Traditional Publishing

Stages of Writing: Post 6 (Traditional Publishing)

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thing I will add is that at the Nebraska Writers Guild conference last month, an agent said she would rather have an unpublished novel to take to a publisher than one that has already been self-published (unless that self-published title has sold like crazy).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.

Categories: Traditional Publishing | 8 Comments

Following Up on Submissions

The last time I posted an article, I wrote about submitting a short story to a magazine. And as promised, I’m following it up…with an article on following up on those submissions when a lot of time has passed.

Most magazines promise on their websites that they’ll get back to you on your submission in 2-6 months. What they don’t tell you is that work and submissions tend to pile up, especially when the magazine may be an operation run by only a few or even just one person. And imagine getting several submissions at the very least every month for short stories, articles, art pieces, and just about everything else under the sun. Your submission could be lost underneath all that.

So if you find a magazine has been taking its time getting to your submission, it can be helpful to send them an email and ask politely if your story has been looked at yet. Here’s what I normally put down in an email when I’m following up on a submission:

Dear [Insert magazine name here],

I am writing to follow up on my submission [insert story name here] which I sent in [insert how long ago or date you sent it in] to see if it is still being considered for publication. If you could please get back to me when it is convenient for you, that would be great, and thank you for your time and consideration.

Hoping you are well,

[Insert name, pen name if applicable, and contact information]

It’s also a good idea to attach your short story to the email in case it got lost somewhere among the submissions.

Normally a magazine will get back to you pretty quickly after this sort of email is sent. Even then though, it may take some time for the magazine editors to get back to you on your short story. If that’s the case, it may work in your favor to send an email every month or so inquiring about the status of your short story. That way it’ll stay in the forefront of the editors’ minds.

Also, remember to always be courteous and polite in your emails. They could just send you a form rejection letter right away, so the fact that they are taking the time to actually look at your story, no matter how long that time is, to possibly publish it is worth staying on the magazine’s good side. And when the magazine finally does take a look at your short story, no matter what the result is, be courteous and thank them for the time they took to read the story you sent them. That way, if you send them something in the future, they’ll be inclined to work with you and show you the same kindness and understanding you showed them.

Do you have any tips on following up on submissions?

Categories: Business Plan, Digital & ePublishing, General Writing, Marketing & Promoting, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, Publishing Basics, Short Stories, The Writer & Author, Traditional Publishing, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Submitting Short Stories to Magazines

Have you ever written a short story and tried to get it published in a magazine? Chances are you have. Many authors, both traditional and indie, write short stories and try to get them published in print magazines, on e-mags, or in anthologies. I’ve been published in a couple of magazines and I’m hoping for more in the future (though with my writing schedule these days, it’s hard to make time for short stories). And there are benefits to doing so, including:

  • Short stories are a whole different beast to tame than novels, so writing and sending out short stories lets you know what works and what people look for in a good short story. Sometimes magazines will even give you feedback if they decide to reject your story, so you get an idea on how to improve it.
  • At the very least, you’ll get some exposure from having your work published in a magazine. At the very most, they’ll pay you some money for a nice dinner out.
  • For those critics who accuse indie authors of trying to skirt around hard work and just put any old book out, this is a way of saying “Hey, we can do it your way too.”

If you haven’t ever sent a short story out to magazine, this might give you some help in going about it. If you’ve already done it before, then maybe this’ll be a useful reminder. And like I said, you should try it. You never know what’ll happen if you do.

1. Find a publication. Once you’ve written a short story and edited it to the utmost perfection, it’s time to find a magazine. Publications like Writer’s Digest’s Short Story & Novel Writer’s Market contain may useful listing of magazines in all genres, as well as contests and agencies and conferences. You can also get info from friends or family members who write. Another blogger told me about a magazine she published a short story in, and I think that I might have a short story I could submit to them, I just have to make sure it’s ready before I send it out.

Also, it’s helpful sometimes to read the short stories they publish. This generally gives you some idea of what they tend to publish, so you’ll have a better idea of what might be accepted.

2. Read over the rules. Every magazine has its own set of rules about submitting to them and the terms you’ll get should you be accepted. They may want the short story sent in a particular attachment, or they may prefer the story in the body of the message. There may be restrictions on length, subject matter, or a hundred other things. And being published by them might mean signing over all rights to the story to the magazine, or only first North American publishing rights. So know what you’re getting into when you decide, “I’ll send it to this publication.”

3. Write that query letter. A query letter is a letter stating who you are, what you’re sending, and why you’re sending it. Once you’ve done your research, write up a query letter and send it along to the magazine with your short story. Here’s an example of me sending a query letter to a fictional magazine:

Dear Darkness Abounds magazine,

I am submitting my manuscript “Hands” (5,732 words) to your publication for your consideration. I decided to submit to your magazine because your website said you were into “dark, creepy fiction with an interesting twist on old stories” and I thought my short story matched your description.

I am a self-published novelist with two novels and a collection of short stories published, as well as short stories published in Mobius Magazine, The Writing Disorder, and the Winter 2011 issue of TEA, A Magazine (now The Daily Tea). I also write for two blogs, Rami Ungar the Writer and Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. I am also a senior at The Ohio State University double majoring in English and History and expected to graduate in May 2015.

I look forward to hearing from you and would like to thank you for your time and consideration.

Hoping you are well,

Rami Ungar
[contact information, including address, phone number, and e-mail address]

Make sure to include the word count of your story (that’s an important factor in many publications), why you’re selecting the magazine, and any relevant publications. Also, don’t make your biography too long. Just keep the relevant stuff and don’t give them your life story. You can save that for your memoirs.

4. Wait. Every magazine has its own quoted turn-around time, so you might as well be patient. However, it’s not uncommon for a magazine to let work pile up and miss your short story entirely, so if you find two or three weeks have gone by and you haven’t heard anything, it might be helpful to send an email asking politely if you are still being considered for publication (I’ll write a post about that another time).

5. How to handle the reply. Assuming the magazine didn’t lose your work in the pile of submissions they get and you get a reply, the important thing is to be grateful one way or another for their reply. If you’re accepted, that’s wonderful. Talk terms with them and then decide if you want them to publish you. If you get rejected, possibly look at getting published somewhere else, and take into account any feedback you might receive on your short story as a possible way to improve the story.

What tips do you have for submitting to magazines your short stories?

Categories: General Writing, Marketing & Promoting, Publishing Basics, Short Stories, Traditional Publishing, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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