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* Posts Saved From the CW List

. .Publishers

* When Guidelines Say - "No Unsolicited Manuscripts!"
*Advances and Royalties - Don't Give Publishers the Benefit of the Doubt





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Don't Give Publishers the Benefirt of the Doubt.
by Jan Fields -
a writer who knows a thing or two about publishing books.

We have a number of people on the CW list (or who have been on the list) who like testing the waters for a new thing. We've also had Linda Joy (who had done plenty of books with VERY known houses) who decided to give ebooks a try, knowing they don't produce a lot of sales -- but because she had a book that wasn't selling and she just wanted to see what ebooks were like.

We had Dotti, who had a story she decided to try out with a brand spanking new publisher who was doing some...well, really unfortunate things. Dotti knew the publisher was probably going to end up not working, but she had this story and it wasn't going to go anywhere else -- so why the heck not? She was curious. When the publisher crashed and burned, she dusted off her britches and continued on her career path because she'd already KNOWN that was the likely end result of her gusty move. She was prepared for it, so it didn't cause any kind of set-back for her.

So, sometimes people have reasons for choosing off-road publishing with full knowledge that it's probably not going to go anywhere much (and possibly go nowhere at all)...but it will be interesting, and educational and they have lots of other books. I'm impressed by that -- it's gutsy AND realistic. I like gutsy AND realistic. There is nothing wrong with looking at a publisher from a position of experience and saying -- okay, I know this is not how it's done. I know the crash and burn likelihood is high -- but I'm gonna ride this wave because it's going to be interesting. I don't have
that kind of nerve, but I am actually impressed by those who do.

But to stubbornly stamp one's foot and insist that a publisher should be given the benefit of the doubt when they're doing an ever increasing number of unfortunate things -- that's not so good and does make a writer look more than a little gullible so try not to be too insulted when folks suggest gullibility might be coming into play.


Publishers (not editors) are trying to maximize profit while still abiding by whatever mission statement they may have. They are not trying to protect you. They are not trying to hurt you (unless they're a scam). They are doing business for their best interest which sometimes coincides with your best interest and sometimes doesn't. So, you always need to go in totally and boldly looking for the "screw you" potential so that you can deal with it. Okay, I see it here, here, here, here, and here -- let's see if we can change any of those -- and those I cannot change, let's think about whether
I can deal with the possible bad end. If I can deal with it and I still want to see what happens then I'm going in.

I have actually worked with a publisher that has been around a long long while but who was trying something totally totally new -- children's series fiction with an unusual marketing method. They wanted me to do a series for them and they would pay me up front so whether their marketing idea worked or not would not effect my getting paid. I paused, looked for all the "screw you" potential in the deal -- changed those things I could change, and then thoughtfully decided if I could live with the rest if those things turned around to bite me. The end result is NOT a normal publishing
experience. But I got good money, a right pretty book, and possible steady money in the future -- though I am definitely NOT banking on possibilities.

So, feel free to doubt publishers, question publishing methods, consider the "screw you" potential -- then decide. But know, the folks who aren't giving a business the benefit of the doubt -- they're making a reasonable logical choice too. If you're going to do the gusty bold thing -- admit it, because otherwise, you're not going to
like the end result when the benefit of the doubt bites you hard.


When Guidelines say, "No Unsolicited Manuscripts."

Kim Norman - who sold a book based on an unsolicited query

"No unsolicited manuscripts" does not mean you can't send something to these publishers. (Those who are truly closed will say something like "Not accepting submissions.")

