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Saturday, 16 July 2016



I will make two totally contradictory points:

One: Getting published is the next best thing to impossible 
Two: Getting published is the easiest thing in the world.

Many people believe that if the writing is good, the author would be offered a traditional publishing deal. Sadly, that isn’t necessarily the case. So many other factors come into play. Publishers, despite their protests to the contrary, exist mainly for one thing. They want to make money. And that’s not easy for them. There’s an old joke in publishing circles. How do you make a small fortune in publishing? You start with a large fortune. Losing money is a serious possibility if the wrong books are chosen for publishing. Thus they reject anything that doesn’t immediately smell of money. So, if you are an unknown writer trying to break into the business, you are basically on a hiding to nothing, even if you have a good product, You really need to be a film star, a famous sportsperson, a celebrity of some sort, or an already established writer.

Actually, the chances of you even getting to present your MS to a publisher are pretty slim. Nearly all of them require that your work comes to them through an agent. This presupposes that the agent has done all the preliminary dismissing of rubbish and has held on to MSs that might make money. And getting an agent is even harder than finding a publisher. All they want is a guaranteed 15% of a money maker and they are going to waste no time on any MS that doesn’t immediately smell of money.

Submitting your MS

If, by some fluke, you find a publisher who is willing to take what they call unsolicited MSs, there are still many hurdles to cross. Double check their submission guidelines. Follow these exactly or your submission will not even be looked at.

First you have to make the pitch…
- preliminary letter,
- the one page synopsis,
- the three page précis,
- the opening chapters.

All of these preparations have to be top drawer, eye catching , impressive, edited and re-edited, polished and re-polished, even to get a reader to look at the early pages of your book. A poor pitch, your MS doesn’t even get opened. These pages have to grab the publisher’s reader. This is the first impression you will make and the only impression you’ll get a chance to make. So make sure they are compelling and error free.

And don’t think, ‘Ah, well, it gets better as it goes along’. No publisher’s reader will ever reach where it gets better. It has to rock from the word go. The first chapter…the first paragraph…even the first line is vital….If you want to grab a publisher’s reader’s interest, you need to give your opening all your attention and all your skill. So make sure that everything you send is compelling and error free.
Because… very rarely does a publisher’s reader ever go beyond the first 20 pages of any MS. He has usually decided by then whether your MS goes forward to be read by someone else… or dumped on what they call the ‘slush pile’.

Your chances are that fragile, I’m afraid.

This has never been easier and there are some very reputable and reasonably priced firms out there to help you do it. One of the best is the Amazon KDP, i.e., Kindle Direct Publishing for Ebooks.

Getting your book published as an ebook is a matter of getting a few technical details right, getting a cover designed, getting the text properly formatted to fit the Amazon requirements. If you are technologically aware, you could do it yourself and many do. The technologically illiterate, among which number I include myself, generally have to pay someone for such help. But once you have these basics sorted, you can have your book published as an ebook within a couple of days and…suddenly, there it is for sale on Amazon, or Smashwords, or Barnes and Noble, etc.

If you want a paperback version, Lulu and CreateSpace are very well respected POD firms. POD means Print on Demand. Instead of printing an initial run of two or three thousand books, POD firms will only print whatever numbers of books you intend to sell. They will print one; they will print 30; they will print 200. Whatever you order. But they’re American and while you get great value for your purchase prices and high royalties, the postage from the US is crippling. There are very well respected UK firms…two I know about are IngramSpark ( a huge outfit) and XLibris. Pretty much the same services but the postage, I think, should be cheaper. If you are thinking about going this route, do some serious internet research. There is plenty of information out there … and there are plenty of scammers, too. Do your research. Never consider any company until you have googled information about them.

There is also a little known third option

Agented and unagented submissions are equally considered. If your book is good and well written, and one of the press team falls for it, then you have a great chance of being published. You don’t have to be a celebrity or famous. Small press publisher cover all of the expenses, the authors are involved in every step of the process and their input is highly valued, though devoted committees take on the difficult tasks of copy editing, designing and marketing to achieve professional results. The authors are asked to do a minimal part of the marketing (for example, sharing our social media posts, inviting their circles to the launch, participating in blog tours) and will receive guidance and help every step of the way.
Royalty rates are competitive, and books are systematically available on all three major platforms – printed, digital, and audio – through all major online vendors, such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and distributed by Ingram.

