The Roads To Being Published

For a new author, is it better to target smaller publishers than larger publishing names? Or, is it a way to sell one’s self short? Could it be 6 of one, half-a-dozen of another? (Yes, you will be publshed, but smaller returns.)

What do the Sdopers say?

  • Jinx

What have you written? The type of book can be a factor.

But the best general rule is to start at the top and move down from there. Even better: work on getting an agent (don’t pay anything up front – that’s a scam). A good agent will handle your marketing issues and let you go back to writing.

A big publisher may pay more, but there are more books for them to chose from. OTOH, they publish more books. A small publisher may get fewer submissions, but they also publish fewer books, so that’s pretty much a wash.

Ditto on the agent. And ditto on they only get paid when you get paid.

Let the agent handle the marketing. They know the market and have the contacts to get the manuscript on the right desk. And that makes an enormous difference.

Get Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book PUbilshers, Editors & Literary Agents. It’s fifty times more informative than the Writer’s Market and has produced more nibbles for me than anything else.

  1. Research genres and know EXACTLY where your book will fit in. I found out too late that I was marketing my novel as ‘contemporary fiction’ when it was actually ‘women’s fiction’ and/or ‘literary fiction’. Sounds picky, but some agents dismiss certain genres out of hand.

  2. Get ready for the long haul.

  3. The only PUBLISHER that ever responded to me in person was an Erotica Publisher, otherwise I’ve only EVER spoken to literary agents.

Have you finished writing any of the projects that you’ve mentioned? If not, my best advice is to stop asking questions about them, turn off the Dope, and finish them.

Then and only then ask questions.

My greatest complaint about the writing world is how stuck up and snooty other writers are.

There is NEVER a wrong time to ask questions, Jinx.

Also, if YOU say you’re a writer, you’re a writer.

How about if everybody takes a step back a bit and shows a little support?

For a professional writer, “Sit your ass in the chair and start typing,” is support. And is the only kind of support worth mentioning. You can’t do anything with an unfinished manuscript.

Of course the question wasn’t “how can I finish this manuscript”, was it? or did I miss part of the OP?

The author was asking for publishing advice and you just assumed they weren’t finished writing.

Really? I’ve found that pro writers are always happy to answer questions from newbies. Giving advice is part of the job and I’ve rarely seen a published writer who didn’t gladly give out information to people starting out.

Not exactly. See my sig.

[Glares through lorgnette at jarbabyj] “Well, really!

Have you been following Jinx’s endless series of posts on publishing? I have.

Here’s one.

And another.

And another one.

And another one.

Deeper in 2003.

And even farther back.

I’ve conscientiously been giving answers to the best of my ability. Each and every time. I don’t see your name in these.

But the quality of answers you can give is directly proportional to the quality of the questions asked. Without knowing more about Jinx’s mysterious project there is virtually no way at all to saying anything intelligent in return. And answering a six-month series of questions for someone who is worried more about publishing than about finishing the manuscript is frustrating and annoying.

If you recall, I also tried to answer all of your questions about publishing. In the field we call that “paying forward” - repaying those who helped us by giving advice to the next generation. You seem to have taken the advice to heart and finished a manuscript. Good for you. But that doesn’t make you a writer yet. It just gets you as far as the slush pile.

Is that harsh? Unsupportive? I guess so. But writing is a business, not a therapy group. There are writers groups out there that will give you support, thousands of them. And there are writing cultures that will give you support. Romance writers are very big on support, as evidenced by the chapter structure of the RWA. Science fiction writers, OTOH, tend to think that if you want support, buy a truss.

When and if Jinx wants support, then those who choose to do so will provide it. As long as Jinx wants professional advice, I’ll offer mine. And my professional advice is to stop asking vague, unanswerable questions about a mysterious and undefined project.

Yes, they give information, but not without looking down their nose and assuring said newbie that everything they’ve done is wrong. I long ago stopped asking for writing advice online because of responses like that. Or people who assume I have no manuscript prepared, or assume I have no idea what I’m doing when actually I do. Just because I have a question doesn’t mean I’m a two bit hack.

Right. A quote by YOU. What an authority you are. Although I am not yet published, I consider myself a writer. I have completed manuscripts by…guess what…WRITING. I’ve been writing since I was a child. I don’t need the accolades of others OR a paycheck to consider myself a writer. I’ve written stories for my grandmother so she can remember our childhood…I’ve written biographies for my parents, stories for my friends and lovers. I write to give people something interesting to read.

