Hello fellow artisans and authors! Morgan asked us to provide something a bit special for the Story Dam Open House Extravaganza, maybe even a bit of sage advice useful in the daunting world of publishing. That, I’m afraid, is a daunting task.
There are almost as many ways to get published as there are people wanting to get published and a great deal of the where and when has to do with what you want to accomplish. So, here are some bits and pieces that might at least send you down the right road to explore the choices best for you.
Every author’s dream is to be discovered by a major agent or to be picked up by a big publishing house and find themselves on the best seller list by Christmas. Well, it does happen. And, if that is the way you want to go then you should at least try. The sad thing is that many large presses have to work several things into the equation when selecting new authors. They have to make print runs,
store and sell books, invest in marketing and still talk you into a lot of work. All on a take it or leave it contract. So, by all means, if you still want to pursue that contract, do so. Keep in mind, though, a lot of the hard work of being an author really isn’t that much different; it’s just on tighter deadlines.
Indie presses are more approachable but they are as different from each other as is possible and still be in the same business. PDMI Publishing is still learning how to be the best we can be and yet be what we want to be. So, picking a small indie press to handle your work is a bit like finding a babysitter you actually trust. I’ll say something about what to look for a bit later.
Self publishing may sound like the easiest way to go. Well, yes and no. Self publishing business models can also have their own special markets. Here is a very useful article that compares two of the biggest, CreateSpace (Amazon) and Lightning Source (Ingram).
That’s only two of many. They all offer a selection of services to writers for various prices. These services can include editing, cover art, formatting, marketing, distribution, and storefronts you can customize.
Publish on Demand not the Same as Self Publishing
There is another option, one that I do not recommend. This is something that would be called “Publish on Demand,” once upon a time known as “vanity presses.” These are not wise choices because their support services can be very expensive. Once your book is on the market the price can be noticeably higher than similar works. This is not a good thing. So, be careful. There be monsters in the night.
As you can see, there is as much work required to pick a home for your manuscript as there is in creating it. So, what are the steps you need to think about to make sure that your special creation finds its special place in the world?
Find beta readers; find a crit (critique) group you are comfortable in. Keep in mind that participation in a “crit” group requires participation. You need to help other authors improve their craft as you receive help with yours. PDMI provides a place for its authors to share their work among the group to elicit input. We will also be starting an “editors’ chat group” soon. This is a way for
the editors to provide plot, grammar and storytelling advice to authors. Another possibility is checking for English or journalism students in local colleges or universities. It really doesn’t matter where you are going to submit your manuscript; it has to be in the best shape possible. Don’t submit a draft. Unless you are working with one of those “publish on demand” folks or a freelance publisher that promises nothing but help to get you up on a major board, well, I think you get the point.
The next step to consider is graphics. If you don’t have a name that people are actually looking for you need a cover that is going to say, “you want me.” Whatever the media the cover has to talk to readers. You can design your own, or use templates, if that is what you like to do. If it is a chore, or you are not artistically inclined, then you need to do some hunting. There are sites that sell covers for very reasonable prices. If you are with an indie press or a big publisher, they do that for you. You can also invest in a custom design, either from one of the print on demand shops or from an independent artist. Whatever you do, take advice from people who know how to market. Don’t get wrapped up in the details of your “vision” and be willing to see alternate ways of presenting your book without sacrificing something meaningful to the content.
Off to Market We Go
The last major piece in getting to market is, well, getting to market. Even if you manage to sign with a big publishing house you are going to have to work your sitting parts to the bone to get your book noticed among the some 328,000 +/- books that are published in the US alone each year. You need to know social marketing like it is your second language. You need to have a blog you can be comfortable in and which is active. Not a blog about how a person writes; a blog about what interest you, the person so that your readers know what they can expect of you the writer. You need to know where your possible book signing opportunities are, what editor at your local paper handles press releases of the literary type. What special audiences might be interested in your work? Even if your publisher provides marketing support, this is information you will have to compile.
These then are the ABCs of what writing and publishing is about. If you understand these elements, then when you look for a publisher or a publishing outlet you have a better understanding of what you need. That means you have a better chance of selecting the right path for you. If you know your strengths and weaknesses, you are better prepared to find the right publishing outlet to support your career.
I hope this has been helpful. You are certainly welcome to check us out. We are in the process of developing a FAQ and Knowledge Base that will be available to the public with links to resources for writers. Keep an eye on our website, you never know what gems you might find.
Victoria Adams, Director at PDMI Publishing.
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