As I promised in December 2017 and last week on Thursday, we will be taking about traditional publishing. Some of the things I want to cover are the benefits and drawbacks to it and then also some of the processes involved in submitting your manuscript through traditional publishing means.
I’m sure everyone here has a really good idea about what this entails. You send out your manuscript full of hopes and dreams to certain publishers. Then you get a letter or email back saying yes or no and you keep going on. Most of us, myself included, want to be picked up by one of these publishing houses. However, not a lot of us really know what happens after the yes has been given – I still don’t know what happens next.
Well, this is what is supposed to happen:
A traditional book publishing company buys the rights to an author’s manuscript. Buying rights from the author is how book publishers have traditionally acquired books. Usually an agent, representing the author, negotiates the deal with the book publisher and in return gets a percentage of any monies earned from the sale of the author’s book. Part of the arrangement includes payment of an advance by the book publisher to the author to secure the book deal. In return, the author, working with an in-house editor, is expected to finish writing the book in an allotted time – which is often years away. The advance is deducted by the book publisher from any royalties the author receives from the sale of the book. Royalties are based on a mutually agreed upon percentage of sales. The author does not receive any royalties until the advance is paid back in full. The book publisher budgets funds to promote and market the book – this amount varies greatly depending on the marketability of the book. The author is often strongly encouraged to hire a book publicist and to work aggressively to promote their book. The book publisher has the final say on every aspect of the author’s book, from editorial content to cover design to the number of books in the first printing. The book publisher makes the determination, based on declining sales, as to when to allow a book to go out of print – this could be as short as a year or even less. Authors beware – some traditional publishing houses are putting their out of stock or back-list titles into commercial print on demand systems so the book isn’t technically out of print and the book’s rights will never revert back to the author.
Each day, agents and book publishers receive a staggering number of inquiries and manuscripts. Ultimately, less than 1% of authors seeking to be published traditionally are successful. Thousands of authors and their books are rejected daily.
~ Infinity Publishing
Just a reminder that this is what happens when a book is picked up by a publisher. There are going to be different means for getting accepted and rejected by a publisher. I know when I was a fiction editor for my university literary magazine, Whetstone, our editor-in-chief would individually email every single person who submitted and reject or say congratulations. After that we would get our graphic designer to format the piece into the magazine. We would offer for the author to come up and give a reading of his work when the issue launched and we’d send the author a free copy of the issue. That’s only what we did because we were trying to revamp the magazine and had next to no money. However, depending on upon the magazine or journal you send your story to you can receive money for it.
As for the process of getting published with a publishing house?
- Research your publishing house.
- Find out the submission guidelines and dates. Some publishing houses and magazines only accept submissions at certain times.
- Write a kick-ass query letter.
- Visit my blog post on Writing a Great Query Letter for the do’s and don’t’s.
- Be patient. It’s going to take a while in some cases for the publisher to get back to you with an answer.
- Get your answer — if it’s a no then keep submitting, editing and refining. Don’t give up! If yes, then go through with your negotiations.
Always, always, always, go through your contract with a fine tooth comb or hire a lawyer to go through it with you. Don’t sign your book, short story, play or poem away for free and make sure that it’s a good deal for you.
You can say no if the contract isn’t a good one for you!
Benefits and Drawbacks to traditional publishing:
- Validation. I know we all have insecurities about our work and if it is a good work of fiction. Once you make it then you know you’re a good writer. Well that’s not entirely true. Again I’ll use J.K. Rowling here, she went through a lot of rejections before she got published. Now, Harry Potter is one of the most famous pieces of literature that a lot of us grew up with. The story was always a good one and she didn’t need to published for her to know that. She just wanted to share the story.
- Print Distribution in stores is easier. I will actually back this up. I’ve been working at Chapters for the Christmas season and the manager in charge of dealing with self-publishing authors tries her hardest not to have to deal with you. She likes working with the publishing houses better – they know what’s reasonable or not.
- You have a team. You’ve got the cover designers, editors, formatting specialists, and maybe a marketing team to help make your book a success. Plus they have a lot of experience to make sure your book looks fantastic. Plus you’ll have people taking your book into the stores.
- There are no upfront costs and/or a royalty. If you’re getting charged to publish your book then it isn’t a traditional route and you should be careful. Also royalties are awesome you can get up to ten thousand dollars US for your book. There are other options for your royalty. you can decide not to take one and you can ask for a higher percentage of money from sales and then not get advanced as much money.
The advance is against royalties, which are usually 7-25% of net book price. So if you get an advance of $10,000, you then have to earn more than $10,000 out of your royalty rate on book sales before you get any more money.
- Literary prizes and critical acclaim are more likely.
- Potential to become a brand name author. You’re more likely to become one of the big guys because you have that great team behind you especially if you’re selling book like crazy. This also happens when you’ve been in the game for a really long time.
- Loss of creative control. You will be selling the rights to your book to the publisher. The ideas in the book are still yours, but how it is presented to the world is no longer there. Don’t like your book cover? Too bad you’re going to have to suck it up. Your title may change and you may not like the way you’re being presented marketing wise. You also may not get along with your editor.
- It’s a REALLY slow process. It may take a couple years for you to get an agent, then to find someone who want to publish it. Finally, it’s picked up, but will take a couple more years to get it into print due to marketing, more editing, negotiations, and how it will fit into the publishers lineup of new releases.
- Low royalty rates. Royalty rates are a percentage of the sale of the book. They’re likely to be net, so all the discounts, returns, marketing costs and overheads are taken off the total before your percentage is calculated. Royalty rates for traditional publishing will usually range between 7% and 25%, with the latter on the unusually generous end. The rates will also differ per format e.g. eBook vs. hardback vs. audio. Royalty reports may come every six months for a specific period of sales and many authors report how difficult they are to understand. They may also not tally with the amount of money that you get in your bank account, so authors who are traditionally published can’t really do a cash flow forecast for future income. (thecreativepenn)
- Lack of marketing. Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House Publishing, even admits that there is a definite trend for publishing companies to market new authors. (I found this out by listening to an online workshop for writers.) Marketing takes a lot of work, energy and money – on the publishers part to do. So, they have stepped away from this and put the pressure on the authors to do this for them. They are consider it to be a point in your favor if you have a platform already established. Make sure when you’re signing your contract you get more from them in terms of marketing than being in the catalog they send to bookstores.
- Potentially prohibitive clauses in your contract. There are many of them, so please take a look at thecreativepenn blog about traditional vs self-publishing. She lays them out beautifully.
This is all that I have for you today!
I just want to remind you that your work is yours! Make sure that you’re getting the best deal for you and that you don’t just sign on the dotted line. Explore your options. Traditional publishing is just one of many. We will be exploring self-publishing on Thursday.