros and cons to doing both, and we can talk about those down the road but for now I am going with the assumption that you want to submit your work to a publisher.


Insert magical harp sounds to indicate the passing of time.


Your story is ready.  You’ve worked hard and you are ready to share your baby with the world.  Surely every publisher will want to jump on it—you have written The Great American Novel, after all!


Where to start?


Step 1.  The research.  So you’ve heard that your best friend’s mother’s cousin’s sister-in-law twice removed just got contracted with XYZ publishing house.  So you decide to start there.  You send them your newly finished manuscript. You browse their website, but not to see what they are looking for, only to see where to submit.

You hear nothing back.


Turns out, they only publish cookbooks.


I know you are excited and eager to see your work in print so you can start raking in millions (uh… yeah remind me talk about that little harsh bit of reality later) but it is important to take the time to do your research and choose the right publisher for your work.


I know, I know.  You just want it out there. Patience, Grasshopper.  We’ll get there.


You don’t start where you would think, by putting a note out on social media asking friends where to submit.  I mean yeah, you can do it that way but here’s a crazy, wild totally out there thought: read.  Whether you write traditional westerns, cozy mysteries or sweet romance, find out who is publishing those.  Are the stories any good?  Do you like the cover art? Are they well edited? And here’s a biggie—what’s the maximum word count the publisher allows?


In a perfect world, you might even start doing this research before you start writing or before you finish your story. Tailoring it to the requirements of the publisher you want to work with is never a bad thing. 


Next you can start by asking around about the publisher-- and this is where it helps to belong to writer’s groups or at least have a presence on social media. Do they pay royalties on time? Advances? Publish in print or just electronic format? Are their authors happy? Do they have a lot of staff turnover?


Do an Internet search on any company and you will find the good, the bad and the disgruntled.  I would strongly encourage you to do that, but keep in mind that some of the bad will be authors who didn’t make the cut or had control issues (we’ll get to those, too). Word of mouth is your best friend.  If you hear the same complaint over and over from several different people, then you are well within your rights to be concerned.  But if you only hear it once, take into account that no one can please everyone all the time.


And depending on the publisher , you can even ask them for references.  Let them know you are thinking of submitting but you’d like to talk to some of their authors and ask questions.  If they ignore you or don’t like that idea, take that as a huge red flag and move on.


So you’ve nailed it down to a few publishers and you are ready to query.  What to do next?


Hint: it’s not what you might think.


And because this has already gone on rather long-- and because I love cliffhangers—we’ll talk about that next week!

Stop back next Wednesday for part 2: How to know when your MS is ready! 


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