Publishing FAQ

Questions people ask about getting published, getting it done, etc:

How do I get published?

1.            Write the book/story/poem. If you don’t have something to publish, you shouldn’t be worrying about the process. Write it first. Take writing courses, if necessary. Work through your first draft, at least.

2.            Find your niche. Who is publishing books in a similar genre? Is someone else writing a lesbian-elf-finds-love-with-martian story? If so, there’s your publisher.  Read a few of their books to learn the voice they like—do they print very serious stuff? Light and fluffy? Hetero? Homo? Pan? Know their business before you submit yours.

3.            Write your cover letter, and spend A LOT of time on it. It should be fairly short, but say something about you, your novel, and why you chose them as the publisher to submit to. Don’t brag! Let your work speak for itself.  If you can mention in your cover letter the author whose work resembles your lesbian-elf-finds-love-with-martian story, do so. It tells the publisher you’ve done your homework and you are sending it to them because it fits in with the type of stuff they publish.

4.            Follow the publishers submissions guidelines. If they want it in Times New Roman, size 27 font, double spaced in multi colored ink, do it. If it isn’t the way they want it right from the start, they likely wont even read it.

5. Wait.

Do I need an agent?

Not necessarily. If you are writing mainstream fiction, it might help get your manuscript through the door and onto an editor’s desk.  If you’re submitting to smaller publishers, mainstream or lesbian, then you don’t need an agent. Just a good project and a strong cover letter.

Why does my editor hate me?

She doesn’t.  Remember that it is your editor’s job to take your work, the ingredients of which you’ve put together to make a beautiful dish, and add just the right amount of salt and spices to make it that much more palatable. When your first draft comes back after your editor has done a first pass (there will be many) it will look like she committed homicide, and your manuscript happened to be under the body. This is normal. Writing is a craft. The more you do it, the more you learn it, and there are always things you will miss because the story is so vibrant and specific in your head. It is your editors job to make sure that all that stuff in your head translated perfectly to the page. Her work will make your work shine that much more.

How long does the publishing process take?

A LONG time. Seriously. If you submit to Bold Strokes Books, for instance, you can plan on hearing back sixteen weeks after you’ve submitted it, whether or not its been accepted. I’ve heard of people waiting for more than a year to hear back from a single publisher. And because few people accept multiple submissions (meaning you’ve submitted to more than one publishing house at a time) it could put your manuscript on hold for some time. That’s the nature of the game, sadly.

Then the real work starts. (Many authors say that writing it is the easy part). Your manuscript will be assigned to an editor that works with your style, your flaws, your genre. She’ll give it an extreme blood bath, and then send it back to you with some kind of deadline, usually about six weeks, to get it back to her with the corrections. Then, you send it back for another bath, one that is slightly less bloody. Repeat the process.

Now, depending on how clean your work was in the beginning, you might be done with that part of it. It will go to the copy editor now, who will catch the little things that get left behind—grammar, minor spelling issues, fragmented sentences, dialogue markers, etc.

The whole time, your manuscript has been placed on the publishing list. Depending on the publisher, it could be out in three months, or it could be a year. This means that you need to stick to your deadlines, and really communicate with your editor if you’re having trouble.

Then begins the marketing. Depending on your publisher, you could have to do a whole lot of marketing on your own, or they might help you set up author signings and readings at your local bookstores. There are a lot of lit conferences that are possibilities (YLAF, if it gets going again, is a perfect example).  You promote the hell out of your book so that it sells and you get better royalty checks.

How do I know where to submit my work?

There are a lot of publishers out there. As already mentioned, look for books in your genre, and see who publishes them. Then, look for books with similar themes (while there may not be many elf-martian love stories, there are sure to be sci-fi/fantasy books) to see where your book might fit in.

Then, follow steps one through four above (five isn’t optional).

What about e-books?

There is a definite and booming market for e-books. They tend to get less editing time, be shorter and snappier, and although they tend to sell a few less copies, they are becoming more and more popular with the advent of things like Kindle. If you have a story that just can’t stretch the fifty thousand word count, consider looking at an e-book or two in your genre to see if it might be a better fit.