The Author's Trap
Updated: Aug 14
Most of us have seen adverts in papers and on the internet such as, Publisher seeks authors. A word to the wise here, publishers don’t. They have enough people submitting to them constantly to keep them busy for a very long time.
Adverts such as this are placed by companies whose sole purpose it is to convince people to use their services, and they make you pay a lot for it too. They’ll charge you for editing, publishing and even marketing, and they often use self-publishing platforms that you can use yourself for no cost at all. The worst thing of all is that after charging you for all of this the ISBN will be owned by them, so they’ll take a residual income from sales before giving you a cut! Genuine publishers, incidentally, won’t charge you a penny.
Generally, to get a book professionally published you need to go through an agent and it’s
quite rare to find a publisher who has open submissions – i.e. who take direct from the author. The reason for that is that even the publishing industry has had to cut costs. The slush pile is long gone, as are the readers who determined if a book warrants a second look. These days agents fulfil that purpose.
Publishers know that an agent will only take on a book if they deem it viable. This doesn’t mean your work isn’t up to merit, it simply means that it’s not what they are specifically looking for at that time. Word to the wise, go on agents websites and see what they are seeking. For instance, it’s pointless sending a horror novel to someone looking for romance material only.
Incidentally, most writers have collections of rejection slips. We need to develop a tough hide and a lot of belief in ourselves to ignore them, but ask yourself why it was rejected and try to use this to improve the work, and as an incentive to drive yourself forward.
Don’t forget, the reason publishers are so picky is because they invest a lot of money in their authors. They have editing costs, staff to pay, proofreading, printing, transportation, insurance, storage, and promotion costs too – and these days purse strings are tight.
This is unlike self-publishing. Sure, you can pay to have a print run done by a vanity press yourself but most small publishers use POD (Print on Demand), where amazon prints specifically to each book order – hence why some are so expensive. However, self-publishing is relatively easy. There are step-by-step guides on many sites, including Amazon itself.
So, do you need an agent and where do you find one?
While many writers don’t actually have
agents it’s advisable to have one if possible. Why? Because Agents know what publishers are looking for, who pays best, and how to get the best deal. They’ll also deal with paperback, hardback and softback rights, audio, foreign prints, and so forth. Agents get paid on commission. Consequently, the more money they can get for your book the more they get paid themselves.
To find agents isn’t hard, it’s getting accepted by them that is. You’ll find them listed in ‘The Writer & Artists Yearbook’, and ‘The Guide to Literary Agents’. Personally, I update these every couple of years. You can also google agents seeking authors and find several prospects that way.
In addition to the Publisher seeks author traps there’s also the many How to Write a Best-Seller guides. Do check out the author before buying such books, for you’ll be surprised how many have never actually done so.
To get your book in the best possible shape, join an online writing group such as the BSFA’s Orbiter - or if you're ex-military The Scribe itself. Getting feedback on each chapter or short story from published and unpublished writers is priceless and well worth the outlay of any applicable fees. But do shop around, as costs for such groups vary.