If we go to a job interview, we make sure that we are neatly dressed so that we make a good impression. Similarly, a good presentation of your writing and yourself will make a huge difference to the chances of you getting a contract with a publisher, so let’s explore what you will need to do.
It is a good idea to find out as much as you can about your chosen publisher. This would include searches in Linked In, other social media to see what they post and what genres they prefer, and the specific focus of their publishing endeavor. For example if they are academic publishers and you have children’s books, applying to them would be pointless.
Do have a look at the website to find out what the criteria are; such as do they consider unsolicited manuscripts? Some publishers prefer to work with literary agents, while others are open to free submission.
Include a comprehensive personal biography. Mention any previously published work and if it is still in print. List your personal achievements as well, such as any literary prizes you may have won. Mention also any associations where you may be active, such as writers’ groups, or professional groups. You do this to establish your capability in your particular field.
Put forward your marketing plans for your book. If you are a non-fiction writer do you have established media exposure such as a You Tube channel, a blog or website? Are you planning any public lectures or workshops? Are you a member of any online group/s where you would be allowed to speak about your life’s work and your book?
Include a précis of your manuscript and your reasons for writing it. If you choose to submit selected chapters only then you should mention the overall word count.
All the above actions and ideas will help a publisher to make a decision to commit to publishing your masterpiece. My experience with submissions is that very few writers go to the trouble of working on a good presentation. Those that do that will make a big impression on the publisher.
We should not forget that a publisher’s job is to publish and this does not include marketing. Most publishers do offer marketing packages at a range of fees.
The author is by far the best ambassador for their book, so an enthusiastic and credentialed author can make the publishing decision easy.
Small independent publishers cannot really afford the inherent risk in untested authors. My company Kima Global Publishers have burned our fingers in the past by taking on enthusiastic authors who maybe expect instant results from no effort or risk whatsoever. After the book has been published they lose interest and do not support their book. Subsidy publishers lessen that risk by asking the author for a small contribution to cover hard outlay costs. That way they only risk losing the many hours of work they put into the whole process of editing, design, typesetting, proofing and preparing print-ready files.
Subsidy publishers such as Kima Books (now an imprint of ePublishify) offer a clever mechanism whereby an author (with very little effort) may recover their investment. We offer a 40% discount on any book orders by the author with a minimum first order of twenty copies.
In the case of Kima Books and ePushify, all submissions go through a strict assessment process and many manuscripts get rejected. In the case of Kima Books, they preferred mission-driven authors with a good online presence who gave workshops and lectured. Back of the Room sales are a winner, and can lead to an ongoing income stream for the author as well.
The subsidy publisher’s role is to undertake all the many tasks needed to get a book out into the world that a writer simply cannot do. This includes descriptions placed on the BookSearch database used by bookshops. They also need to make sure that a book is available worldwide through good distribution.
It is the author’s job to support sales by drawing attention to their book through marketing and social media exposure, blogs etc. Over the years we have found that the author is by far the best ambassador for their book.
Subsidy and hybrid publishers are the best bet, because they offer huge advantages for very little cost and a good chance to recover your investment.
This is a form of vanity publishing It is much the same as vanity because, once again, there are no quality standards applied. In this case, the author does their own layout and typesetting in MS Word or similar and then uploads it to Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble or others. I will cover Amazon in a subsequent blog.
In this case, the author is possibly even worse off than she might be with a vanity press. This is because of a lack of skills and professional software programs such as Photoshop or InDesign and a general lack of skills. Their books can be poorly presented with boring pre-designed covers supplied by Amazon for example. I have in addition often seen books with sloppy grammar and generally untidy.
Presentation is important. You wouldn’t return to a restaurant that just slopped food onto a plate. Likewise, readers are unlikely to buy a book that looks amateurish in presentation.
These authors have none of the facilities that regular publishers offer such as:
No distribution to bookshops.
No listing on the BookSearch software. This means that they cannot be found.
A limited market. Some authors advertise on Amazon, but in general there is very little exposure in a hugely crowded market.
I have been told by some very proud authors that they have been ‘published’, where all they have done is take files to their local printer that has printed and bound a few copies. They have performed none of the functions of a publisher.
Vanity Publishers perform a service for money where they will produce your book professionally. They usually deliver a professional quality product, but it can be quite expensive. The downside of this is that there is no Gatekeeper for the quality of content. Essentially, if you can pay the money then you qualify. Standards are low because the author takes on all the financial risks.
There are no good prospects of sales because the market tends to be flooded with low-quality books and traditional booksellers usually refuse to buy titles from these ‘publishers’. Contributing to this is self-published books (covered in more detail in the next blog).
The open gates policy of Vanity and self-publishers has led to a veritable flood of titles being published. At the last count more than a million titles a year are published in the English language alone. It becomes very difficult to get noticed in such a crowded marketplace. Good marketing becomes essential.
The deals on offer vary quite a lot, so one has to look at the contract to see the details. Vanity publishers are poorly thought of in the book world, because of their open-door policy with no gatekeeper.
There are big advantages to getting an agreement with a traditional publisher. Here are some of them (not listed in any particular order):
Very wide distribution to book stores, libraries and online markets worldwide.
A huge boost in credibility. Suddenly you will find that radio and TV hosts are keen to have you, whereas without a book you stand no chance.
Searchability on all the BookFind systems worldwide. This allows your book to be found by the clerk at the book store counter, for instance.
No risk to yourself, although we do of course recommend that everyone should read the fine print on any contract before they sign. Traditional publishers take on all the risk involved in publishing your book. Publishing is a complex business and mistakes can easily be made, some of them quite costly!
You get a professional product without risk which is widely distributed throughout the world. Very often traditional publishers can keep the retail price low, qhich will help the sales of your book
Right now (March 2022) the book market is very tough due to the challenges that the last two years have presented. A tough market like this, results in wafer-thin profit margins, so traditional publishers have become more and more risk-averse. They are especially resistant to taking on debut authors, preferring to stick with existing Names who are sure winners. However, they remain open to offers by independent publishers who can prove good sales.
To sum up: .getting a contract with a traditional publisher is the number one prize, but that is not likely for a debut author. I will be covering the roles of other publishing models such as vanity, self-publishing and subsidy publishers in upcoming blogs. I will be setting out the pitfalls and advantages to them so that you may make an informed choice.
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