This week in Literary Citizenship we’re talking about publishing. The publishing world is like a giant game of Blackjack. It’s really a game of luck, but you can increase your chances of winning with certain skills and know-how.
Many editors have cashed-in on the secret to being published. Styles vary, but the advice is consistent across the board.
A Catchy Title and the Perfect Pitch
You’ll need both of these things not only to get published, but also to catch an agent. Your pitch should consist the nuts and bolts of your story and why it should be published. Something that is very important to the big publishers is money: is this book going to sell? “Who is this book for?” and “Which bestsellers is it similar to?” are questions you need to be prepared for.
Hit or Stay?
I’ve been reading Betsy Lerner’s book The Forest for the Trees, an invaluable resource for writers who want to be published. In chapters nine and ten Lerner, a book editor, contrasts what editors want with what authors want. There is a thickly drawn line as to whose opinion is more important in getting published, but what you as the author have to decide is what is more important to you: changing a major plotline to make them happy or keeping your integrity and moving on.
The publishing industry is a dog-eat-dog world, so it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s important to know that getting published by one of the Big Six publishing houses (think Penguin) is next to impossible, but don’t fret there are other ways of getting your book published. See Jane Friedman’s guide to getting published “Understand the Key Book Publishing Paths” (pictured).
Get out there!
There are many valuable resources when it comes to publishing that make it easier to get to know the industry and get your book out there. See: Eckstutt and Sherry’s The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, Marek’s Editors on Editing, Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees, or one of the other handfuls of books out there on the subject. The best advice I have heard, though, is networking. In publishing it’s all about who you know, so get on Twitter, build a blog, sell short stories to magazines, do whatever it takes to get your name out there.
Until next time,
8 thoughts on “So you have a manuscript? Now publish it.”
I think the layout of the piece and its user-friendly writing make this post great. It’s a quick informative read with easily-accessible information through pictures and hyperlinks.
Great advice! Not only did you get right to the point with concise paragraphs that were easy to digest, you put out a lot of good ideas on how to view the publishing industry. It’s definitely a good overview of what to expect when it comes to publishing. It is a scary gamble to get out there…but you never know until you try!
You covered a lot of the points that were made at the Midwest Writer’s conference this past summer about having a catchy title and a perfect pitch. However, they did tell us to be careful with comparing your book to a best-seller. Another really great piece of advice to remember is that it’s really helpful to have at least a few smaller publications. If you’re published in a magazine or online somewhere and you reference it, I’ve been told that it will make a better impression on someone who you’re trying to get to read a manuscript.
One important distinction, I think, is that publishing a nonfiction book is different from publishing fiction or a memoir. For example, Kleon and Lerner created proposals and sold those books based on that and a sample chapter or two. But with fiction and memoir, you must write the whole book and THEN try to sell it.
I agree with Cathy above. There were some sections of the readings (ie the nonfiction ones), that I skimmed. In the publishing aspect, writing nonfiction and fiction are completely different. And even among genre fiction and general fiction, things are different. For example, if you are in genre fiction, you HAVE to be up-to-date with the current trends and it’s important to read a lot of recently published work so you can understand where your niche is.
Your post was super informative, and Cathy’s input was definitely fascinating! Who knew? I’ve written forever and have done some readings as poet, but the publishing side of things is something that I don’t like to think about, because it’s scary. Thanks for allowing me to peek at the information from between my fingers 😉
I liked the points you made and the way they were organized, though I might have put more emphasis on short stories. I used to prefer working on longer form projects, and some writers may have a harder time with short stories too. But I think having some of those stories polished up and published can be a huge help when trying to publish a novel. Also, the picture about publishing paths looked really helpful, and this may have just been me, but it was way too small for me to read.
While I’m inclined to agree with your methods, I think it bears note that a wonderful pitch still won’t sell a bad manuscript. Having a good sales pitch can never hurt you, but revising your book goes hand in hand with that.