OMG, someone wants to publish my book!

It’s happened to me, and I’m seeing it happen to several of my writing friends. In the race to be published, you submit pretty much indiscriminately to agents and publishers who publish your genre and are open for submissions, and are not on the Predators & Editors blacklist.

And one morning, you download your email and lo, there is an offer of publication.

OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book!

Once you’ve finished jumping around, you sit down and have a look at the contract. But really, you don’t know anything about contracts. You don’t know what’s supposed to be in them, and what the standards are. The publisher making the offer is a small publisher. You don’t know them. You don’t have an agent and have never been able to get one for this particular book. You don’t have the publishing credits to belong to a professional writers’ organisation. You check the internet for information, but it contains cases about contracts that are obviously dodgy, and you’re reasonably sure this publisher is not a scam.

So you’re stuck up the creek. You feel you should be happy, and all your friends are happy for you, but there are a number of things that make you uneasy.

They could be any of the following:

The publisher is also using the press to push his or her own books. It happens. There is nothing as such ‘wrong’ with it, but do you want to be published by someone who may give his or own work preference when it comes to marketing?

The contract you get asks for rights the press doesn’t intend to use. For example, they sell only ebooks, but they want you to sign away the print rights. They are inflexible about changing this.

The person you are dealing with comes across as not very professional. For example, not all your questions are answered, or it takes an extra-ordinarily long time for you to get a reply. There may be deadlines (if you don’t accept this by…), or pushing of a certain editorial service. Whatever it is, it’s not illegal, but you feel uneasy about it.

You check the press’ web presence and the listings for a couple of their books (randomly-chosen—don’t pick their most popular titles) are not encouraging. You can barely find the books on Amazon, and when you do, there are no covers and no reviews.

The venture looks like an author-mill: it has books listed by many authors, and seem to be pushing quantity over quality.

None of those things are illegal, and some of their authors seem reasonably happy.

But you’re still unsure.

Let me ask you a question: if you were to plan an extensive home renovation, and you asked for quotes, and the company offering the cheapest quote had a lousy telephone service, took three days to get back to you, and only sent the quote after you rang them up and asked them for it, would you sign with them? Would you trust them with your money and your beloved house?

A publishing contract is a bit like this. Moreover, once you sign, you’re stuck with these people for a while. You had better like their professional conduct and feel that they could do the best by your book.

If you feel iffy now, imagine what you feel like three years down the track. A publishing contract is an agreement of service: of the publisher, to you. You are going to have to work with these people. One of them will edit you work. Any inter-personal difficulties or differences of opinion will be blown out of the water by this process. You don’t want to start off feeling dubious about their professionalism. These people will design your cover. They will send you regular sales updates. Do you feel confident that you’ll like what they do?

If you have doubts that you’ll be able to work with these people, I’d think twice about signing.


Harper Collins promoting self-publishing services?

Cross-posted from my personal writing blog. I cannot believe this Email I got from HC’s Authonomy site. There are so many things wrong with it, I don’t even know where to begin. I think in promoting this deal, HC violates one of the most basic principles of the publishing industry: that a writer should not pay a publisher to have their work ‘published’.

The original text of the email:


Dear authonomist,

Are you thinking about self-publishing but need a helping hand? It’s never been easier to create and distribute your book. Whether you are an authonomy newbie, just starting out, or you have a polished manuscript ready to go, our partner CreateSpace can help make the entire publishing process easy and hassle-free for you. And for a limited time CreateSpace is offering a 20% discount on all its professional publishing services.

With a broad range of publishing services and the flexibility to mix and match, it’s easy find the perfect solution to meet your needs. Here are just a few of the publishing services on offer from CreateSpace:

– Professional cover design
– Interior layout and formatting
– Manuscript editing
– Press release creation and distribution

This exclusive offer ends April 16, 2010, so contact a CreateSpace publishing consultant today. To learn more just click on the link below or paste it into your browser:

Can’t make your mind up by April 16th? You’ll still be able to save 10% on all CreateSpace services from April 17 – 30, 2010. Contact CreateSpace today to learn more about the services that are right for you.

Best wishes,
The authonomy team

CreateSpace reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to terminate or modify this promotion at any time.

CreateSpace and the CreateSpace logo are trademarks of CreateSpace or its affiliates. CreateSpace, 100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200 Scotts Valley, CA 95066.

authonomy and the woodblock logo are trademarks of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, registered in Scotland, Company No. 27389. Registered address:
Westerhill Road, Bishopsbriggs, Glasgow G64 2QT.

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the p-game

You can take this as ‘the publishing game’. Some call publishing a game, played by an elite and exclusive group of people who are supposedly not interested in giving new writers a go. I prefer to call publishing a different kind of p-game: the p for persistence.

Imagine two writers who both want their material published. I’ll talk about short stories, but this story can apply just as well for novels.

Both writers are submitting their material. Both are getting lots of rejections and the occasional acceptance, usually from small magazines. Both would like to be published by a certain magazine. Writer #1 submits three stories. All three are rejected. This writer then concludes that the magazine ‘doesn’t like my style’ and stops submitting. Writer #2 submits 16 stories. All are rejected, although some come back with nice comments. After story #16 is rejected with a note that says ‘lovely story, but we’ve decided it doesn’t fit our magazine’, writer #2 is ready to commit suicide. He looks at writer #1 and wonders if this magazine is just playing a game with him. At this stage conspiracy theories surface. But he wants to be published in that magazine, so he sends another story, which they hold for seven months before rejecting it. Writer #1 is ROTFL and writer #2 is ready to accept that his friend is right. Except he’s got one more story that he’s written recently. It’s a bit of an oddball thing, and represents a change in style for him. He sends it, not expecting anything. They again hold it for seven months, and when the message comes (by now he’s almost forgotten about the story), it’s not a rejection. They’re buying his story.

Now, this little tale is a consolidation of my experiences over the past year of trying to get into magazines.

You, too, want to be published by a magazine you like but is hard to get into?

– Submit, submit, submit. As soon as something comes back, send something else, providing it fits within the magazine’s (sub)genres.
– If submissions start taking a long time, and I mean a looooong time, to get back to you, then you’re on the right path. Check Duotrope and you’ll see that almost every magazine takes far longer to accept something than to reject something.
– Keep submitting no matter what. Sometimes you’ll wonder if a magazine accepted your story just because they got sick of you. It doesn’t matter (in all truth, what’s published is deteremined by quality, since many magazines strip author names for their slush readers), just keep submitting anything that’s suitable.
– Few people ever sell anything to a magazine on their first submission to that magazine. I’d love some anecdotal stats on this. Say you’ve published in a big-name magazine, how often have you submitted to them before you had something accepted? Let me know in comments.