(Estimated reading time, 2 glasses of wine)
So you’ve written a book or want to write a book and have no frigging idea of what to do next. Well hopefully over the next couple of glasses of wine I’ll help fill in some gaps and give you the motivation and knowledge to take your work out and show it to the world. Disclaimer first: This information is based on my own experience of getting published along with reading countless other blog posts, websites and books by other authors, publishers and agents. So I’ve done all the boring research for you. However this is no way a definitive guide but it can get you started and demystify the publishing process.
It’s all about the money
Keep in mind that publishing is a business designed to make money. Agents and publishers don’t just publish books to make people feel good, they want to know if your book will sell and make money. It’s that simple. Always keep that in the back of your mind when going through this process.
How the publishing industry works – the basic version
· A publishing house will work with you to get your book finished and to print.
· They work closely with a distribution company to work on the ‘sales’ angle for your book and then the distributor ‘sells’ the book to bookshops and retail outlets.
· A bookshop will buy a certain number of copies and if after a set number of months, if there are any copies left, they can send the books back to the publisher and get a refund. Some distributors will charge a ‘return postage fee’ which may affect how many books the bookshop will initially order.
· The publisher will arrange promotion and publicity.
· With assistance from the publisher / agent the author will develop an author platform to run complimentary to promotion and publicity.
· You get paid a royalty (percentage) of each book sale. Usually 10% paid twice yearly.
Know your book.
It’s important to know where your book fits into the scheme of things. Is it fiction or non fiction? What genre does it fit into? What other books are out there like yours? Visit book shops to see what’s out there. Do a Google search for similar genres and categories. It’s about learning how to describe your book in a quick and easy fashion. Like an elevator pitch where you only have 30 seconds to describe your book to a stranger.
Publisher or agent?
Firstly you have to decide if you either want to start with a Literary Agent who champions your book on your behalf or go straight to a publisher. However if you go to the publishers first and they reject you, you can’t go and pitch to an agent, because if the publishers reject your work, then an agent won’t able to ‘sell’ it to the publishers if they’ve already rejected it. It’s complicated. Top up your wine.
Having an agent is like having your very own manager. They champion you and your books to publishers and have your best interests in mind. They make their money by taking a percentage of your royalties, yet they can usually help negotiate a better percentage with a publisher than what you could have done yourself, so it all balances out. All the top authors have a literary agent, however, unfortunately they are very reluctant to take on unpublished authors or unsolicited manuscripts. There are also only a handful of Literary Agents in Australia which makes it almost impossible to get one if you’re not known or even moderately known.
Examples include Random House, Allen and Unwin, Penquin etc.
They pay and arrange for everything, including manuscript review and advice, editing, spellchecking, cover design, typesetting, distribution, promotion and publicity. You get around 10% in royalties per physical book and you don’t have to pay out anything. You also get other royalties such as ebooks, overseas rights and subsidiary rights ie audio books, film rights etc. The publisher works with a distributor to get your book into bookshops and the online bookshops. However the publisher will offer you a contract on their terms and if you don’t have very good negotiating skills and you don’t know what you’re doing you could get diddled. Check out the Australia Society of Authors
information about author contracts
Self publish / print on demand.
With this model, you have to arrange everything (editing, cover design, printing etc) however you get to keep most of the cash! You could either pay thousands to get your books printed and fill up your garage or do POD (Print on Demand) via Amazon etc. Unfortunately you won’t be able to get your books into the bricks and mortar retailers. If your book is just text only, you may want to look at doing an ebook and uploading straight to Amazon and other ebook sites. There are some incredible success stories of authors publishing straight to Amazon and then being offered a publishing contract with a traditional publisher. AG Riddle
is a perfect example. However with this model, you have to do all the publicity and promotion yourself which is time consuming and may cause you to consume lots of wine.
However there are some great books out there on promotion such as Emma Noble’s book, The DIY PR guide.
They look and feel like a traditional publisher, yet they expect you to pay some of the costs upfront. They may not have the relationship with a distributor so it’s harder to get your book into bookshops if at all. I know of a few people that have been burnt or have been left disappointed by going down this path. Look out for words like ‘Hybrid Publisher ‘, ‘assisted self publishing’ and the like. It can be a minefield and some vanity publishers may be genuine and give your manuscript the attention and criticism that any self respecting traditional publisher would give, but most don’t. They just want your money and will often accept any manuscript no natter how good or bad. Don’t confuse hybrid publishers with hybrid authors. Hybrid authors use a combination of traditional and self publishing. Research the topic well. It may involve more wine. Read more about it.
If you want to go down the Traditional Publishing route (highly recommended) It’s best to Google all the publishers in Australia. Read their submission guidelines and stick to them! They’re very picky.
The guidelines usually involve (but not always) 4 things:
1. An introductory letter. This is very brief, less than one page and you have to sell your book, and yourself, in only a couple of paragraphs.