I hope someday I get published. I hope someday I get paid for it. But if I don’t, I’ll still be a writer, whether you think so or not.

I don’t have as much emotion invested in this, but I am curious about this definition of a writer. What makes you a writer, exactly?

I don’t exactly self-identify as a writer (or if I am one, I’m only a marginal one). However, through a series of events, I’ve written a book. It’s a “how to” book, sold through my website (the response I got from the site prompted me to write the book). Sales are decent and should improve when I distribute the book through and B& (I just got my ISBN numbers to do that). Oh, I also had the book professionally copyedited so I don’t think it sucks too badly. (I got some good advice from fellow dopers about the copyediting thing. ;))

Now, I’m an artist (I wrote about how to do something creative), so I won’t have my feelings hurt if y’all say I’m not a writer. But I’m curious—how do we determine this? No publisher or agent has seen my book and told me I was officially a writer. But plenty of people have bought it and so far, no one’s complained or asked for their money back. Feedback has been positive. Does this mean I’m a writer?

And therefore, if someone like jarbabyj or any other so-called newbie gets their book self-published and are selling it, or if they sell anything they’ve written, or simply get a lot of positive feedback on something they’ve written, have they earned the title of “writer”? Just curious, is all.

It looks like you you have a big chip on your shoulder. When someone does something wrong, isn’t it the responsibility of an established writer to point that out? Or should we say, “Oh, that’s just fine,” when it isn’t?

The truth about writing can be harsh, but I know of no writer online that doesn’t answer questions about writing openly and with an eye to educating the questioner about the realities.

And since we don’t know anything about the questioner, certain principles have to be mentioned just in case the person asking doesn’t know about it. Lots of people ask questions about how to get published without having written a manuscript first, so it is incumbent on a writer to mention this, just in case. If you think that is “looking down their noses,” it’s your problem, not theirs.

It’s not my quote. The actual line was written by Robert E. Thompson for the film “Hearts of the West.” And it raises a valid point: you can write, but that doesn’t automatically make you a writer, any more than playing basketball in your driveway automatically makes you a basketball player.

The way you describe yourself, you’re someone who likes to write. That fine, but it doesn’t automatically make you a writer. To be a writer, you need to be able to write well, not just put words down on paper. Maybe you are a writer, but unless someone someone else confirms it, you’ll never know if you’re any good or not.

Uh, why wouldn’t such a person be a basketball player? I don’t know any definition of “basketball player” that excludes driveway-play.

Yes, perhaps I do have a chip on my shoulder. Some of the first words of advice I received on these boards regarding writing were from RealityChuck. I asked about editors, and their use. Then took it to private email where I jokingly asked if Chuck wanted to be a freelance editor.

To which you replied, flatly. “You couldn’t afford it.”


Your sig makes it look like it’s attributed to you, the AUTHOR of the two books you listed. Perhaps that’s the effect you want, I don’t know.

And it’s this attitude of yours that just because I’m not published I don’t write “well” that sticks in my craw. You have NO. IDEA. if I write well or not. You should know very well that there are some excellent books and authors out there not getting published.

No maybe about it, pal. I’m a writer. Just like someone who slaves in the kitchen all day on a Thanksgiving meal is a COOK, regardless of whether it’s in a five star restaurant. Just like someone who is in plays all their life without being paid for it is an ACTOR.

When I think of the blood, sweat and tears I’ve put into trying to get published, the hoops I’ve jumped through the near constant rejection I’ve put up with, the advice I’ve taken (which turned out to be bad AND good), the idea that YOU don’t think I’m a writer is hilarious.

Jinx, good luck in your endeavors. Don’t give up…have fun, work hard, do your research. There’s a lot of rejection on the road to getting published. I choose NOT to be a brick in that path.

I have to say, I haven’t run into much snobbery at all, asking for writing advice online. Exapno and Chuck, in particular, have been very helpful–especially in the Cover Letter thread, which I bookmarked because I found it so insanely instructive. There’s tons of helpful advice out there, and I have yet to meet a pro, in real life or online, who hasn’t given that advice generously and cheerfully.

I’m not published (yet), but it seems to me that Exapno is right–Jinx’s question is too general to give a really good answer. And “Is the manuscript finished?” is a pertinent question–if you don’t have a finished ms, the rest is irrelevant. It’s not snobbery to say that–it’s the truth. And while jarbaby and jinx might both be serious enough about their writing to finish their projects, the vast majority of people who give it a try don’t. I’ve noticed that lots of people start, agonize over various things (what font to write in? what program? outline or not? what should my writing music be? is it science fiction or not? where should I submit it?) and then never actually do much writing. I noticed this especially during NaNoWriMo–to all those folks, the only good answer was “stop worrying about all that and write the darn novel!”

