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ALTHOUGH most people still think of getting published as a process of finding an agent and landing an advance from a major New York house, the conventional route is increasingly difficult to navigate and the contemporary publishing scene offers many alternatives. This page offers a basic summary of the routes to book publication available today (check back for frequent updates and improvements).
Topics on this page include:
Agency Representation The Independent Press • Co-op Publishing
Electronic Publishing • Self-Publishing • A Special Note to Poets Screenwriting
General Reference Sites • Additional Resources
You can submit your work to agents in the hope of finding representation to major publishers. A good directory of literary agents is online at AuthorAdvance, or you can search the database of the Association of Authors’ Representatives.You can also check the current edition of Writers Market, available in most bookstores and libraries (www.writersmarket.com). The bible of directories, usually available in public libraries, is Literary Marketplace (www.literarymarketplace.com), a comprehensive listing of book publishers, agents, and other resources in the field.
Try to choose agents whose field of expertise and/or interests match your work. After youve chosen ten or fifteen possibilities, prepare an e-mail query that includes a pitch for your novel or nonfiction proposal, a brief paragraph about yourself, and no more than a FEW pages of sample writing included in the body of the e-mail. DO NOT send attached files until an agent has asked you for more material. In every case, it is best to know as much as you can about a particular agent before sending a query, and follow that agents preferences. If you submit your material to more than one agent at once, your e-mail should note that your project is on “simultaneous submission.”
Do not try to flatter or cajole agents, and resist the temptation either to praise or denigrate your own work. A clear, well-written statement of what you have to offer, and why you think it deserves publication, is enough. Finally, dont phone agents to find out their decision; a follow-up e-mail after three or four weeks is sufficient. Agents can take weeks or months to reply, or they may never reply. Dont waste your energy worrying about those who dont respond. If you dont get a ny positive responses from your first round of cover letters, do a second round and so on.
If you are writing fiction, agents who are interested in your work will request either a sample with a synopsis of the full work, or the complete manuscript. Nonfiction authors will be expected to submit a proposal. The classic guide in this field is Michael Larsens How to Write a Book Proposal
Regardless of your genre, it's critically important that your query, proposal, or manuscript has been professionally assessed and/or edited to maximize its publication potential. See the Fearless Manuscript Review service for more information.
The Independent Press
Or you can research the rapidly growing field of the independent press, and find a publisher yourself who might not give you money up front but who is more likely to be loyal to your work over the long term. Agents generally dont work with the smaller publishers because their advances are small or nonexistent, and agents live on their commissions.
The leading association of independent publishers in the US is the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) at 627 Aviation Way, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266, phone (310) 372-2732 (www.ibpa-online.org). Another national group is the Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN), P.O. Box 1306, Buena Vista, CO 81211, phone (719) 395-4790 (www.spannet.org).
Co-op or POD Publishing
A recent development in alternative publishing is the rise of co-op publishers, who charge authors fees for the production and publication of their works. This method is a step above traditional vanity publishing, in which authors bear the full cost of publication for a very small number of conventionally printed books.
Some co-op firms let you retain your own rights as the publisher, others do not. Most of them arrange for the printing of books via print-on-demand (POD) technology, meaning that books are produced only in the quantities ordered, eliminating the need to maintain inventory. If you plan to produce a single title that is likely to sell in low quantities (less than 1000 copies) POD production may be the most sensible route. Some authors now produce POD versions of their own books in order to promote them to conventional publishers.
Co-op publishers vary in the amount and quality of production and publicity services they provide, so it is important to check out their offers and contracts carefully. Keep in mind that you will do the lions share of publicity work for your book (although thats often true even if you have a mainstream publisher!). If you are willing to invest in your work but dont want to get involved in all the technical aspects of publishing yourself, working with a co-op firm may be the right way for you.
Survey and compare the following co-op publishers to get a feel for this new approach:
Here are two websites comparing the costs and benefits of various POD publishers:
- CreateSpace (Amazon subsidiary)
Problems & Benefits of POD • PublishOnDemand.net
Paper-free publishing is rapidly gaining public acceptance, and is on the way to becoming a significant economic force. If you need ink, paper, and binding for your work in order to feel like a real author, then this option is not for you but there have been some notable commercial successes in this field. Some e-publishers also produce POD books, and some do not; some may be here today but gone tomorrow. Thus, make sure you have a thorough and up-to-date self-education in the field before committing your work to any particular firm.
Some online references about e-publishing include:
- EPIC: Electronically Published Internet Connection
- ePublishing Overview at Writers Write
- The Digital Landscape, a Kirkus Reviews article by Damon Brown featuring Fearless founder D. Patrick Miller
Visit the following electronic publishers to get an education in this field:
If you have the determination and a little money to invest, you can become your own publisher. There are two leading reference works in this field: Dan Poynters Self-Publishing Manual and The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross (founders of SPAN). You have to be willing to become a businessperson and self-promoter as well as a writer, and to handle or hire out such necessary tasks as book design and production, accounting, warehousing and inventory management, publicity, advertising, and more.
Fearless Books offers an expert, customized Assisted Publishing Program for those who want experienced help in publishing under their own imprint.
(Fearless Books founder D. Patrick Miller served as the technical editor of Jason R. Rich’s Self-Publishing for Dummies.)
A Special Note to Poets
Poetry is a very demanding realm of literature in which you should generally not expect commercial reward or compensation for your work. Few poets have literary agents because there is not enough money in the field except at the very top for agents to receive a significant commission. To have a volume of poetry published by a major house, you must generally have a long track record of being published in literary magazines. There are countless thousands of unpaid poets, however,who write for their own satisfaction, share their work in small groups, and publish small editions and chapbooks on their own.
The most comprehensive guide to poetry markets is Poets Market, published by Writers Digest Books. Two of the leading establishment sites for poets online include the Academy of American Poets at www.poets.org and Poets & Writers magazine at www.pw.org. The print version of P&W is also available at many newsstands. The Poetry Society of America is at www.poetrysociety.org. One of the most venerable and well-funded poetry publications is Poetry Magazine at http://www.poetrymagazine.org/.
Additional resources: About.com’s Poetry Pages • The Poetry Resource Page
Here are several reliable online resources for screenwriters. For expert critiques and consultations, click on the banner for Fearless Literary Associate Alexandra Leh, below.
General Reference Sites
The following sites offer good general information for writers:
If you follow WritingProgress.com you will find useful
writing guidelines for students and academic writers.
Get a freelance writing job at WritingJobz.com
Publishing your own book
has been made a lot easier with the internet.
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