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Author Topic: How to get published?
Auntie Witch
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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In the (not-so-near) future, I plan on finishing and polishing what I wrote during nanaowrimo and trying to peddle it. If nothing else, I'll know if those daydreams of seeing my name in print are merely foolish thoughts, or something with merit. The thing is, I'm completely clueless.

I know that mailing a manuscript to a publisher rarely works. I did a quick google search, and most places were "Pay us to make it a book" which seemed to care more about if you could write a proper check than a proper sentence.

Those of you who are published, how did you do it? I'm open to tips of any kind. I also would love to know what's realistic in terms of my expectations. What does a novel sell for? How much do I pay an editor? Do I even need an editor if I've got people with good editing skills helping me out? Do I pay a publisher up front? Like I said, I'm clueless!

Thanks in advance!

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Unusual Elfin Lights
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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I've not been published for fiction, but have been for technical manuals. For fiction (I'm working on it) I found the books from the Everything Guide to be very helpful in letting me understand what it is I'm trying to do.

Everything Guide to Writing a Novel
Everything Guide to Writing a Book Proposal

I'm not sure if it will work, as I'm not seeing dollars yet, but they have given me insight into the machinations of the publishing industry.

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ComicBookGeek
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Is it a novel? Go with an agent.

If you do NOT go with an agent, you have a hard time getting read and an even harder time getting bought (at a fair deal). An editor at TOR once told me (well, an audience) that the most she would do is agree to buy from someone without an agent but would not negoitate the contract. Her reasoning was she would be looking out for HER best interests before mine.

Short story? Pretty much just peddle it out to various markets. There are books you can buy that are nothing more than a catalog of addressed on where to send a manuscript.

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Esprise Me
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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Don't pay someone to publish your manuscript. Don't give up after one or ten rejection letters. Don't give up on writing after giving up on one manuscript. Don't take rejection personally.
Do take to heart the advice of a professional editor, even if your friend-who-scored-an-800-on-the-verbal-SAT-portion disagrees. Do consult a more reliable source than Google, ideally the most recent Writer's Market guide. Do keep working on your writing--don't just write and revise whole manuscripts; try some writing exercises (you can find some great ones in What If? or online.
Lastly, don't quit your day job. But you probably knew that already.

Esprise "I give very good advice, but I very seldom follow it" Me

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Auntie Witch
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Esprise Me:
try some writing exercises

Actually, it was winning entries at Worth (including a bonus long-form, 5000 word contest) that gave me the confidence to try this.

Thanks for the advice, all.

How do I go about finding an agent? How much do they charge?

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Morrigan
Happy Holly Days


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According to Piers Anthony, some charge only when you get published, and then a commission.

He's actually got a nice little site on his main page at hipiers.com

If you don't know, Piers Anthony is the author of the Xanth series and about 50 other books.

Morrigan

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Tyrone Slothrop
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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There's a catch-22 when attempting to publish a novel. Most publishers won't accept a manuscript unless it's submitted by an agent. However, most agents won't represent you without having been published before.

Never send a full manuscript to a publisher. It will automatically end up on the slush pile. Instead, write up a summary of your novel (typically 5-10 pages). Write out the major plot points of your novel and provide the ending. Don't "tease" the publisher by not providing an ending, you'll end up on the slush pile again.

Publishers want to see if your novel is marketable in the genre they publish. So don't send a summary of your general fiction novel to a Science Fiction/Fantasy publisher (like TOR).

Esprise Me gave the best advice. Pick up a recent copy of Writer's Market (you don't have to buy it, just check it out from a library).

Writer's Market lists agents in the beginning and provides information on whether they take new authors or not. Many agents are willing to take on new authors that have yet to be published if the story fits within their relationships with publishers AND the summary is compelling.

Basically, you have to do a lot of homework, research who you're going to submit your manuscript to, and write up a killer summary. Then pray. Most likely, you'll receive a lot of rejection letters.

