What publishers DON'T do

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Post by Guest »

There's a lot on here about what publishers want. Mostly from people who aren't publishers. So, as I am one (trad not hybrid) I thought I'd dispel a few myths. Word counts vary from publisher to publisher. One thing publishers aren't is stupid. They will take a quality, well written novella outside their usual word count if it is worth it to them: if it's well written, an engaging story  and so on.

They employ editors and the publisher listens to them and will ultimately have the overall say as to whether your amendments are acceptable and so on. Many don't take unsolicited MSS because it saves time, resources and more importantly money. Some may require ownership so check who retains copyright of what. They will retain copyright of the typesetting and formatting, but not text or images unless they are provided by them (covers etc).

Most importantly it shouldn't cost you any money. In real terms it can take up to 2 years for your book to be available in print.

   What publishers DONT do ... most indie publishers pay royalties not advances. That's MOST not ALL. They don't publish memoirs because unless you have done something revolutionary or are famous very few people are interested.  Not rude just fact. If you think your life story is worth reading make it into a decent novel (why you see so many stories based on truth) or a self help guide. Even then it has to be exceptional. If in doubt email them and ask, they do this all day you don't.

And above all, whether you agree with them or not follow the submission guidelines.  Trying to pitch your book via any other route is not acceptable. If you can't follow this simple and basic rule then don't be surprised when they reject you.

Likewise being rejected doesn't necessarily mean  your work is not good enough it may simply mean they have reached their submissions quota.

Also, most small indie publishers DON'T pay for short stories in anthologies where there are several contributors, but they are good practice and it gets you in print.

Post by Andy »

Thanks very much for this post.

Your points are very welcome.

Many of them that Ron Miller and myself have been making for a long time now.

It's great that they have been backed up by a respected traditional publisher.

Thanks. 👍

Post by Shirley »

Thanks for your post and advice. After two of the big five asked for the rest of my manuscript, then said no thanks, I went the indie route. It's not easy, I'm a dreadful marketer and would love to have been traditionally published. Appreciate your honesty on how it works.

Post by Diane »

Regardless of how you are published, authors who self promote will always get more sales. Unpopular but sad truth.

Post by Ron »

Brilliant advice, Diane! Let me add a word or two regarding copyright, if I may (with the caveat that this is based on experience with US publishers). Many hopeful authors will confuse “copyright” with “rights.” The copyright to your book remains with you unless you specifically transfer it to the publisher, and that would be part of the contract. This almost never occurs except in certain circumstances, such as when a book is created on a work for hire basis. In that case, the publisher (or the entity commissioning the book) owns the copyright. This sort of thing occurs when, say, you might be writing something proprietary, for instance a manual for a product or perhaps an episode in a series. If, say, you were asked to write a "Spiderman" novel, Marvel would own the copyright to the book. Otherwise, the copyright to your book is yours…in fact, most traditional publishers will take care of the paperwork and fees involved in registering the copyright in your name. (Though I have never ran across this happening, a publisher could copyright the design of a book—which might occur if the book were part of a series—but that would not affect your copyright of the text.) The “right” that a publisher has in your book is the exclusive right to publish your book for a specified period of time. That is, you have licensed that right to the them. This is only fair since the publisher will have underwritten all of the costs involved in bringing the book to print…which can easily entail an investment of thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars. It would be neither fair nor ethical to turn around and try to sell the same book to another publisher or to try to publish it yourself at the same time.

Post by Milton »

Diane, many years ago, I followed the path you are laying out. It got two of my books published by two traditional publishers. As a new book writer but an experienced writer (hundreds of shorter pieces published in magazines, journals, and newspapers) I knew how to query a publisher and how to write to the level at which a publisher would take a flyer on my work. I also never relied on my own judgment as to the viability of my writing.

I used a skilled critique group as part of my developmental process. Everyone in the group had had something published in the traditional market. When they offered a critique, it was with knowledge of what it took to attain publication. No writer is an appropriate critic of his or her own writing. Unlike general groups, in order to gain membership in that group, the writer needed to submit two pieces for critique, at least one of them published in some market. Yes, this is elitism but the level of success from work developed in that group was far above the average percentage of acceptances.

Post by Gary »

Some Publishers if they read a really great Novella shorter than they like they would still publish it however in running a business they have to put up certain rules to run efficiently and not use up every time the world considering manuscripts they could not possibly publish. So they have a rule about novellas and shorter works some of these publishers it will not read them. If a short work is the greatest thing ever written and something they would go out of their way to publish if they read it they will never know because they will never read it. They will never read it because the rules of efficiency preclude them from reading anything that short.

Post by Joseph »

And so we come up against the big question: what do publishers consider to be “quality?”

And, is it really what readers want?

The good news is that in the modern day, we don’t need to be subjected to the opinions of what publishers think is “quality,” and can self publish. The bad news is, even if we do, we face the manipulation of algorithms if our point of view doesn’t fit with what even less qualified people think is acceptable.

Post by Claire »

That is pretty accurate it took two years to publish my first book. But they took the original manuscript and cut it in half so each book in the series is roughly 40,000 words very short for fantasy but as it is middle grade to YA it was thought short would work. It does. Traditional is a patient game and definitely delayed gratification :D but it is worth it.
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