My view is that the chances of finding a publisher, or even an agent, are very slim. And even if you find an agent, you might still have to wait forever before you hear back from them. You won’t even know if they are still trying to sell your book or have simply abandoned it. They don’t seem to care about keeping the writer up to speed. You could wait years rather than months for a reply. So, publish your book on kindle while you search for a publisher. even a small press publisher. At least the book will be out there. And you will get the odd sale here and there.
There is an e-magazine that offers great help to authors about publishing. It is well worth a look. The address is: http://www.authorspublish.com/Authors Publish

You might improve your chances of getting sales by learning something about marketing…a distressingly time-consuming and frequently frustrating business. But it has to be done. Why?

Well, let me give you an image:
Imagine a huge warehouse full of books, shelves and shelves and shelves with thousands upon thousands of books. You have written a book and it is somewhere in the middle of all of those thousands, actually millions, of books. How would any prospective reader even come across it? What are the odds that any book they lift will be yours? About 4,500,000 to one. Yes, that’s how many books are published by Amazon and those are the kind of odds you face when you throw your book into the kindle ebook store. That’s why marketing, using social media like facebook, blogsites, twitter, professional help, etc., is so essential. You have to do something to get awareness of your book’s existence before the reading public. And that still doesn’t mean that they will actually purchase and read it. And worse still, hundreds of thousands of kindle books are offered at bargain prices, often even free. Thousands of kindle readers buy these books but research has shown that a huge percentage of them end up lying in people’s kindles, never to be read.

One indie writer said, ‘If you self-publish your book, you are not going to be writing for a living. You are going to be marketing for a living. Self-published authors should expect to spend only 10% of their time writing and 90% of their time marketing. There is an awful lot of truth in that…or a lot of awful truth. Marketing is not easy. The sad truth is that marketing your books is far more trouble than writing the books …. and the results are often abysmal.

BUT….. don’t let that deter you. If you do, you don’t really want to be a writer. You write because you have to. And if you have to write, you’ll want to be read. So, self-publish and be damned

It sure wasn’t easy. I read somewhere a note by a published author who said, ‘If you re not receiving five or six rejection slips a day, then you are not sending out enough MSs’ Lots of well known best seller writers have faced loads of rejections before finally finding a publisher, JK Rowling, Stephen King, James Joyce, George Orwell, Joseph Heller (Catch 22) John le CarrĂ©, Herman Melville and loads of famous crime writers.

So, what chance did I have? After loads, literally, of depressing rejections (often accompanied by very positive comments, oddly enough) I finally decided to try a new young, thrusting publishers that I read about. I sent off The Doom Murders. A reader called Bill rejected the book. Surprise! Surprise! When I received his rejection, I read it and said….Uh…well, I had better not relate what I said.. But take my word for it, I said it; I definitely said it.
BUT…. next day, I received a frantic email from the president of the company telling me that she loved the MS and asked me not to send my MS to anyone else until she had time to discuss it with her editorial committee. A week later I received a contract. (She eventually took all my books)

And it’s been great. My books have new professional covers that didn’t cost me a penny although they normally run to about 300 - 500 dollars. Professional editing, usually a minimum of a dollar a page (380 dollars for the average length book I write) expensive … but again at no cost to me. Marketing support…thank God I am not on my own with that any more. Special efforts to get my books on to big-shot distributor networks that I could never hope to reach by myself, e.g. Ingram, one of the biggest distributors in the world. All of my books were posted there just at the end of May and all have just recently been issued in hardback format.
It’s early days yet, First books don’t sell. It takes time to build an audience. A new writer’s first couple of books are unlikely to turn any profit — renowned literary agent Donald Maas talks about a “five book threshold”…so, I’ve still a couple of books to go. But I now have some hope for sales, for recognition, but most important of all to me (and to authors who are serious about their work) they will find me readers. There was a famous writer once, I can’t remember his name, but he said, “All I want written on my tombstone is: He only wrote to be read.” If you’re writing to make money, forget about it. If the money comes, it’s generally a happy accident.