I'll echo what everyone else said: don't take it personally. It's not a comment on your talent as a writer, but that your manuscript isn't marketable for that publisher.

Agents typically don't charge unless they successfully sell your manuscript to a publisher. If any agent wants money up front, that agent is most likely failing at best, scamming at worst.

NEVER pay to have your work published. Remember, it's your work being published so you're entitled to the monies earned from publication.

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"The universe works on a math equation that never even ever really even ends in the end"

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Logoboros
We Three Blings


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I haven't had to shop a novel yet myself, but I've had friends who have (note: these are literary novels, not genre ones, so the process may be a little different). My understanding is that for a good agent, you basically "audition" for them. You send the agents your manuscript (or query letter) -- just as you would send it to a publisher -- and they decide if they think they could sell your work (for which they will take a percentage of whatever money you make). If you have to pay an agent outright for them to try to get your book in the hands of an editor, I'm guessing that's probably money down the drain.

And I second what Esprise Me says: grow the thickest skin you can, ASAP. Success in writing usually requires a great deal of tenacity. And I'd say don't be prepared for 10 rejections; be prepared for 100. In some ways the only way to stay sane is to have no expectation of success whatsoever, while still having the willpower to keep sending your work out (which gets tedious after a while).

--Logoboros

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"If Men were Wise, the Most arbitrary Princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the Freest Government is compelld to be a Tyranny."

--William Blake

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Logoboros
We Three Blings


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quote:
Originally posted by Tyrone Slothrop:

NEVER pay to have your work published. Remember, it's your work being published so you're entitled to the monies earned from publication.

That said, I think it's also worth remembering that odds are, even with publication you are not going to be making much money (your book may be one of the few great exceptions, but I'm always for keeping a realistic attitude -- which, in publishing, is one of extreme pessimism). Somehow, a lot people seem to think that a writer is a celebrity and is therefore pulling down Hollywood-type money. A lot of books are published at a loss to the publisher -- they put out a hundred books hoping to make their money back on the one that becomes a bestseller (this is somewhat less true for the small presses, of course, but the payday expectations are naturally smaller already).

Anyway, I think it's easy to get all self-righteous as an artist about getting the due reward for your work -- thinking that the publishe is unfairly capitalizing off of your creativity -- but it is entirely possible that the publisher has, in fact, lost money or just broken even by publishing you.

I only mention this because I've been on the other side, working for literary reviews. We would occasionally get cranky letters from high-minded writers criticizing, say, that we charged a entry fee for contests saying exactly what was above: "Shame on you, it's your job to be paying writers for their work, not for writers to be paying you!"

But the fact is, without that contest income (as well as institutional endowments and other forms of charity), there would likely be no magazine to be published in. If you really wanted to due reward for your work, you'd get nothing, because the magazine isn't making enough just off of reader's subscriptions to stay afloat. People aren't actually willing to pay enough to read your work to make it viable to pay you for it based only on that principle.

Again, the above applies to literary fiction (and is often cited by genre-snobs as a reason why genre fiction should be regarded as superior, because the market proves it so). I'm sure the genres are more mercenary, though I think the several failures for one bestseller equation is still pretty true (for the big houses).

--Logoboros

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"If Men were Wise, the Most arbitrary Princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the Freest Government is compelld to be a Tyranny."

--William Blake

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Jenn
Layaway in a Manger


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quote:
Originally posted by Tyrone Slothrop:
NEVER pay to have your work published. Remember, it's your work being published so you're entitled to the monies earned from publication.

Assuming you and others are warning against self-publishing, I'm not sure where you're going with the entitlement to earn money. You front the money yourself to publish, print, market and distribute the book, and you get 100% of any money it makes after expenses. That's one of the draws of self-publishing for a lot of people who choose it.

