Get Published Badge


Practical Handbook

Originally uploaded by nodigio

Step One: You walk into Barnes and Noble or Borders or Books a Million, and there, front and center, is a display of your book. The librarian tells you copies of your book are always checked out. You see people reading your book at the park or on the bus. People write you thoughtful letters about your book. Fans write fan fiction using your characters, and other fans create RPG characters to play games with your world and characters. Your ideas, stories, and knowledge are widely shared.

Step Two: Getting published can be as wonderful as the visualization above. Reality is a bit dimmer, but no less wonderful. Your fan mail may not arrive by the van-load, but you will get some. You may have to be the one to arrange for the display of your books in your local bookstores (many of the will do so for local authors), but you will still have a featured display of your book. The big bang about publishing is that you might see other people reading – and liking! – your book. You will meet some very interesting people in the process – your publisher, your editor, your agent (if you have one), local booksellers, fans. If you take a book-signing tour or attend book conventions, you’ll get to know hotel staff, convention staff, and other authors. You’ll develop your skills as a writer, and you may be encouraged to write another book. You will get paid for publishing your book. Few authors can make a living off of writing novels, but if you’ve written a non-fiction book, depending upon the need it fills, you may be earning royalties on it years from now, a pleasant little bonus.

Step Three: You’ve already earned your Writing Badge, so now you’re ready to pimp that book! Your first step is to speak to other people who’ve published in your field. If you attended writer’s conventions as part of your Writing Badge, you’ve met published authors, and may already have a person you can contact about the special challenges of getting published. Ask them; many are more than willing to share.

Step Four: Do your research. If you want to publish via traditional publishers, seek out the right publisher for your book (www.writersmarket.com). A romance publisher won’t consider a shoot ’em up western, a western publisher won’t consider a gothic mystery. Find out what category your book is and send it to those publishers, you’ll have a far better chance of being considered. Study the submissions guidelines as if you had to ace a test – because you do! Publishing is a Pass/Fail – and you want to stack the deck as much in your favor as you can so you pass. Follow publisher’s guidelines scrupulously. If you attended (and are still attending) writer’s conventions, don’t be shy about asking to be introduced to publishers and editors. Don’t pimp your book right then, but do ask if you may contact them later with a query letter or submission. Be sure to mention a few books they’ve published before (part of your research – know what your potential publisher is publishing, and read a few so you can mention htem when you meet). Visit websites or read books on how to write a query letter and a cover letter so when you send yours, it will be good. You may not need an agent for magazine and poetry submissions, but in the book world, it can help you navigate all the minor diffrences between publishers and imprints and to meet the requirements of editors because they often know these people and “do lunch” with them, may have sold to them before. There’s a trust and a bond built p between editors and agents, and that’s worth having work on your behalf. A good agent is worth his or her percentage. And be prepared for the time it will take. From acceptance to bookstore can take two years. That’s right – two years. From first submission to bookstore can take much longer than that. You’ll also need to be prepared to re-write to the editor’s specifications. best suggestion ever for submitting is to start writing your next book while the first one is still in the submission process.

Alternate Step Four: If you choose a POD (Print on Demand) publisher instead of a traditional publisher, the process is a bit different. POD publishing is still new enough that there are a lot of scam publishers out there among the legitimate ones. Most professionals in the writing field will try to discourage you from attempting POD publishing because it’s still confused in their mind with vanity presses.

Let’s take a brief moment here to discuss vanity presses. In one single word, if you’re thinking of a vanity press: Don’t. Not ever, not for any reason. You can tell a vanity press by several important clues: they will ask you to pay them to print your book. They will ask you to buy a pre-set number of your books. They will have fees for every step of the publishing process. You will have to pay for your ISBN and the copies of the books the Libray of Congress requires. They may charge you a copyright fee. You may end up spending thousands of dollars on a book that flat won’t sell – and you’ll be responsible for selling your book yourself or paying hefty fees to a marketer.

