I’ve loved reading and writing since I was a kid. I always knew I wanted to be an author, but I didn’t know much about the business of writing or different types of publishing. In my naivety, I assumed that writing the book would be the hard part. Boy, was I wrong. And as Elizabeth Gilbert tells us in Big Magic, it took a lot of bravery and willingness to face my fears in order to move forward.
Types of publishing
For my debut adult contemporary romance novel, Twist of Fate, I wanted to land an agent. I pitched literary agents live at a writing conference and created a kick ass submission package. I garnered a lot of interest in my work, but keep in mind how subjective writing can be. Agents may have similar authors and books on their list, so they’ll pass on yours. Your writing style may not resonate with them, or perhaps they won’t like the storyline. This doesn’t mean you have a terrible book or that you’re a bad writer.
My best advice is to research the types of publishing available and then focus there. If you want an agent, it may seem like a numbers game and that you should send your submission package to as many people as possible, but that’s not a great idea. Imagine you send it out to 100 agents and receive no responses. Perhaps your pitch needs to be tweaked, but it’s too late because you’ve already sent it to everyone. Instead, try 8-10 agents at a time and wait for their feedback.
Traditional publishing with an agent
The best way to be published by a Big Five publisher is to work with a literary agent. In fact, it’s often the only way to get a Big Five publisher to notice your work. I’ve heard literary agents take on about 6 new authors a year and they receive thousands of submissions. The odds aren’t exactly in your favour, but it’s not impossible either.
I wanted to try it and then move on to Plan B (and C) if required. If this is the path you want to follow, keep in mind that it can take a long time and that some agents simply don’t respond at all. Check out my submission tips for advice and to learn more about my publishing journey. You can also check out advice from Marlo Lanz who I interviewed last year about her debut contemporary romance novel, Raincheck.
Direct to publisher
It’s unlikely you’ll be published with a Big Five publisher without an agent, but you can query smaller houses or Big Five digital imprints who are willing to work directly with authors. I received multiple offers from publishers I queried directly and very recently signed a deal. If you are subscribed to my mailing list, you already know that Twist of Fate will be out this June!
Your cover, editing and some marketing will likely be covered by your publishing house. If they are legitimate, they will never charge you for these services. In most cases, you’ll receive royalties and no advance. Since you don’t have an agent to negotiate for you, have a legal professional review the contract to make sure you aren’t signing a bad deal.
You can choose to skip over the industry professionals I mentioned above and publish your own book. Many authors who are unable to land traditional deals go this route (and others choose to pursue it from the start). Some go on to have success and catch an agent’s eye. Others decide to stay independent or “indie” because they enjoy having full control over their work without trying to pitch an agent at all.
Being able to choose your own cover, set your own release date and be your own boss is appealing to some authors. My only caution is that self-published authors should go through the same rigorous process their traditional peers do, including professional editing. I shouldn’t be able to tell the difference when I pick up a self-published book.
You can check out my interviews with Cassie Faber and Lisa Becker, who I met on Instagram, to learn more about their self-publishing journeys. Cassie’s debut novel is called Frozen Memories and Lisa has written several books, including Clutch and the Click trilogy (Click, Right Click and Double Click).
Vanity or hybrid publishing
Some authors can’t (or choose not to) land a traditional deal. They still feel their work is marketable, but they don’t want to take on the somewhat daunting self-publishing process. This is where vanity or hybrid publishers come in. Unlike submitting directly to a traditional publisher, which I outlined above, these vanity or hybrid publishers do charge the author.
Authors can choose the services they want to buy and in return they get a publishing partner (albeit one they paid for). I was once told to hire all the help you can afford to and I agree with the sentiment. Just make sure you do your research if this is the option you choose because there are a lot of shady vanity presses out there (some even try to disguise themselves as being legit. If they ask you to pay for anything, including forcing you to buy copies of your own book, then they are likely a wolf in sheep’s clothing).
How do you publish your books?
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