Self-publishing is a perfectly acceptable way to publish one's work if it's not suitable for professional publishers for whatever reason. Maybe it's something so specific to one's location that professional publishers can't find a market for it. Maybe it's an obscure topic that publishers won't touch for the same reason. Maybe the author has a great need to maintain full editorial, marketing, and distribution control. And sure, sometimes the book just sucks and publishers wouldn't touch it (oh, have I see a lot of stinker self-published children's books).

However, it's a lot more work and a big financial risk. There is the stigma that being self-published must mean that it's a crappy book. It's not as impressive on a publication resume, but it's better than nothing at all, especially if you've managed to do well selling it. People looking into writing as a career should be aware that self-publishers authors are excluded from a lot of grant programs that could be used to support their writing.

Success can absolutely come from self-published works. There was a little book called The Joy of Cooking which was self-published in the 1930s which did okay for itself for decades before being picked up by a professional publisher. Eragon by Christopher Paolini was originally self-published, then picked up by Knopf, and now it's a major motion picture. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield was self-published, did very well in sales out of the back of the author's car, was picked up by Warner Books, and is now a film as well.

It might not be ideal for a lot of reasons, but it's not necessarily something to avoided at all costs. As long as you go in knowing the pros and cons it's a valid option for many people.

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Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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Write and publish short fiction first. The markets are more open than for novels. There are still a lot of magazines out there that will pay for short fiction. Once you've sold a few stories, then you have a "rap sheet" that you can brag on, and this is taken VERY SERIOUSLY by publishers. They now have proof that you can deliver what you've promised, and that you are competent to write.

If you have to start with genre fiction, so be it. Mysteries, sci-fi, horror, even cowboy fiction. Doesn't matter. You're establishing a resume. (Or, like, a re'sume' or however you put the acute accent over an e. Phoo.)

Esprise Me and Tyrone Slothrop are correct: NEVER PAY SOMEONE ELSE to read your work. NEVER! If it's good enough to be published, then someone else will pay you for it. If it is *not* good enough, then there are ways to find out without paying for the privilege.

Also, shop around very carefully if you want to join a writing workshop. The variance is extreme, from sainted helpful partners you will love more closely than your own kin, to abusive lying thieves who will swindle you, smiling as they twist the knife in your back.

Silas

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Tyrone Slothrop
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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quote:
Originally posted by Logoboros:

That said, I think it's also worth remembering that odds are, even with publication you are not going to be making much money (your book may be one of the few great exceptions, but I'm always for keeping a realistic attitude -- which, in publishing, is one of extreme pessimism). Somehow, a lot people seem to think that a writer is a celebrity and is therefore pulling down Hollywood-type money. A lot of books are published at a loss to the publisher -- they put out a hundred books hoping to make their money back on the one that becomes a bestseller (this is somewhat less true for the small presses, of course, but the payday expectations are naturally smaller already).

Anyway, I think it's easy to get all self-righteous as an artist about getting the due reward for your work -- thinking that the publishe is unfairly capitalizing off of your creativity -- but it is entirely possible that the publisher has, in fact, lost money or just broken even by publishing you.

I only mention this because I've been on the other side, working for literary reviews. We would occasionally get cranky letters from high-minded writers criticizing, say, that we charged a entry fee for contests saying exactly what was above: "Shame on you, it's your job to be paying writers for their work, not for writers to be paying you!"

But the fact is, without that contest income (as well as institutional endowments and other forms of charity), there would likely be no magazine to be published in. If you really wanted to due reward for your work, you'd get nothing, because the magazine isn't making enough just off of reader's subscriptions to stay afloat. People aren't actually willing to pay enough to read your work to make it viable to pay you for it based only on that principle.

Again, the above applies to literary fiction (and is often cited by genre-snobs as a reason why genre fiction should be regarded as superior, because the market proves it so). I'm sure the genres are more mercenary, though I think the several failures for one bestseller equation is still pretty true (for the big houses).

--Logoboros

Thanks for clearing that up Logo. I was speaking more towards the "publish on demand" outfits that have sprung up.

