Tag: self-publishing Page 2 of 3
It’s the greatest time in history to be a writer. There are more ways to get published than ever before. While it’s great to have so many options, it’s also confusing. But when you break these many different ways down, they sort themselves out into just three primary paths: 1) The Big 5: HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Macmillan, 2) Independent presses that ranges in size from the hefty W.W. Norton to the many university presses to the numerous one-person shops. 3) Self-publishing. In our over 35 years experience in the publishing business as agents, writers and book doctors, we have walked down all three paths–and we have the corns, calluses and blisters to prove it. To help you avoid such injuries, we have mapped out the pluses and minuses of these three paths in order to help you get successfully published in today’s crazy Wild West world of books.
1) The Big Five: Since publishing has gone from being a gentleman’s business to being owned, run and operated by corporations, you have a much better chance of getting your book published if you are Snooki from Jersey Shore hawking your new diet manifesto than if you’re an unknown (or even established but not famous) writer who’s written a brilliant work of literary fiction. And since the corporatized publishing world continues to shrink at an alarming rate, there are fewer and fewer slots available, even though the competition is every bit as fierce for those ever-dwindling spots. Add to this the fact that, unless you are related to and/or sleeping with Mister Harper or Mister Collins, you will need to find an agent. Most of the best agents only take on new clients who are at the very top of the cream of the crop. Even new agents who are trying to establish themselves only take on a very small percentage of what they are pitched.
Writers who haven’t been published by The Big 5 assume that once they get a deal with one of these big fish, they’ll be able to sit in their living rooms and wait for their publishers to set up their interviews with Ellen and Colbert. They assume they’ll have a multiple city tour set up for them where thousands of adoring readers will buy their books, ask for their autographs, and shower them with the love and adoration they so richly deserve. We can tell them from hard-won experience that this is absolutely, positively, 100% not the case. Our first book together was with one of the Big 5. We won’t mention their name, and when we’re done with the story you will see why. When we went into our meeting with our publicity team, we were full of grand and fantastic ideas about how to promote and market our book, and were wildly enthusiastic about having a giant corporation that specializes in successfully publishing books behind us. Turns out our “marketing team” consisted of one guy who looked like he was 15 years old, and had 10 books coming out that week, and 10 books coming out the next week, and 10 books coming out the week after that. When we told him our grand and fabulous ideas he said in a cracking voice, “Well, good luck with that.” He did what he does with every book that comes out of this giant publishing corporation (unless of course your name is Stephen King, Bill Clinton or Snooki from Jersey Shore). He sent out a bunch of press releases along with a few copies of our book to all the usual suspects. Our book died on the line.
2) Independent Publishers. These publishers almost always specialize in a certain kind of book. They usually appeal to a niche audience. As opposed to the Big 5, who are generalists, and in theory at least, publish books for everyone. Again, these independent publishers are not owned by big celebrity-obsessed bottom line-driven corporations. That’s not to say they can’t be big companies. Workman, who published our book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, is one of the most successful publishers in the world. They’ve published everything from What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Bad Cats to the awesome Sandra Boynton oeuvre. But many independent publishers tend to be small, and run and/or driven by individuals who are passionate about the subject which they are publishing. A good number of these publishers are very well respected, and their books can be reviewed in the largest and most prestigious publications in the world. There are many stories of small publishers having gigantic successes. Health Communications, Inc., which published Chicken Soup for the Soul. Naval Institute Press, which published Tom Clancy’s first novel. Bellevue Literary Press, a publisher affiliated with New York University’s school of medicine, which published Tinkers, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Greywolf, Tin House, and McSweeney’s are all small independent publishers who regularly produce beautiful high-end fiction that wins awards and garners great press.
Chances are, you’re going to be the big spring book from your independent publisher. We speak from experience that it is so much better to be the big spring book from a well-respected independent publisher than it is to be book number 2,478 from Penguin Random. Because they’ve got Stephen King, Bill Clinton and Snooki from Jersey Shore to promote.
And the great news is, you don’t have to have an agent when querying most independent publishers. Almost all indies expect writers to submit directly to them. If you go onto their websites, they almost always give you very explicit instructions on how to submit. Do yourself a favor, give it to them exactly how they want it. Even better, try to research the editor at the press who would be best for your book and send your query directly to him/her.
