Three Roads to Publication
We writers all want to be published, don’t we?
Feel the pride and joy of seeing the product of our labours (complete with our name on the cover) flying off the shelves of bookshops. A dream come true!
But first we have to deal with the process of publication itself – no easy undertaking for most of us. The thing to understand before launching ourselves into this world is that there are essentially three roads to choose.
The first is the so-called “vanity publishers” who, like ravening wolves, are out there ready to prey on the innocent and uninformed. A few weeks ago we told you of a friend of ours caught by one. It cost her a great deal of worry, financial loss she could ill-afford and, along with lies and empty promises, only a single copy of her work. These people are out and out rogues; sweet talkers who make sure they operate within the law so you have no redress. Avoid them – your dreams will be shattered.
The second road is right at the other end of the scale, eminently honest, respectable, ethical and helpful IF you are fortunate enough to have your work accepted – and that’s the rub, the sticking point! Getting accepted when you are a newbie writer or do not yet have a reputation in the wider world is not impossible. But highly unlikely.
I’m talking here about the big, well established publishing houses e.g. Penguin, Random House etc, etc. These people are in business which means they must make a profit. If they don’t they will be unable to stay in business. Consequently they will not accept anything they not fully convinced will sell and sell well. Anything they do accept they will work very hard to ensure is saleable. And they will expect you to work along with them to achieve this. That is the reality of the situation.
The other reality they have to deal with is that they receive a great many submissions from hopeful authors, often to the point of inundation. These are assigned to what has been elegantly termed “the slush pile” to be looked at (maybe assessed) sometime in the future when things are a bit quiet or when someone, for some unaccountable reason, has a little time on their hands or when… Your submission may not surface for many moons; you may never hear from them. Sad but true. Just remember, they are running a business and if a business is not run in a businesslike way it will not survive.
However, if by some magical happenstance your work is accepted you will be offered a contract which is a binding legal document so you must read it carefully before signing, regardless of how excited, delighted, up in the air, over the moon you are. At that point your precious manuscript will be given to one of their editors whereupon you may be tempted to feel this picky person does not appreciate the deathless prose you laboured over so long and so hard. However, you will be expected to be polite, to acknowledge that this person is good at their job and has years of successful experience behind to back it up. It behoves you to listen and co-operate!’/
The publisher deals with the printer, pays the bills and arranges distribution. This last (distribution) is an aspect of the whole shebang that you will probably be expected to contribute to by being part of author signing events in bookshops; by giving talks about your book or maybe being interviewed. If you do happen to make it onto this road – heartiest congratulations.
Not many do though – make it on to that second road, that is.
In which case, you will probably choose the third road – self-publication. Nowadays this is a viable and worthwhile road to embark on. But one with many ins and outs which we plan to go into in full in future blogs.
© Mary McDee 2023
Feature Photo: Where two roads meet–Rothenburg ob der Tauber © L.M. Kling 2014