While POD publishing may also cost you, the difference between them and vanity presses is that they will not charge you a set-up fee, ask you to buy a pre-set number of copies of your book, and you will not have to buy your books in advance in order to sell them. Many good POD publishers will help you with formatting, covers, imprints, ISBNs (there’s a fee for that, because the Library of Congress charges a fee for an ISNB, most POD publishers only collect what the Library of Congress charges and they will submit two copies of your book to the LoC at no charge to you), and distribution to booksellers like Amazon.com.

There are valid reasons to seek a POD publisher instead of publishing traditionally. The most common one is that you’ve written a specialty book that has a very limited buying public. A family cookbook, a family genealogy, a book on very local flora or fauna, a history of a single building that isn’t famous, or a sequel to a fiction series a publisher dropped but still has enough fan demand to warrant publishing it to finish out the series. That’s one of the downsides to publishing traditionally, if you’ve written a series and sequels don’t meet sales quotas, the publisher may drop the series, leaving your fans bereft, and you with an unsold novel or two. Publishing via POD will get those books into your fan’s hands and give you a small royalty for them.

If you want to publish yor book yourself, we recommend going to a reputable POD publisher (like http://www.lulu.com).

We suggest you try traditional publishers first because they have a wider distribution for a new author and they can help teach you about publishing along the way. If you don’t earn out your advance, you may not get the second book published. “Earn out” means the publisher earns back the money they paid you in advance for your book. They speculated that your book would earn a certain amount of money and they paid you what your royalty percentage would be on that figure. You won’t receive any more money from the sales of your book until the advance is earned out. Any sales made after the advance is earned out will earn you a royalty, whatever amount was negotiated when you signed the publishing contract.

Step Five: Submit. Now that you’ve written your book, done your pre-publishing research, and put your book into the correct submission format, you have to actually send it out. Expect rejections, hope for acceptances. There’s been more than one author who’s wallpapered a room in their rejection slips before they finally got accepted. J. K. Rowling almost didn’t get published at all. Her books didn’t get popular until after her third book was published. She wasn’t an “overnight publishing sensation” even if she did become a publishing sensation. It took time and effort, and she garnered her share of rejection slips, too. Be proud of your rejection slips – they show you had the courage to submit your book. When you get your first notification back from a publisher – acceptance or rejection, you can go ahead and claim your badge because you fulfilled the requirements for it – you wrote a book and you sent it off to be published. Or you can choose to wait before claiming your badge until you see a printed and bound copy of your book.

Alternate Step Five: If you use a POD publisher, you will need to do all the steps a traditional publisher would have done for you: hire a proof-reader (spell-checker and grammar-checker can do only so much as any author who’s gotten their book back to see that correctly spelled buy wrong words slipped by – like “there” and “they’re”), hire an editor, get cover art, format the book, get interior art (not all books need this), submit the completed book for publication, approve the galley (which is usually a .PDF – if you can format your book in .PDF, you’re a step ahead), buy your ISBN, and print. Many POD publishers will offer some free cover art, will give tips and suggestions and how-to articles on formatting, will offer limited publicity and marketing tips and srtategies, allow you to choose how your book will be published (hardback, trade paperback, download, mass market paperback), and possibly give special imprints for free, and will offer proof-reading and editorial serves for a smaller fee than vanity presses. You can set your own royalty rates. May we recommend not setting these too high so the price of the finished book remains reasonable to your buyers? The POD will accept what you set up, put up a link so people can find your book and buy it (and review it!), and they’ll send you your royalty check when you earn over a set dollar amount (it’s really low – between $10 and $25). Some PODs will give you room for a blog, a storefront to sell all of your books, and private access to your account history, sales history, royalty history, print history, and works in progress. You have total control of your book from the first word you write to the finished print copy – and all the marketing after you get it printed.

Step Six: Claim your badge!

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