Yes, there are limitations to many independent presses. Most independent publishers have limited resources. Most of them won’t send you on a tour because they don’t have the money, so you will be called upon to do your own book tour and events. That being said, our publisher Workman, sent us on a 25 city tour, which they paid for in its entirety–hotels, airfare, escorts (don’t get the wrong idea, these are book escorts, not industrial pleasure technician escorts). But there’s a good chance you’ll get to work with at least a decent and maybe even a great editor, who will help you shape your book. They will proofread your book. They will copyedit your book. They will design and execute a cover for you. And often times they’re much more flexible about author input than the Big 5.
The other issue with fewer resources is that if, for some reason, you should happen to catch literary lightning in a bottle and your book blows up, an independent press may not be able to capitalize on your book’s success. They may not have the bookers for Ellen and Colbert on their speed-dial. And often they have to do very small print runs, so there’s a good chance your book will sell out of its printing very quickly and there will be no books available. Whereas if you’re with one of the Big 5, and your book blows up, they’ll do a giant print run, and they’ll be making calls to all the big guns.
3) Self-publishing. William Blake. James Joyce. Virginia Woolf. Rudyard Kipling. Edgar Allan Poe. Ezra Pound. Mark Twain. Gertrude Stein. Walt Whitman. Carl Sandburg. Beatrix Potter. What do these authors have in common? All self-published. What a cool group to belong to. The fact is, self-publishing can be a ball. It can launch you into superstardom and turn you into a millionaire (okay, rarely, but just ask EL James, author of the fastest selling book in the history of the universe, Fifty Shades of Grey).
Self-publishing has recently been dubbed independent publishing, not to be confused with independent presses. This is in part because self-publishing has for decades been the ugly duckling/redheaded stepchild of the book business. Janis Jaquith, an NPR commentator and self-published author of <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Birdseed-Cookies-A-Fractured-Memoir/dp/0738849111″ target=”_hplink”>Birdseed Cookies: A Fractured Memoir</a>, says, “When I announced to my writer friends that I was planning to self-publish, you’d have thought I’d just announced that I had syphilis or something. Such shame! Such scandal! I’m glad I didn’t listen to the naysayers, because I’ve had a ball.” The bottom line? This is not your daddy’s self-publishing. The onus of the ugly duckling redheaded stepchild is gone.
“Nowadays, because there is no barrier to publishing, we’re seeing people give up faster on the traditional route. These are people who are writing good books and turning to self-publishing. This means the quality of self-published books has gone up,” says Arsen Kashkashian, head buyer at Boulder Books. More writers are, indeed, seizing on the new technologies and low costs of publishing on their own because try as they may, they cannot break through the gate of the castle that holds agents, editors and publishers.
More than ever, we are talking to writers who are not even going after agents or publishers, because they don’t want to spend years being rejected. People are publishing books on their own because they choose to–because they see opportunities in the market and want a bigger share of the pie than publishers offer; because they want full control of their book; for some, because they just want a relic of their work to share with friends and family. And many writers choose self-publishing because they don’t want to have to wait for the sloooooow publishing machine. If you start looking for an agent or publisher right now, it can take years to find one. Maybe you’ll never find one. Then after you get a book deal, it’s typically going to take between 18 months and two years for your book to come out.
Here are some good reasons to self publish:
1) You have direct access to your audience
2) You want a bigger chunk of the retail dollar of your book
3) You have a time-sensitive book and want to publish fast
4) You want full control of your book inside and out, from your hands to your readers’
5) No matter how much you rewrite and how hard you market yourself, you can’t find anyone to agent or publish your book
6) You’ve written a book that falls outside the bounds of typical publishing–either because of its niche audience, regionality, experimentation of language, category, theme, etc.
7) You really want to publish a book, but you just don’t have the personality to market it to an agent/publisher.
8) You’ve written up your family history or the lifetime of a loved one that will be of great interest to Aunt Coco, Cousin Momo and a handful of other blood relations but no one else
The good news about self-publishing is that you get to do everything you want with your book. The bad news is that you have to do everything. Which means that unless you are a professional proofreader, graphic designer, and layout expert for printed books and e-books, you’re going to have to get someone else to help you. And writers can only edit their books themselves so many times before they lose all objectivity. We highly advise, if you’re going to self-publish, get a trained professional to edit your book.
