Friday, October 4, 2013

Getting Published Part One: An Interview with a Publishing Insider



Hello Fellow Junkies,

As an indie author, I aspire to get my books out there and noticed. Unfortunately, sometimes that's a very hard thing to do. My ultimate goal is to get traditionally published by a huge publishing house, but after many, many...many rejection letters, I've kind of resigned myself to the fact that it's probably not going to happen.

Am I going to let the rejections stop me, though? Hell no! I’ll just keep trying and keep writing. Everyone has to have a dream—a goal they’re working towards—and although it may seem unattainable, I’ll keep writing and I’ll keep submitting to literary agents and publishers because no one has the right to take away someone else’s dreams. It just comes down to how badly you want it.

And I want it.

So, what have I got for you today? Well, if you’re an established indie looking to get published, or maybe just an author new to the scene, you don’t want to miss this two-part interview with a Publishing Insider. I’ve broken this interview down into:

a)      General comments about publishing, and
b)     Advice for authors. 

Without further ado, may the mysteries of the publishing universe be revealed…

1. On an average day, how many manuscripts/query letters do you receive from:

a.     Agents?
A carefully vetted selection (maybe 5 – 10)
b.     Directly from authors?
Hundreds!

And how many of those do you actually investigate further?

The majority of publications that are published are from Agent’s submissions. In terms of unsolicited manuscripts, we publish very few (under 2%).

2. What happens to the manuscripts you’ve passed on? Do they simply go onto a slush pile, or are they destroyed? Is there ever an instance where you’d hang onto a manuscript because you thought there was potential in the idea, but it wasn’t ‘quite there yet’?

These are destroyed or deleted. If a manuscript shows promise we will go back to the author at the time of their initial submission and ask to see a few more chapters, but we don’t generally hold onto submissions.

 
3. Do you bounce ideas/manuscripts off fellow publishers, or is it a lone decision you make?

Definitely – it is always useful to get another opinion. Although it is a rather lengthy process to get a manuscript to the Publisher, it is just the starting point for us – if we receive a book we think has “legs” we’ll talk about it with the publishing team and obtain buy-in from the sales, marketing and publicity teams. From here we prepare a business case to the executive team in order to receive financial backing before making an offer to the author, so during this process many people in the publishing team are consulted.

4. In the fiction genre, what’s the current trend?

Vampire/Werewolf/Zombie romance and fantasy, erotic fiction (mainly e-books) are the current trends. Fantasy, romance and crime fiction are always the areas where the most manuscripts are received.

5. What’s your prediction for future trends in fiction?

“Farm-lit” to replace “Chick-lit”. (Note: “Farm Lit” = “Chick-lit” but with a tree-change). Perhaps women are mentally moving out of the city, given the rise of books that base their heroine’s lives around homesteads and wine making as opposed to slick city offices and corporate jobs.

6. Is the practice of selling  a manuscript to a bigger publishing house common:
a.     In Australia?
b.     In the USA?
c.      In the UK?

I wouldn’t say it is common practice amongst publishers globally. To clarify, Australian publishers will generally only offer a book to the UK or US once it has first been published locally and has been very successful. If book sales and market trends indicate the book will sell well overseas, and the publisher has a partner company overseas, they may offer the rights to be sold by another publisher (this is all covered in an author’s contract).

In some cases, international publishers may approach an Australian publisher to buy the rights, but this is rare, given our population is so much lower than the US or the UK, so our books sales generally reflect this. In non-fiction publishing, publishers may approach partner publishers if they have an un-published book that is good, but will not reach expected books sales if only published locally.

7. What’s one myth about publishing you’d like to debunk?

Most authors are not “overnight sensations”. Not even J.K. Rowling or E.L. James. (And using your initials won’t make you more successful…despite aforementioned example of J.K. Rowling and E.L. James).

8. What’s one truth about publishing people don’t know?

It’s rare to make a living solely as a “book author” in Australia. Many writers freelance non-fiction articles to magazines or work as freelance editors to supplement their income. Successful authors can also be full-time mums who write once their kids are in bed, business professionals who write on the train and retirees who have only just got around to writing that book!

9. What’s the name of your biggest author-superstar at the moment?

For fiction, Hannah Kent (Burial Rites). Non-fiction is high on the best-sellers list this year with Sarah Wilson (I Quit Sugar) and Hugh Mackay (The Good Life) both incredibly successful this year (in fact, I actually bought 3 copies of Sarah’s book I liked it so much – yes, Publisher’s still buy books occasionally…).

10. In your opinion is the self-publishing revolution hurting the traditional publishing industry? Why/why not?

No, I personally encourage it as there is a place for both. There are a lot of good books that we can’t publish and avenues such as Amazon.com or Spunk Press (www.spunk.org) are a great way of getting your work published. There are pros and cons to both types of publishing avenues. 

The benefit to traditional publishing is the distribution agreements we have with bookstores and other sales channels, which self-publishers rarely have access to, as well as teams of marketing and promotional professionals – this ultimately results in more sales than self-publishers can generate on their own. 

Publishers also pay the upfront costs for publishing the text, which can be very expensive once you take into account editing, permissions, typesetting, artwork, printing and advertising. Given this, we ask that authors “sell” us their content in return for a royalty agreement, which means they do not have complete ownership of the final product. 

This arrangement doesn’t suit everyone, and for those that prefer to be completely independent and have the means to publish their own book (as e-books and print-on-demand systems are making this much more accessible) then self-publishing is a good option to look at.

I think “free” publications are more damaging to the traditional publishing industry than the issue of whether a book is self-published or not. When e-books were first released many self-published books were able to be downloaded for free or at a very nominal cost, as a quick way for authors to get their name and content in the public arena.

This (in conjunction with free Google-searches, free-YouTube clips and free news) has meant that readers have come to expect that if content is online it should be free or very inexpensive. While there is not the printing cost associated with e-books, there are still many expenses that need to be covered – editing, proof-reading, typesetting, fees for e-book conversion, Amazon (or similar) fees, author royalties, advertising costs – this means that if a publisher is to sell an e-book for $5, instead of $20 for a print copy, we need to sell twice as many copies to meet costs and sales expectations. 

We don’t necessary sell twice as many books just because it is cheaper, which means that it is getting harder to meet all our costs. This leads to us being able to take less “risks” with publishing – so it is much safer for us to publish established authors – which further increases the gap for good, yet unpublished authors, who may find self-publishing a quicker route to being published.

11. What is more prestigious, being an indie author, or a traditionally published author?

Well, as a Publisher, I’m obviously slightly biased towards traditional publishing. Do I think that there is the prestige attached to publishing houses that there was twenty years ago? No. With more ways to publish content globally there are a lot of good authors out there that can still be good authors without the help of publishers. 

In saying that, I still believe there is prestige in having a publisher’s logo on your book – not only for the numerous prestigious writing awards that offer great incentives (which many self-published books aren’t eligible for) - but the logo shows others that you’ve done the hard yards, passed through the agents, the reviewers, the publishers, the editors and the thousands of other books that get rejected each year – to have your own professionally published book. I still believe there is merit in that.

12. Finish this sentence: The future of publishing is…online. Print books are far from dead, but publishing is increasingly about embracing new technology and looking at new ways of presenting information to the rest of the world.

Stay tuned for part two of this interview which covers the
Publisher's advice to authors!


 

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