Since shortly after I was old enough to read and imagine my own stories, I wanted to be an author. My first story was penned in a spiral notebook when I was in third grade. The past four years that I’ve been living the dream doing this author thing have been amazing.
And instructive. And painful at times. Filled with discouragement and despair at other times. Even wrought with excitement to the point I soared above the clouds.
The higher you go, the further you have to fall.
And falling from such heights hurts. It might even kill you(r dream).
Traditional publishing is the slow track to being published.
By slow I mean, it takes years if you pursue one of the large publishing houses (which means you have to find an agent first). After you spend months writing, revising, editing and polishing your manuscript, the journey of ten thousand miles begins.
It starts with research. Which agents are looking for your style and genre? Which publishers would contract it?
Then the rounds of submission begin. Most of this is done electronically. This speeds the process of notification to three months instead of six to twelve. Many agencies won’t respond unless they’re requesting pages.
Talk about disheartening. It feels like tossing my life’s work into a black hole.
I wanted this for myself. I needed the validation. I wanted a publishing professional to confirm that my work was of a quality to be read and circulated.
Publishing with a small press is the fast track to getting work in front of readers.
Even though it was a small publisher who gave me my first fiction contract (and all my subsequent contracts until I began writing for Kindle Worlds), it didn’t feel like traditional publishing to me.
First of all, the submission hoops are simpler to understand and jump through. The turnaround time for notifying you of acceptance is shorter.
I started with short stories in answer to specific submission calls. This is the only way I’ve managed to publish in my dream genre (young adult fantasy).
The contracts are long but straightforward, and most of the small houses don’t offer advances. They split the royalties half and half, though, which I understand is a substantial raise over big houses.
You still get the benefit of several editing passes (story development, line edits and proofing) and a professional cover. On my stand alone titles, I’ve been consulted about the title and my thoughts and opinions were considered and employed.
Traditional publishing success is ninety percent about who you know.
Slush pile. I’m not sure the few manuscripts I’ve sent, although requested, actually met up with the agent or editor. Getting a query past this point is something I’ve only managed with small houses.
Could be my queries are weak. Or the agent wasn’t looking for the kind of story I was telling.
All I know is that hearing nothing is more depressing than a rejection. It’s like all your effort is meaningless to the agent or editor. Sure, they have a ton of work, but does it really take so long to send a four line email saying you aren’t interested?
If you can get an author to recommend you, I understand the odds increase exponentially in favor of a contract.
Small press publishing is fifty percent finding the right publisher and fifty percent telling a good story.
It will still take effort to locate the right press for your story. More small houses appear every month. Many of them will disappear within a year or two. I don’t send anything to a publisher that’s been around for less than a year. And I always check out their current and past titles.
I’ve started reading some stories from a small press that weren’t all that great. Then I see that the author is also the editor-in-chief. This looks like a new form of vanity publishing to me.
They started up the press so they could publish their own books.
I’ve also read a few fantastic stories that come from the same situation. The difference? I didn’t take a poll, but I think it involves professional editing and more skilled writing.
I don’t want a bad story to be published. This is what kept me from subbing manuscripts for years. I wasn’t good enough. Even reading the first fiction short that Roane accepted makes me cringe a little.
Indie publishing requires both entrepreneurial finesse and cash reserves.
Independent publishing makes you the boss of it all. You’re the captain of the publishing ship.
If you want, you can churn out a story and upload it to Amazon with a thrown-together cover. Maybe you’ll sell a few copies.
But if you want to be a professional author, act like one. Make a business plan. Plan a production schedule. Give yourself deadlines and then meet them.
To succeed, you need to learn the business. Locate professional editors and hire them. Listen to their comments and improve your stories.
If you don’t know design, hire a cover designer. You can hire someone to format the interior of the book. You can even hire a publicity representative to plan your marketing campaign.
All of that costs money. Plan on investing anywhere from $500 to $1500 from your savings per book. Then do the math and find out how many copies you have to sell to break even and make a profit.
I still haven’t broke even on my indie novella Reflections from a Pondering Heart.
This is only FIVE things you need to know about being an author. I’m guessing 900 words is more than long enough for most of my blog readers.
Come back on Thursday to learn the other five things.
Which of these seems most obvious? Most important? Most discouraging?