As with any entrepreneurial project, you can spend between $0.00 to $100,000.00. David bartered with a top-drawer cover designer, proofreader, editor, and specialist who formats printed and e-books. It cost him exactly $0.00 to produce his <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Maniac-David-Henry-Sterry/dp/0985114908″ target=”_hplink”>self-published book</a>. So he started making a profit immediately. As someone who is an instant gratification junkie, it was absolutely fabulous how quickly it all came together. And when that box full of his books showed up at the door, he felt a special kind of life-affirming, rapturous ecstasy.
The good news is that anyone can get published. The bad news is that anyone can get published. So whatever you choose, you have to be the engine that drives the train of your book. And the same principles underlying a successfully published book are remarkably similar.
1) Research. Before you give up any rights or money or agree to work with anyone, make sure you research them thoroughly.
2) Network. Reach out to readers and writers, movers and shakers.
3) Write. Yes, it really helps if you write a great book.
4) Persevere. One of David’s most successful books was rejected over 100 times, by everyone from the top dogs of the Big 5, to some of the greatest literary agents in America, to countless University and independent presses. 100 top publishing professionals told him his book had no value. But tweaking and polishing and making it better, he finally landed a deal. That book ended up on the front cover of the <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Hookers-Call-Girls-Rent-Boys/dp/1593762410″ target=”_hplink”>Sunday New York Times Book Review</a>.
To find out more about how to get your book successfully published today, ask questions about your book and your various options, and perhaps get a chance to pitch your book to The Book Doctors, sign up for their <a href=”http://bit.ly/1mzSGY7″ target=”_hplink”>webinar</a>, which will be on July 16.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010).
one of our favorite writers conferences in the whole world, pound for pound possibly the best, James River Writers Conference. If you want to learn about writing, if you want to meet writers and agents and publishers and have a great time, this is the conference for you.
The Book Doctors: What made you want to write about such a difficult topic?
Rebecca Glenski Coppage: I wrote about a teenage girl struggling with an eating disorder because it’s something I am very familiar with. It was easy for me to write about something I know and understand so well. I also wrote about this topic because I feel like there are not enough novels out there for teenagers that have a strong character who is dealing with an eating disorder. There are tons of self-help books and textbooks about eating disorders, but I don’t think that’s what teens want to read. I wish a book like mine had existed when I was in high school, and that made me want to write it for teenagers now.
TBD: How did having an eating disorder change your life, and how did you get over it?
RGC: Having an eating disorder impacted my life in every aspect. It made high school and college a very difficult road for me. I protected my secret at all costs, which meant building walls and not getting close to people. I kept friends, boys, and family at a distance because I couldn’t let them find out about my eating disorder. It made it hard to socialize, to make new friends, to keep the friends I had. I didn’t get to have the typical college experience because halfway through my first semester, I had to leave to get treatment for my eating disorder. It made my dreams harder to accomplish, and it took away some really amazing opportunities. I missed out on building strong relationships, I missed out on dating opportunities, and I had to start college over. Keeping a wall up around you is exhausting and it makes every part of your life that much harder. That said, it made me a much stronger and more secure person after having gone through it. It has shaped the person that I have become today. It took many, many years for me to “get over” my eating disorder. The process has been long, with several relapses. Essentially, it consisted of learning to see myself in a different light and retraining my thought process regarding my body and my relationship with food. I credit my family and my husband for their support, love, and open minds with helping me heal.
TBD: Was it hard to write about such a painful thing when it’s so personal?
RGC: To be honest, writing this book was very freeing for me. An eating disorder is a difficult topic to write and talk about but so many people suffer from this in silence. It is a problem that touches so many teenagers all over the country, and all I had to do was remind myself of that when the writing became difficult. I want my book to be a voice and to help teenagers feel like they have someone to relate to.
TBD: Why did you choose to make a novel instead of a memoir?
RGC: For me, there was never a thought of a memoir. I didn’t want to tell my story. While having an eating disorder is a subject very familiar to me, I didn’t want to write about myself. I wanted to create a character, explore her life, and tell her story. It was fun to have the creative freedom to develop Lilly and to not worry about if I was getting the facts straight. I’m not going to deny that Lilly’s character and her life have many similarities to mine when I was in high school, but this novel is not the story of my life.