"No unsolicited" just means you must send them a one-page QUERY first. If they like your idea and feel your book is a possible fit for their list, they will reply to your letter inviting you to send your manuscript. Then, WHEE! Suddenly you're sending a solicited manuscript.
I understand your confusion. I used to think that "no unsolicited" meant they actually only approached famous people and solicited manuscripts from them. Sounds incredibly naive of me now, but that's honestly what I thought.
You do not have to be previously published or famous or have any sort of contact in the industry for a publisher to take your query seriously. I got many "yes" responses to my queries early in my career, when I didn't know a SOUL in "the biz."
If they wish to see your manuscript based on your query, they'll write back and tell you their company procedure for you to send the now-solicited manuscript. Usually that means marking your envelope as "requested material," or something along those lines.
(Now I know what some people are thinking: "Why not just mark the envelope "requested material" FIRST and send it off? Answer: Editors have good memories. They will not only know they did not request a falsely marked manuscript, they will also remember the deception if you try to contact them later, even if you do it "by the rules" the 2nd time.)
There is lots of information online and in books on how to write a good query. It's a form of marketing yourself. The query serves as a first glimpse of your writing style, so it needs to have personality and yet be professional. I know it seems hard to convey the quality of a million-times-revised story in a li'l old query, but trust me, editors are well-trained to spot potential in a query. Plus, you can always insert a small excerpt from your manuscript so they can get a sense of your style as well.
Do a search online or in an online bookstore on "How to write a good/strong query," and you'll hit a mother lode of helpful information.
Good luck!

Another post from Kim

Most big publishers will take unsolicited submissions, too. You just have to send them a query first. It's as hard to get an agent as a publisher, large or small, so I started with getting a publisher, and managed to snag a "big" one for my first book. (Medium-sized house owned by one of the big conglomerates.)

Margot has published one of my previous CW posts explaining how queries will get you around the "no unsolicited" warning. Go to her site and click on her collection of "Great CW posts," then select "No unsolicited submissions" (Or some similar title.)

There are pros and cons of the various publishing house sizes. A bigger house may be better known or more prestigious, but you may feel a little more on your own, more like a small cog in the machine, since they tend to concentrate on promoting their bigger names. A smaller house is more likely to give you a more "hands-on" treatment, although your advance may be smaller. But advance size doesn't really matter all that much. It's the number of books sold in the long-run. My second book is with a smaller house, (owned by big old B&N, but still small.) I have a feeling that book will sell just as well as my first, if not better, because it may get more play in the B&N stores rather than online alone. Only time will tell.

Small houses receive fewer submissions but select a very small number of those submissions to publish. (Perhaps as few as 2 or 3.) Big houses receive more submissions but publish more each year, (as many as 75, say), so I think your chances of being picked up are about the same selling to large or small. You'll raise your chances of selling, regardless of house size by carefully targeting your submission, sending your manuscript only to houses which publish the type of book you've written.

You'll also raise your chances by reading lots of interviews with editors, (in the CWIM or on websites & blogs with editor interviews) to find out the various editors' tastes. That really does make a difference. Both of my editors (at different houses) will buy rhyme, but only one cares to look at cumulative construction. ("The house that Jack built" type of stories.)

The other told me that she just doesn't care for it. That's not a house policy, just the individual editors' taste. Sometimes there's no way to know, but the more you can find out about an editor before you submit to her, the better your chances. I never throw out my old CWIM books. Those editor interviews are gold. Even if the editor has moved to a different house, her tastes will likely remain the same.

Good luck!


Advances and Royalties

Laura Purdie Salas

Trade publishers (ones that sell mainly to bookstores and libraries) usually pay an advance and royalties. An advance is just like an advance against any pay. You are paid before your book earns any money.

For picture books, the advance is split between the author and the illustrator. For a first-time author, an advance between $2,000 and $10,000 seems to be the norm, depending on the size of the publisher and other factors.

Once the book is being sold, the royalty is a percentage of the saleprice (gross or gets very complicated). The first several thousand dollars' worth of royalties, though, have already been paid to you in the form of your advance. So if you get a $5,000 advance, you don't start getting royalties until *after* your book sells enough
copies to make up for that you see no more money until your book earns *more* than $5,000 in royalties.

This is just the general info. Contracts, rights sold, and contracts
vary widely!

Hope this helps,