So you’ve finished writing your novel, right? Best feeling in the world, right? Yeah. It’s cool and all. But what now? I mean you need to publish it, right?
So you’ve got two choices. Depending on your first choice will depend on how many other choices you have. This is going to be a long list.
*Crawls under desk. Cries a lot.*
Choice one: Do you want to publish it yourself, yes or no?
Self-publishing is a viable choice for a writer to make. There can be numerous reasons to self-publish but the first consideration has to be, is it good enough? It’s the reason readers are drowning in a swill of tripe (am I mixing my metaphors?). People self-publish because they can, not because they should. Now I’m not bashing anyone—mentioning no names—but it’s easy to self-publish. I mean really easy. My mum could it. Damn. That’s a frightening thought because my mum is not a writer…but she can publish a book. I know a solid number of writers who self-publish because it’s right for them. I’ve done it. Many excellent authors I know have done it. This isn’t aimed at those people. This is aimed at a) writers who want to be published (and published now, dammit!) and b) writers who have tried getting published in the traditional sense, and failed.
So where was I? Ah yes, is it good enough?
No. No, it’s not *ducks behind desk to avoid thrown typewriter*. I’m a writer. Yeah, like you. I love my work. It’s the best. My cat likes it, my brother likes it, hell, even my bestest bud ever likes it. It has to be the greatest work of fiction. I mean, how can it not?
I’m sorry, my writerly friends. Your work blows monkey balls. You want to self-publish? Fine. But here’s what you have to consider:
Firstly, beta-readers. No, not your mum. Get your head out of your ass. When you were five she put that picture you drew in crayons on the refrigerator. She asked you to ‘Tell her all about it’, didn’t she? The refrigerator was a filthy lie. And she’ll still do it. You need impartial experienced readers to critique your work. They’ll find the plot holes your cat can’t see. They’ll tell you that your characters are unbelievable. Your acts aren’t right. What do you mean Paris isn’t the capital of China? Then once you’ve done that, you need an editor. People always assume I’m an English language GOD. “What do you mean you can’t teach English at a graduate level?” they say. “You’re a writer, aren’t you?” *As my fingers wrap tightly around their neck and I squeeze*
I can barely speak English, let alone know my past from my passed, and occasionally pasta.
So, yeah. Editor to sort that out.
Oh, and of course you’ll need to understand KDP and KDP Select, and if you use KDP Select you can’t publish on Smashwords, and you need to know the differences between Lightning Source, Createspace, and Lulu. Can you sell a PDF from your website if you’re publishing through Amazon? Yeah. Read those contracts. That small print.
Then, you need to make sure that your wonderful, polished, grammatically correct, character driven masterpiece doesn't look like a dog turd. For starters? A formatter. You know, because you don’t know how to use a word processor at university standard, and every company that will publish your book either in eBook format or traditional print will have different guidelines. And templates. And publishing times. And pricing options.
Of course, you can learn to do that yourself. I did. Now I format for other people for a price. Because knowledge is money. Or something like that.
Now you need a cover. I created my own cover for my first self-published book *Smirks*. Yeah. These days I’m pretty adept at cover design. There are several people with my covers on their books…but that first one? *Snorts*
So you’re asking for beta-readers (probably in a favour-trade situation). You’re paying for editing. You’re paying for formatting. You’re paying for cover design. You have a nose-bleed from reading the small print on Amazon’s KDP Select. Why did you want to self-publish again?
Then you can press the button. And nothing will happen. Because without a hulking-mega-publishing-house-of-awesome behind you, you now need to go and sell your book. To other people. I’m a writer. I don’t do human interaction.
So we’re going to traditionally publish the book. I mean, it’s the only option. No it isn't. Did you skip read to here?
Anyway. Getting someone else to publish your book. It’s easy right? None of this formatting, cover art, editing, malarkey. You just send it out and book magically appears. Like the shop keeper. From Mr. Benn.
No. More choices. Do you want to publish traditionally through a massive publisher? Do you need an agent? Do you want to dip your pinky toe in the waters of a small press? What about straight out here-take-my-money-and-print-my-book? Okay we’ll start with the last one.
I know people will scoff and snarl at this, but there is a place in the industry for vanity publishing. Basically it’s for people who want to be published, wants all the things that you need to become published, but wants to write a cheque to make all the problems go away and generally speed the process up. Fine. If that’s what you want. They’ll charge you exorbitant sums of money, and treat you like a pro-author. If that’s what you want. Those publishers who provide vanity publishing and don’t hide the fact that they charge a publishing fee are providing a service. Nothing wrong with that. Granted, I want them to disappear up the own mothers asshole, but still. A service.
Okay, that now said, I do have something to add: Some vanity publishers have a guise of being a traditional publisher. In other words they don’t tell you that they charge a fee until the contract rolls in. Sometimes months later. They’ve wooed you. Caressed your tender author ego. They've said your work, no, YOUR WORK is the best they have ever seen. It makes Stephen King look like a novice. It’ll outsell EL James. You are a master of the art. The contract comes through. OH EM GEE. It’s like eighty pages long. It’s all jargon-y and mystical. It must be truly signed. But in the small print, you may just find that in order to outsell EL James (you won’t) you need to pay them £2500 in ten easy to pay installments!
Scum sucking bottom feeders.