Which brings me to my next agreement with Exapno–“Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, write!” really is the best, most supportive advice you can give a writer. I suppose it can sound dismissive, but it’s the essential secret to completing a manuscript. Any more specific advice is precluded by the lack of specifics in the OP, but “sit down and write!” is always good advice. If it seems like that’s the answer every experienced pro gives to newbies, it’s not because they’re snobby, it’s because it’s the central truth they have to offer, the most important thing they can pass on. They’re not being a brick in anybody’s path. They’re not telling anyone to give up–on the contrary, they’re encouraging newbies to keep working on what matters.

I disagree with Chuck, though, about driveway basketball players not being basketball players. They’re not pros, and if someone says “what do you do?” with no more specific context, they won’t say they’re basketball players. But it’s easy enough, given context, to distinguish “I’m a basketball player” meaning “I play for an NBA team” and “I’m a basketball player” meaning “I spend a lot of my free time playing and improving my game in my driveway.” I think “I’m a writer” is similarly, uh, context-dependent, and most people have no difficulty accepting that, and knowing what’s meant in a given situation. I think anyone who takes their basketball playing seriously, and works on it, is a basketball player, whether or not I think they’re any good, and whether or not they ever make a dime from it. I think the same of writing.

(Of course, if someone said they were a basketball player and then spent much time complaining loudly in a coffee shop that he had lost his basketball playing muse, and had layup-block, but never actually touched a basketball, then I’d be less generous…but that’s an entirely different issue.)

I appreciate everyone’s feedback in all my posts on this subject, but I didn’t twist anyone’s arm to reply, either. I am working diligently, but a piece of my brain keeps saying “you’re wasting your time”. So, I have to satisfy that little voice by asking these questions to gather info, even if just “fodder for thought”, for now. That’s just the way I tick, so sue me for being the inquring type. Meanwhile, I am chopping away at a manuscript, and I have a personal deadline I intend to keep. This isn’t just wishful thinking, here.

I was given a similar lecture at AAA when I asked for a triptik a few months in advance. When I plan a trip, I am like a captina navigating out each inch of the way to get the most BANG for the Buick! :wink: I don’t need to waste time chasing my tail. I have it all sorted out, and I know where I’m going.

Same thing here. There’s a method to my madness. And, if I didn’t ask…then I’d be mad with no method at all! Sorry, but that’s how I am. By posting these questions, I need to glimpse at the master plan to know where I’m headed. And now that I’m paying to subscribe, I don’t see the harm in asking to get my money’s worth. My free time is valauble, too, you know…I want to crawl inside the publishers’ heads and see how they think. That’s me, folks.

Thanks for trying to understand, and please keep answering so I can get as complete a picture as I can on this matter.

  • Jinx
    P.S. Even the Beatles were turned down flat by Decca Records; big mistake!

I know that little voice–I have one just like it!

I also know what you mean about planning ahead, wanting to know where you’re going. I’ve only finished my ms in the past few weeks, but I’ve been reading and asking questions for the past year.

But I think what Exapno and Chuck have been trying to say is that this question (and a couple of your other ones) can’t be really answered well without more information. You want to know which publishers are best to submit to–and in another thread you wanted to know publishers’ attitudes and policies to first-timers–except I suspect the answer to those questions depends on, for instance, what market you’re writing for/submitting to. I think they can give you a better answer if you explain what your project is. Not an outline or anything, just some basic information–“I’m writing a post-apocalyptic paranormal romance, I think it’s going to end up somewhere around 100K.” Or whatever. Different markets have different policies, and different ways of doing things, so there isn’t one general answer. It’s kind of like going to AAA and asking for a triptick without telling them where you’re going, or where you’re starting from.

What? Am I chopped liver, here? Will no one answer my question?

I’ll rephrase it: Is someone who finishes a manuscript, self-publishes, and then sells the book at a fairly steady level (and gets positive feedback from buyers) a “writer” or not?

There are quite a few people who have done this. Are they “writers”? Or not? I don’t care if I am called a writer (because to be honest, I don’t feel like one), but if jarbabyj or anyone else self-publishes and is able to sell their efforts, have they “arrived” as a writer, or does it take more than that?