#2 How To Be An Author: Publishers…Yay…

Way back in that long ago October, when I was first starting out, (and let me re-iterate here, I am by no means declaring that after three years I know all there is to know about this crazy writing world, or am an expert on marketing, or any other aspect of being a professional author) I finished my first manuscript, and started a new one right away while I tried to figure out what to do with my baby.

I started with some of my favorite ebook publishers.

Read their submission requirements, which were written, btw, with a lot more tech savvy individuals in mind than I was then. I reformatted to the best of my ability, labored over synopsis and summary, and query letter and …

Paid attention to that little phrase "We do not accept simultaneous submissions."

So, being the law abiding, rule following sort who can get lost finding my way out of a paper bag, I sent it to one publisher at a time.

It took six weeks to find out that the first publisher wasn't interested. I moved on to the next publisher on the list, and finished my second manuscript. I started the third, as it was a second book in a series.

Six weeks later, I'd finished first drafts for two more books in my series, and hadn't yet heard back from the second publisher about my first story.

I started looking for a third choice, and you know what? Almost all of them had variations in how they wanted material submitted. But they all had that little phrase, "No simultaneous submissions." Then, I decided to explore other options for my first book while I focused on the second, third, etc.  I decided to self-publish my first book (oy, Lessons learned there, in a separate post, coming along one day.) in order to move on with the publication process on my series.

And I made a few other decisions too.

  1.  I formatted my documents in Times New Roman, size 12 double-spaced. That is a perfectly legible font used frequently in academic circles; it's easily read, and when submitting, for consideration, that OUGHT to be the publisher's sole guideline. (Why? Because if a publisher is going to nitpick the use of font, hidden formatting objects, and so on…then they may not have the flexibility to work with the directions I wanted to pursue…which didn't always fall strictly in the boundaries of what was "right".)
  2.   I sent my submission to as many publishers as I wanted to, all at once. (Why? Because it's my right to do so as an author. I don't have to sit back and wait, subbing consecutively just because the publisher says so. Publishing isn't a one sided activity. I could be sitting here, sending out A Beautiful Silence every six to eight weeks, three years later, one publisher at a time, letting them decide before I moved on. You don't have to do that. In truth, I seriously doubt if until this moment, any of the publishers even knew that I sent Keeping House to six publishing houses at once.)
  3.    The publisher is a partner in your book – not your boss. Seriously, he's making money off your work. Don't be so thrilled to be offered a contract that you forget that you are THE KEY ELEMENT to the success of the venture.

Now, those were all decisions I made without experience, no contacts, no real knowledge of the ebook publishing industry. Since then, I've learned a bit.

For instance…You know why each publishing house has its own little nit-picky guidelines for how they want your submission formatted?

            Because then they can make it harder for you to send a blanket submission. In the long run, while you will have to change all your tabbed indents to automatic, and your font to whatever they prefer, the fact is, that is something that can be fixed in minutes during your first round of edits or even pre-edits. Adjusting the formatting to house standard ought to occur after acceptance. It just makes more sense, doesn't it?

            Why would they want it to be harder for you to send a blanket submission? Because then you are more inclined to cheer and cry in delight and accept that contract they offer you. Because let's face it, if you have to receive a contract, then sub again, then wait six weeks to get two offers to compare? That's not going to happen. Odds are, you're going to accept that first offer, and it might take a few before you realize there might just be something better out there.

            You see, like a lot of people, publishers want the option of accepting or refusing you.  They have hundreds of submissions, and they want to choose the ones they think will sell best. They want the power position.
You don't have to give it to them. By sending your ms to a variety of publishers, you share power. You are choosing, not just waiting to be chosen. You have the option of looking at contract terms and publishers and deciding which one you want to work with.

            The publisher isn't your boss. He's your co-worker, your adviser,  your partner. He may have a contract for your work, but he doesn't own it. Don't think you have to accept everything he says as a mandate from heaven.

            The bottom line is you can get your book out there without a publisher. Without an author, a publisher has nothing to sell. 

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Be Yourself

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings, 1955