So we’re not doing that, amirite?
Okay, so you've decided not to go vanity-pub. You want to go small, independent, publisher. How do you work out which is a vanity-pub in disguise? Which are the good ones? And what the hell do I do now?
Sorry to tell you this, but you’re still going to need some beta-readers. But if you read this far, you probably knew most of this wasn't exactly going to be good news. But, you've fine-combed your manuscript, re-read and re-written. It is ready. You go online and find a press you think suits your needs. They seem small. They’re offering a professional service. Firstly go here: http://pred-ed.com/peba.ht. Predators and Editors have a comprehensive list of small to large publishing houses and gives you an idea of what they are like. They will tell you if the publisher you like is a fraud. Then, Google it. Do some research. Then, use social media. Facebook is your friend.
I know some people are all, “Geez, just send it to them. Don’t waste time with this, you haven’t signed a contract…vent…whine.” And then there’s me. “But you haven’t had a manuscript stolen. Your work plagiarized. Or worse. The stories I read of “publishers” stalking and threatening writers.” I like safe, not sorry.
Then, after you've gone through all that, you need to read their submissions guidelines. Format your document (don’t worry, it’s simple stuff), font changes, tab removal sometimes, and pay close attention to how much they want of your manuscript. If they want three chapters, send three chapters.
Now you need to write a covering letter. You can’t write this first, because often they’ll specify in the submission guidelines what they want in that too. Then you send it.
*Butterflies in the stomach*
You wait. Even a small publishing house has a big backlog. Hundreds upon hundreds of novels get sent to them weekly. Depressing, isn’t it? Don’t worry. Some of them will suck monkey balls.
An important factor in sending out manuscripts to publishers is in the guidelines, and will refer to simultaneous submissions. If I publisher says that they accept simultaneous submissions then that means you can send your manuscript to multiple publishing houses at the same time. Rather than wait for the first to reply, you can send out you manuscript to as many publishers as you want. I find it important to look for that. Waiting twelve months—or longer—for a no is depressing enough. But then starting afresh is even harder. Get it out there.
Want a word of warning? Of course you do. When flooding the market with your book—which you won’t after you’ve read this, right?—don’t be tempted to put a cover-all covering letter. You have to craft every letter in the same way you craft your manuscript. Write. Re-write. Personalize it. Make the publishing house know that it’s them, and no one else, that you adore and want to be with for like, always. If you dear sir/madam it they’ll know.
Then it won’t matter how God-like your manuscript is.
It’s a long, hard, process, but it pays off. You can get in. Have conversations. Schmooze. I’m a writer, my schmoozing is just plain awkward but these good people are used to that. On a completely random side-note, one of the marketing team of a publishing house I was working with told me I needed an elevator pitch—a short 30 second pitch of my book I could give over to a prospective publisher in the time it would take to take an elevator to shift a few floors. I’m in an elevator with someone I don’t know. All I’m doing in concentrating on not farting. Anyway, I digress.
But that’s all beneath you, right? You’re going in big. It’s Big Six, or nothing! (While technically now five after a merging, Big Six generally refers to the largest publishing houses in the world: Simon and Schuster, Penguin/Random House, Macmillan, Hachette, and HarperCollins) Do you need an agent? Hell, yes! Will they get you published? *Shrugs and walks off*
Okay, you’re hitting high. Do you need an agent? Technically, no. It is possible to break the Big Six without an agent, but let’s be honest, it’s about as likely as me winning Miss World. I’m six-five and have a beard.
So, yeah. Need an agent. Do I have an agent? No. I’m talking from what I've learned for this bit, not from experience. I took the long road. I've been honing my art. I should be looking for an agent for one of my next two novels. We’ll see. Finding an agent is a little like finding a small publisher. You find one you want to work with, research, and approach. You’ll need individual covering letters again, and out you go. Selling yourself to the world. If you are going to try and sell your first completed manuscript to an agent, you had better be sure. Sure you have it. Whatever it is. Why? Time, mostly.
You know those months waiting for a small publishing house to come back with a yes or no? Well, you’re doing that again. Except this time you’re not getting a publishing deal after the wait. You’re getting someone on board who can sell for you. Barter for you. Sell you. Wheel. Deal. Understand the legal side (I haven’t mentioned the legal side of contracts, or negotiations. That’s a whole different ramble). Then you wait again while your agent does the selling. Tries to find you a publishing house.
And it’s not all roses. Sure, your agent can open doors for you that you couldn't open yourself. But sometimes you’ll end up back with a small publisher. You might have a better contract, you might not. You won’t know where the road takes you until you get there.
So which of the choices is right for you? I can’t answer that. Shit, this whole ramble hasn't answered much. But hopefully it’ll help you consider things you hadn't.
Oh, and my cat is my harshest critic. He never misses a thing.
About the Author: Mark Taylor’s debut novel, Shutter Speed, crash landed on planet earth in 2013. Its dark brooding style benchmarked his writing and has led to further releases of novel and short story collection alike.
While most of Mark’s work is macabre, occasion has it that he will write about kittens and daisies. Just not very often.
Some say he is a product of his environment, others, a product of his own imagination.
Whichever it is he works happily, portraying dark existences on this planet and others. He relays his fears and doubts on his characters, so always has a smile. If Mark is real, as some say he is, you might find him in England.