You know, the ones that have you pay marketing fees, publishing fees, and distribution fees each time your book is "published."

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"The universe works on a math equation that never even ever really even ends in the end"

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Logoboros
We Three Blings


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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
Write and publish short fiction first. The markets are more open than for novels. There are still a lot of magazines out there that will pay for short fiction.

[...] If it's good enough to be published, then someone else will pay you for it. If it is *not* good enough, then there are ways to find out without paying for the privilege.


A couple of notes here: Silas' idea of the short story to novel progression does fit my experience, but that's from the literary side. With genre fiction, I think there are plenty of novels published by people who never published a short story. For one thing, paying venues for genre short fiction are far fewer (and shrinking every day) than for "literary" short stories. But then there are lots of places for online publication of genre fiction (though this is almost always non-paying, and isn't going to help your resume -- though it may get you a bona fide, enthusiastic audience -- in fact, a better and more responsive audience than you might get from "real" print publication).

And I'd further note that in the literary short fiction field, lots of perfectly respectable journals/magazines that will look great on your resume won't pay you in anything more than copies of the magazine. Better to get published and start building that resume than to continually hold out for publication in a magazine that might send you a check for a couple of hundred dollars just so that you have boasting-rights of being a "paid writer." It took me a long time to get over this particularly bit of pridefulness, myself.

I also second Jenn's take on the self-publishing thing. I think the stigma is often unfair. But it is certainly still there. And even in "real" publishing, some do-it-yourself hustle is necessary. A couple of my writing professors have had to hire their own independent publicist to set up a reading tour, get the book reviewed, etc., because the publishers do such a lousy job of following through. They assign one in-house publicist a couple dozen books, of which she picks out a handful to give special attention to and does the minimum required for the rest. It doesn't seem to make economic sense, but that's how it often works.

And just so we can tailor our advice better, could you describe your book a little bit? Do you see it as a certain genre? Do you have a particular kind of readership in mind?

--Logoboros

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"If Men were Wise, the Most arbitrary Princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the Freest Government is compelld to be a Tyranny."

--William Blake

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Jenn
Layaway in a Manger


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quote:
Originally posted by Logoboros:
I also second Jenn's take on the self-publishing thing. I think the stigma is often unfair. But it is certainly still there.

One of the the parts I hated about my job at the non-profit literacy organization was having to tell the authors of really good self-published books that we couldn't accept them as members. We were a non-profit relying on grants to fund the projects, some of our funders told us that we couldn't use their money for self-published authors, and we were too small and poor to set up any sort of quality control to screen books. With only one exception, they all got upset with me because they'd run into the stigma so many times already.

It was only hard with the good books, though. It was nice to have the "I'm sorry, it's out of my hands, these are the rules by which we must abide and I wish it could be different" to fall back on when a self-published book was only suitable for starting fires because I couldn't tell them what I really thought of it. "The illustrations are terrible, it's grammatically incorrect, it's extremely violent for small children, and it carries a terrible moral message."

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Auntie Witch
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Logoboros:

And just so we can tailor our advice better, could you describe your book a little bit? Do you see it as a certain genre? Do you have a particular kind of readership in mind?

Right now, I could swing it in a variety of directions. It's more fantasy-type, with potential to be children's lit along the lines of "The Giver" or "The City of Ember"-type books, with an alternative society. I've got a very brief synopsis on my blog. Basically, it's a society where women are not allowed to have more than three children (and are encouraged to), and your worth is based on your birth order and the birth order of your ancestors. I'm not done; in all honesty, I'm at a point where I have to decide if I want it to follow the children's lit road or the fantasy road. (I'm about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the rough draft)

The thing is, I don't read fantasy. I'm not very fond of fantasy, even. That's just what came out when I sat down. (Insert joke about my story being crap here)

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Brad from Georgia
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Okay, to build on what everyone else has said:

