Excerpt from My Speech: Submissions, Agents/Publishers/Self-Pub-Post 5

This is an ongoing topic — 5th excerpt posting from my writing speech:
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Remember, these are just my opinions and suggestions. Nothing is set in stone. Other writers could answer quite differently and argue with me over my answers. What works for one person may not work for another.
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Back in the summer of 2009, I found my lists of who to submit to at www.writersmarket.com. They are legit. I chose to deal directly with publishers at that time and skip the agent route. Whether you choose to find an agent or a publisher, and whether you use the lists at writersmarket.com or elsewhere, you need to figure out what your genre is & search out the agents or publishers who are interested in only your genre.  Do NOT blindly submit to everyone out there. If your book is sci-fi then don’t submit a query to someone who represents romance. You’re wasting your time & theirs.
I literally searched through 750 publishers at writersmarket.com. Through a process of elimination, I narrowed the list down to 30 or so. A lot of the choices were easy to cross off simply from the name of the publishing house. Many names were so obvious as to what they published and I knew they wouldn’t be a match with my category of writing. Still, this takes many, many hours to go through. I think I spent over 2 days just picking out possible publishers.
Once you have picked good candidates and have a more workable list, you’ll need to scan each of those agents or publishers for more detailed information. Sometimes what you need is posted right there with all the listings, but probably you’ll need to go directly to individual websites and double-check that they have an interest in what YOU write, and if they are CURRENTLY taking any submissions, and EXACTLY how they want your submission sent to them and what it should include – plus if they’ll (hopefully) take email submissions or require it be sent regular mail.
Once I had dwindled down to which publishers I would actually submit to, I ended up with only about 15. This was the best of the bunch that suited my situation. I knew I could go back to the list and try others later if those got me nowhere. And the publishers I picked –  I didn’t have to send any of my submissions by regular mail. All the query letters were emailed – some included the synopsis, some chapters, some the full manuscript. If you’re lucky, a note might state how long it takes to hear back from them. It’s shocking! Some warn it could be over a year or two!!!!! I didn’t contact ANY that stated it could be over 5 months before I’d hear back from them. That’s just me – I’m impatient. Keep track of the people or places you sent submissions to. And you will get rejection letters. Some never respond.

With my experience, a couple of weeks after I sent off those initial submissions, one publisher in particular asked that I send him the full manuscript by email. Then he contacted me only a few days later and basically wanted to publish my book. He sent a contract, I read and thought it over along with several other people I enlisted for guidance, and decided to sign. My publisher is a very small publishing house. I like them and it’s only taken a few months to get a book published. I haven’t had any real problems & I’m allowed a great deal of input in the process of publishing my books… BUT because of how small they are, they cannot afford & don’t have the time or manpower to constantly be marketing my books.They do take care of some basic promoting and press releases when the book is first released and setting up at internet sites for the book to sell at – example would be Amazon.com.

Being involved in promoting your book is something most publishers and agents EXPECT an author to do – even the big ones expect authors to do some kind of marketing in this day and age. It’s never-ending and another monster topic all to itself. Bookstores, what few there are, want to stock books that will move quickly off their shelves from known authors and bigger publishers and authors that have had tons of media attention. They don’t like taking chances on books that sit and gather dust from authors that few readers are familiar with when those bookstores financially do not bring in massive profits. My books are for sale at all the major online sites where you can buy books (like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, thru my publisher), and from me, and they’re currently stocked at Box TV and Walgreens in Highland.

OK…back to agents vs. publishers vs. self-publishing. Agents normally get 15% commission off book sales (although I’m sure that varies some). They are supposed to make your life easier by representing you and your book and being the one who deals with getting your book sold to a publisher for the best deal and to handle all the confusing contracts that are drawn up between everybody. But the agent has their own contract with YOU that you’re still going to need to review. You want to really know your agent, do research on them, and understand the terms of their contract. Some agents lose interest in your work and don’t try to promote it as they should or fall short on the whole multi-step process of getting your book published. You see – there’s a chain of people involved in getting a book published the traditional way. YOU the writer, an agent (if you go that route), the publisher, editor (or sometimes agents work with editors first on your book & then it’s off to the publishers or perhaps your agent also steps in and does the job of an editor, too), the printer, publicists, distributors and bookstores or other wholesalers who can finally sell the retail book to a reader. Whew! Are you sweating yet?!
For my situation, several of those steps are not in the mix. So, as I was saying about an agent, if you choose to pursue one, you want to do your research on them, hope you get a decent one who is as passionate about your work as you are and maintain good communication with them, and keep them fired up about your current book she’s representing and any of your future projects. If the agent is doing her job properly and your book is making progress out in the big, wide world, her commission is most likely worth it.

Also, many publishers won’t even take a glance in your direction if you don’t have an agent. This can be a problem if you chose to bypass an agent and you had your heart set on a certain publisher and then discover – nope, they do NOT take unsolicited submissions – which usually means you HAVE to have an agent that submits on your behalf. Submission guidelines will state this for you – whether you have to have an agent or if an author can submit and deal directly with the publisher. If you forego an agent, and the publisher will accept queries/submissions from an author, then YOU will deal with the contract that is written up by the publisher – or your lawyer if you choose. Again, it IS a contract so be sure to understand what you’re signing and that the publisher isn’t trying to swindle any type of royalties that should be in your pocket instead of theirs.  Some publishers, especially mid-size and larger, will offer more services that automatically come with having them as your publisher, but the smaller the publisher, the more extras YOU will have to step up to the plate and help out with.

Another thought – if you go the agent route –your manuscript actually has to impress someone TWICE to get published. FIRST – an agent that you’re trying to capture, and SECOND – THEY have to capture the attention of a publisher. This can be an excruciating process that takes many months if not years until a book is finally published. So, if you manage to land an agent, that does NOT always mean your agent is already working with a publisher who will automatically accept and publish your book. Many times, your agent has to go through a similar process that you went through in getting him/her as they try to FIND a publisher interested in your book.

Self-publishing is something 2 years ago I had zero interest in. The publishing industry has changed so fast and so much since then, I am now all for self-publishing. My next book, in a different series, WILL be self-published using Amazon.com’s services. I will offer the book in paperback format but will focus promoting it more so in the Kindle ebook format. I will also upload it on Barnes and Noble and Smashwords as an ebook. The reason I’m going the way of self-publishing for this new series is that although I don’t have any issues with my publisher, I feel I can do the publishing myself with what is available now. In a way, I’m already playing the part of agent, partial editor and publicist! As mentioned previously, there is minimal promotion that my publisher can offer, especially once the book has been published for a month or so. I completely understand their limitations with promoting my books and am not cutting them down. In fact, I am pleased with their quality and service with what they can offer me.

Another MAIN, HUGE reason I’m switching to self-publishing with the new series is the amount of money I can pocket is drastically higher than the royalties (or commissions or profit) I’m currently making with a publisher. Also, I can set the price of my ebooks on Amazon to a lower price. The process to format my manuscript into an ebook is smoother and has become less complicated over the last year, too. I love working on computers and enjoy marketing, so I’m actually looking forward to creating an ebook!

And another thing with self-publishing, the final product, the book – is made available to the public much faster than all the waiting that is common in traditional publishing. Again, I admit – I’m impatient. I can also have a lower price on the paperback books, compared to what my publisher charges, and I’ll make the paperbacks available through Amazon’s CreateSpace.

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Note: I do NOT know everything there is to know about publishing. These are my experiences and opinions so don’t anyone throw rotten tomatos at me!! Another segment from my speech will be posted in a few days!
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