Though we had anticipated this being our last video in this series, this wasn’t the last one. We had so much to say about traditional publishing we never really dove into self-publishing.
In a nutshell, a traditional publisher is one who does the publishing for you. If they accept your manuscript, they will do the editing, get the cover, put your book on multiple retailers, and do some (probably limited) promotion for you.
1. Submitting to a Publisher
Janet Syas Ntisick has more experience with seeking a publisher than I do, so she explains the things she’s had to get together when approaching publishers at conferences. One thing to keep in mind is that in today’s environment, you still need to think of what you can bring to the table. A publisher wants to see you bring in sales, so your platform is still important. Like any business, a publisher needs to make a profit in order to stay open. So when you’re presenting your query letter, first three chapters, or even the entire manuscript, make sure to list out your qualifications. Qualifications include memberships to writing organizations, awards you won, published books, earnings (especially if you made a substantial amount in the past), what you’re doing to market yourself and your books, etc. List the things that make you an attractive applicant, just as you would on a resume if you were looking for a day job. (Be honest, of course. It won’t reflect well on you if you’re lying. I think publishers are smart enough to figure out if you’re fudging your numbers.)
One thing I will add is that at the Nebraska Writers Guild conference last month, an agent said she would rather have an unpublished novel to take to a publisher than one that has already been self-published (unless that self-published title has sold like crazy). So if you’re debating taking a self-published book to a publisher, think over that before you do.
2. Types of Publishers
There are big publishers and small ones. Some specialize in certain genres and others take a wide variety of titles. Some will only do ebooks and others will offer both ebooks and paperbacks. There’s really a diversity out there when it comes to publishers, and it’s important to make sure the publisher you choose will fit your book and your personality.
Some publishers will allow the author input into the cover and editorial changes. Some won’t. The royalty you can expect will vary depending on which one you go with, too. There might be a clause where you can’t use a character in a self-published book or in a book that you publish with another publisher. There might be rights you’re giving them that may or may not work in your favor. There might even be a clause that allows them to hold onto the book without actually publishing it until (or if) they feel like it. Or they might require more books from you. The key is to be careful when looking at the contract. When in doubt, have a lawyer familiar with book contracts look it over before signing anything.
3. Which Authors Benefit From Traditional Publishing?
I think publishers can be great for authors who want to be hybrid authors like me (doing both traditional and self-publishing) or authors who don’t want to do the jobs a self-published author has to do. I know authors who don’t want to worry about covers, formatting, editing, uploading the book to a retailer, keeping track of sales, etc. They want to write the book and send it to a publisher to do all that stuff for them. There is nothing wrong with this.
Just be aware of the trade-offs. You’ll get a lower royalty rate per book sale, less control over your book, and you might not get all the promotion you’re hoping for. You might also be giving up some rights you’d rather have. Like I said, when in doubt, go to a lawyer with the contract.
4. Make Sure You Check The Publisher Out To See If It’s A Good One Or Not
Good publishers pay you the right amount of royalties and they pay you on time. They are professional and courteous. You should be comfortable with them. (Always trust your gut instinct. If anything in you says “this is not a good idea”, you’re better off avoiding it.)
As a final point, I would definitely check out this link (which is advice written by Victoria Strauss). There is a wealth of information here that’s worth reading.