  • Do your own market research. Find half a dozen or more published books that are in some way comparable to what you've written. Note the publishers.
  • Refer to Writer's Market or--my favorite--Literary Market Place (aka LMP)--for the publisher's address and phone number.
  • Invest in a call to the publisher; ask the receptionist "Who is the editor in the -- department?"
  • Then address your query letter and synopsis to that particular editor. Impress her--let her know that "because your company published Insert Title Here, I believe my book may be suitable for you."
  • As advised above, lay out your entire plot in the synopsis. Let the editor know your book is complete and that you could send the manuscript, or a partial manuscript and outline.
  • Include a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).
  • If the editor asks for chapters-and-outline, send the first three chapters OR the first fifty pages, whichever is shorter; or send whatever the editor asks for if she is specific.
  • The outline asked for will NOT be a roman-numeral-letter type, but rather a five to ten page (single spaced) breakdown of the plot; you may divide it into chapters if you wish.
Good luck!

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the Virgin Marrya
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Auntie Witch:

The thing is, I don't read fantasy. I'm not very fond of fantasy, even. That's just what came out when I sat down. (Insert joke about my story being crap here)

I'm in the middle of reading an old book of essays by Ursa LeGuin and that's exactly what she thinks it takes to get good writing - whatever is in there ready to come out.

So, let it!

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Radical Dory
God Rest Ye Merry Retail Clerks


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Another way to get your foot in the door may be to enter a writing contest. A professor at our school did that with her novel, won, and got enough note to eventually get published.

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"But about the reindeer...what kind of a nose shines? How did he get it? Maybe it's not a reindeer after all. It could be something else."

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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AW, if you want to be published, prepare to invest a lot of time in it. As in, years. The odds of your first manuscript being published are not good. Especially writing in a field with which you are unfamiliar. Oddly enough, the better it is, the longer it will take to hear back from either publishers or agents. A two year wait for a rejection letter is not uncommon.

That being said, try, try again are the magic words. I just made my first professional fiction sale and I've been writing off and on for thirty years.

I sold a short story. It took the editor eight months to buy the story. I submitted it through a slush pile that doubles as a critique group. It is very difficult to get a request for an rtf, but if you get one, the odds of selling your story to this particular publication skyrocket.

Seaboe

ETA: Steven Brust has a very good post about slush piles on his blog for December 4th.

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Education is not the filling of a hard drive, but the lighting of a bulb. -- Yeats via Esprise Me

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ChelleGame
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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I've only been published for short stories, so not an expert on novels.

I agree on the Writer's Market guide. I also think it's a good idea to go to the websites of appropriate publishers or agents. It will often give you additional details, and even quirks of the various editors.

I would also visit websites that give you a crash course in good submission etiquette. Even if one of two of these are not the editor's/agent's preference, you'll avoid major errors, and it will show you're aware of basic protocol. This also helps if your work ends up in the slush pile, as you are less likely to irritate people you want to impress. This will put you ahead of the people who've not done the homework, and are blinding people with difficult fonts, and neon pink paper. [Smile]

Most publishers don't want you to submit to multiple places, but the guide will let you know. If you have queried/submitted to more than one place, it's a good idea to mention that.

It's generally considered a good idea to give a pub/agent at least 4-6 weeks to respond, and then -- even though it's still early -- you can usually send a postcard requesting to know the status of the story. Still, be patient waiting for a response.

I do know that novels are hard because you've invested a lot of time, and then have to play a waiting game as people get around to deciding something very important to you.

Honestly, if you have a appreciation for short stories, you might want to work on getting 1 or 2 of those published as well. It'll at least get your foot in the door, even if you're published in some literary journal with a small circulation.

And all the above is just my personal opinion, based on my small experience and what I've read, and there is a lot of great advice in this thread.

Edited 'cause there's a lot of great advice, not advise. See, don't listen to be if you want to be published. [Wink]

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Michelle

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