Hey, I was wondering if you could give me any tips on getting published? I’ve done a few searches on the internet but it’s hard to know which sites are scams and which ones are actually for real these days. Many thanks :)
– Comment by Gord
Hi Gord! Okay, a quick overview of the publishing process for commercially published fiction. It works like this:
- Finish the manuscript. This is the hardest step. Re-draft it, edit it, polish it up until you’re sure it’s your best work. Give it to people to read and give some honest critique on. Don’t rush anything, just spend all the time you can getting it as perfect as you’re capable of.
- Get an agent. This requires sending out a query giving a summary of your work and any writing credentials you’ve got. There are lots of good sites for advice on writing a query – I recommend looking at all the links down the side of Nathan Bradford’s blog, and taking a long browse of Query Shark. Editorial Anonymous is pretty snazzy as well. You can find editors by browsing online, or picking up the latest Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. Expect a huge amount of rejections at this stage – rejections in the hundreds isn’t uncommon, even in the thousands sometimes. With a bit of luck, you’ll have some agents requesting partials – the first few parts of the novel – and if they like it they’ll request the full story. With a lot of luck, they’ll then take you on!
- Once you get an agent, they’ll set to work on finding you a publisher. Concentrate on whatever you want to work on next when this is going on, don’t get too hung up on it. The agent might ask you to tweak certain things in the book.
- The publisher will give you either a single book-deal, or a multi-book deal – these deals are good if you’re doing a series of novels, as they mean you’ll definitely be able to publish the other books in a series even if the first book doesn’t do fantastically. Most sci-fi and fantasy contracts are multi–book deals.
- An editor will work on the book before publication, and the manuscript will go back and forth between you and the editor until everyone’s happy. You’ll sometimes get sent cover ideas to look at, but authors generally don’t have much say in this. About a year to two years after you get your contract, it should be printed and ready to hit the shelves.
- Once it’s out, you’ll need to spend a lot of time and energy doing interviews with papers, news programs and blogs as well as doing signings, workshops and school/library talks. This is all a key part of publicising the work and it can be costly depending on how much you want to help push the book, and how big the publisher’s advertising budget is. A published will usually send out a few copies to reviewers, maybe put a few adverts in magazines and posters up in bookstores, but if you’re a new author don’t expect too much. You can get paid a decent amount for doing talks and workshops, though
- Once the book has earned back it’s advance – a lump sum given to you when you sign the contract which os usually nothing spectacular (working a normal job is far better financially) – you’ll start earning royalties depending on how well the book sells. These are a percentage of the book’s sales, varying according to your contract. If your book is sold to other countries you can make some decent money on the side as well and the publisher may take you on a promotional tour to do signings in that country.
Wikipedia has this to say on royalities:
Hardback royalties on the published price of trade books usually range from 10% to 12.5%, with 15% for more important authors. On paperback it is usually 7.5% to 10%, going up to 12.5% only in exceptional cases. All the royalties displayed below are on the “cover price.” Paying 15% to the author can mean that the other 85% of the cost pays for editing and proof-reading, printing and binding, overheads, and the profits (if any) to the publisher.
The publishing company pays no royalty on bulk purchases of books since the buying price may be a third of the cover price sold on an singles basis.
All you really need to know is that per book, it’s not much. If your profits don’t make up for the advance, you won’t get any royalties at all and the publisher will be a bit unhappy. I really can’t stress enough that for new authors, it’s not a high-paying job and you quite often need to keep at least a part-time job even after publication.
Very importantly, a publisher will never ask you for money up-front. Neither will an agent or editor. If they do, they’re not legit so get out of there quickly – legit publishing people make their wages through taking percentages of what you earn, you don’t have to pay them for anything. That’s the quickest way to tell if a publisher is a scam, and the Writer’s Beware! blog is excellent for catching out dodgy businesses as well.
For further reading, check out the latest “Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook”, Stephen King’s “On Writing”, or reader recommendation Carol Blake’s “From Pitch to Publication”.
Update: I’ve put up a brand new FAQ page to keep track of good questions like this.