2. The Book Pitch.
This is the most important aspect of the whole process. You may have a sensational manuscript, but if the pitch is boring as cold porridge, then it’s not going to do you any favours. Google about how to write a book pitch or just email me email@example.com
and I’ll email you the ones I’ve done for non fiction. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just use what’s already out there as a guideline.
3. An Author Bio.
Again Google the best way to write an author bio. These are the hardest to write as it has to be in 3rd
person (Josh is a prolific writer having published 5 books and drinks too much wine etc
) and you have talk yourself up. Once you’ve written several versions, run them past your partner or a friend and get their thoughts. Here’s a place to start.
4. Sample chapters: Again depending on the submission guidelines, usually you’re requested to send the first 3 chapters so they can get an idea of whether the book is remotely interesting, if it’ll be would profitable, and it gives them an idea of your writing style. If they’re interested they’ll request the rest of the manuscript to read and consider. It’s important that this is your best work! Check it for spelling and grammar and make sure there are no typos.
Once you have to your ‘submission pack’ ready to go then start hitting up the publishers and go to their submissions page. Often the big ones like Harper Collins, Random house etc, don’t take unsolicited manuscripts (meaning you can’t send to them direct) as they only accept submissions from agents (or their submissions window maybe closed and may not reopen until 2028 by which time you could be dead). Yes I know; if agents don’t take unsolicited manuscripts and neither do the big publishers, how the hell are you going to get your foot in the door?
Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.
Hachette has it’s submission window open: https://www.hachette.com.au/Information/ManuscriptSubmission.page
Also like their Facebook pages / Twitter pages etc and start to engage with them by liking and commenting on their posts and tweets. However don’t be an annoying twat.
I found my publisher by responding to a post they had made on Facebook where I asked who the person was to send a submission to. I got a name and an address, Bingo.
You pitch the same way as you do to an agent as you do a publisher. However triple check the submission guidelines.
Don’t pitch to more than 2 or 3 publishers at a time as it’s considered ‘rude’ if you make a submissions editor get excited about your work only then to tell them that another publisher has already offered you a contract.
And with Agents only do one at a time. Wait for the rejection / acceptance and then hit up another one. Most agents take between 4 and 12 weeks to consider your submission. Yes that makes it a very lengthy and bloody boring process and you could most probably get married and have 2 kids by the time one finally accepts you. For a full list of Literary Agents in Australia check out https://austlitagentsassoc.com/
Develop your author platform.
Ok, pour another glass of wine.
I’ll only briefly touch on this one as it could make another blog post altogether. It’s not enough to rely on your publisher to promote you unless you’re JK Rowling, Stephen King or Jimmy Barnes, so you have to develop your author platform and work it like a boss.
Basically an author platform is about how you interact with your readers.
· How personable are you? (Are you friendly? Are you easy to work with? Do you like people?)
· Social media (what platforms are you working? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram? How many people to do you reach and how well do your interact with them? Do you interact with other authors and people with similar interests to your book?)
· Public Appearances. (Do you do book signings, talk at festivals, do radio , TV and press interviews?)
· Blogs / websites: (Do you have a website or blog where people can easily interact with you? Are you blogging and even commenting on other people’s blogs? This blog post is an example of working the author platform)
· Other websites / news outlets and blogs. Do you contribute stories or articles to other outlets and blogs?)
Any publisher or agent will be Googling your name like some crazed stalker to see if you already have a ‘presence’ and if your author platform is something they can work with. There is so more I could talk about but I’m sure your glass is getting nearly empty.
Now the positive ending.
Persistence is the key to getting published. Keep trying, trying and trying. If one avenue doesn’t seem be working, then try another one. Be humble accept feedback and criticism. Take it on board and use it to improve your work and your methods. Go to writers festivals and ask other authors how they got published. Stalk them on Facebook as well and be that curious but not too annoying fan that just wants to know everything. Authors secretly love being asked these questions as it makes them feel like they contributing something back.
Also checkout the links below:
That’s enough for now and your glass might need topping up, so if you have any other questions or want to tell me what a load of crap this is, or if you’re an agent and want to represent me, then feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to see your name on a book spine and I’m sure you do too.
About Josh Langley, author, illustrator and daydreamer.
After failing high school twice and spending a ridiculous amount of time being unemployed, Josh went onto create a successful career as an award winning radio creative writer spanning 20 years. However it was his insatiable thirst to find the meaning to life and death and the insights he received that led to the publishing of 3 illustrated books about happiness and two nonfiction Bill Brysonesque travelogues of his adventures to find evidence of the afterlife.
Josh has nearly finished his 6th book, How to Find Your Creative Mojo, which he hopes will help everyday people express their creative passion without any fear.
Josh lives on 7 and a half acres in the South West of Western Australia with his partner and a bunch of neurotic chickens.