TBD: Tell me about your road to publication — what were some of the pitfalls and what were some of the joys?
RGC: The road to publication was so incredibly long and difficult. It was filled with a lot of rejection and a lot of waiting. The worst parts of trying to get your book published are the rejection letters from agents saying they aren’t interested in your book. It is also hard to hear criticism of your book when you have spent so much time working on it and developing it. It was especially difficult for me because many of my rejection letters stated they weren’t interested in my book because it was an “issues” book. Essentially, they don’t want to represent a book about an eating disorder because it’s a controversial topic. Even with all the pitfalls, I kept my head up and persevered until I found people who were excited about my book. Now here I am with a published book! I think one of my biggest joys on the road to publishing was receiving my first few reviews! Reading all the positive feedback and finding out that teenagers really enjoyed and related to my book was amazing!
TBD: What do you hope people take out of reading your book?
RGC: I hope that people, especially teenagers, walk away from my book with a sense of being understood. Part of having an eating disorder is that it is this huge secret. No one talks about it but it is around us everywhere. So many people I talk to about my book reveal that they suffered from an eating disorder or that they struggled with poor self-image. If they didn’t, they know someone who did. I want readers to know that they are not alone. I also want the reader to know that having an eating disorder does not negate the fact that she is a normal person with hopes and dreams.
3 lucky writers get to present their pitch/query!
July 10, 7pm Word Books Greenpoint, New York 126 Franklin Street Brooklyn
It’s the greatest time in history to be a novelist. From the traditional approach of finding an agent and getting a big splashy six-figure advance with one of the Big Six (or Big 5, with the merger of Penguin and Random House into Penguin House), to partnering with a cutting-edge independent publisher, to taking matters into your own hands and DIYing it with e-books and print-on-demand, there are revolutionary new avenues for writers to reach his or her audience. But first, of course, you have to write a book that people want to read. You have to learn how to pick the right idea, develop deep fascinating characters, write believable dialogue, build a world, create suspense, hone your voice, craft a plot with a satisfying beginning, middle and ending, edit edit edit, rewrite rewrite rewrite, and use beta readers wisely. Novelists and agents will discuss how to write and sell a novel successfully. At the end of the presentation, we will randomly pick three writers who will get 90 seconds to present their pitch/query, which the panelists will then critique. So, all you novelists, come prepared to listen and learn, and maybe get a chance to kickstart your writing career!
David Henry Sterry is the author of 14 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor. He authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his ex-agent and current wife, with whom he co-founded The Book Doctors, who have helped hundreds of talented amateur writers become professionally published authors. His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, and has been translated into 10 languages. His anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. He has been featured everywhere from National Public Radio to the London Times to Playboy, and he is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. His new illustrated novel is Mort Morte, an Alice in Wonderland meets Tin Drum coming-of-age black comedy about gun violence and children, and a boy who really loves his mother. www.davidhenrysterry
Arielle Eckstut is an agent-at-large at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, one of New York City’s most respected and successful agencies. For over 20 years, she has been helping hundreds of talented writers become published authors. Arielle is not only the author of eight books, but she is also a successful entrepreneur. She co-founded the iconic company, LittleMissMatched, and grew it from a tiny operation into a leading national brand, which grossed over 30 million in retail sales last year, and now has stores from coast to coast, everywhere from Disneyland to Disney World to Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Ayesha Pande is founder of Ayesha Pande Literary Agency. She loves to work with writers who dare to innovate, take risks, express something meaningful about our world. She develops concepts and ideas and strategizes long-term career goals, sells foreign, film and other subsidiary rights, brainstorms marketing and publicity plans; and advocates for her authors. She is especially passionate about discovering and nurturing talented new writers. She also consults with clients on creating an effective online media platform and advocate for their interests with the publishing companies. She works closely with her clients to edit and polish their work. She provides every client with personal attention and because of this, she limits the number of clients she takes on. Her interests include literary as well as popular fiction, including young adult, women’s, African-American and international fiction. She is also seeking authors of nonfiction, including biography, history, economics, popular culture, cultural commentary, memoir, graphic novels, and humor.
Richard Nash, publishing savant, on how to get love from independents and the future of the book business with The Book Doctors on Huffington Post