In discussing books with various groups, I have had a number of people ask me for information about publishing a book. More specifically, many ask the difference in "regular" publishing and self-publishing. To answer this question in a nutshell: in regular publishing, the publisher pays the costs for producing the book. In self-publishing, you pay all the costs.
I have published both ways, so I will discuss "regular" publishing first. Many new authors finish a book having poured blood, sweat, tears, and high hopes into the finished product. They have carefully edited their work and revised it numbers of times.
Now it's just a matter of finding a publisher. One possible route is through an agent. This is tricky, but some large publishing houses won't accept unsolicited manuscripts and will consider only manuscripts submitted by agents. Since the process of finding an agent can be as difficult as finding a publisher, I will deal primarily with submitting directly to publishers who do accept unsolicited works.
Before you submit any manuscript, or maybe even before you begin to write, I urge you to invest in a copy of Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents. If you are writing for children, buy Writer's & Illustrator's Guide to Children's Book Publishers and Agents. These tools will guide you in all aspects of manuscript preparation and submission. They tell you how to set up your manuscript with details on what size and kind of type font to use, how to set your margins, etc. If these seemingly minute details are not properly attended to, an editor may well return your manuscript without a further glance.
Also I would urge you to read everything you can find on the craft of writing. For example, many books will give you examples of good story beginnings and tell you how to get the reader's attention immediately. These same skills can also help you get an editor's attention.
When you have done all this and feel your manuscript is ready, then it is time to study the market. Information on hundreds of publishing houses is included in the books listed above. You will be able to narrow down the list of publishers to whom you wish to submit.
I would advise you to read the section on publishers carefully. Does your book fit the subject matter they publish? Do you have the required number of words? Does your book fit each of the criteria listed by the publisher? If not, then do not waste your time and money submitting to that publisher. Submitting can get expensive since you are required to send a self-addressed stamped envelope with the required postage so that the publisher can return your manuscript.
Study the publisher's requirements carefully. You might decide to change your book to fit a particular publisher's criteria.
When I wrote Mystery at Jacob's Well I gave it a distinct Texas flavor, in fact a Wimberley flavor since Jacob's Well is the setting for the story. I knew that Eakin Press published books about Texas, so I sent a query letter to
Oops, I have thrown another term at you! Your Writer's Guide will tell you exactly what a query letter contains, but in essence it is a short description of your book. Query letters can save you the expense of all that manuscript postage, but read your Guide book carefully. Some publishers accept only queries, others only partial or full manuscripts.
My query letter was answered by the publisher, "Sounds great! Send the manuscript." I didn't bother to send it. I TOOK it to Austin the next day!
Finally, after a long wait, I received a contract. Then came revisions. The editor wanted 2000 more words, more about the Tonkawa Indians, more science, then 3000 more words. Finally, many months later, I had a beautiful hardbound copy in my hand. From the time the manuscript is accepted until it is published usually takes one to two years, sometimes as long as three years.
The publisher has borne all the expense of publishing my book. I will get royalties, (these are tiny, folks,) and I am expected to get out and promote my book. Promoting your book is something that even the largest publishing houses expect of authors today, but that is another story.
I have sent numbers of manuscripts to publishers and have the rejection letters to prove it. With one exception, all of my rejections have been form letters. I sent one manuscript to a Christian publishing house in Scotland and the publisher informed me that the story was "too American." I am still trying to figure that one out! But here's my point. Don't get discouraged. Go to workshops, learn all you can, keep writing and keep submitting and keep hoping. If you have any questions about publishing, I will be happy to try to answer them.
HERE FOR PART
TWO, GETTING PUBLISHED »
Article © 2002