Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How do you get published traditionally?

Even though I'm not going the traditional route with Magic High, I am well aware of all of the benefits it provides. Although ebooks are becoming more popular all of the time, the majority of books bought are still paper versions. Publishers are able to make print copies available in as many spots as possible. You won't see a self-published book in places like Walmart or even most Indigo's, unless the author lives nearby and has worked out a deal with the store manager. Also, finding a publisher means that you can focus on writing the book, and leave almost everything else up to them.

So how do you go about finding one of these magical publishers? Well, you don't. That might sound completely unhelpful, but hang on, there's more. What you want to find is an agent. These are smart, wonderful people who will only work with you if they love your work. It will be their job to not only help you make your book the best that it can be, but they will deal with all the financial stuff that most writers don't want to even look at. Agents will not charge you any money. If they are charging you to look at your work, then it's a scam. And there are a lot of scams out there directed to writers eager to have someone look at their work. Check out sites like Writer Beware to find out what you should be looking out for. Agents will only take a commission from you when you make money. If they don't sell your work, no matter how much time and effort they put into your book, they won't make a dime. Therefore it's in their best interest to sell your book, and that's also why they don't take on projects they don't feel passionate about.

This also means that most agents aren't interested in selling to small publishers because of the low advance they give. Small publishers aren't able to distribute as widely as the big ones, but they can still be great supporters of your work and they are able to get your books into places that is difficult for self-publishers. If you choose to go with a small publisher, you can skip the agent, and the process to find one interested in your work is going to be about the same as finding an agent.

Step 1 - Find publishers or agents that represent the type of work you do. Don't send off material to someone who doesn't represent your genre or age group because it's a great big waste of everyone's time. To find agents or publishers, check sites like Agent Query or purchase the annual book Writer's Market.

Step 2 - Figure out what that agent or publisher wants you to send them. There are lots of big name publishers and agents that don't accept any unsolicited work. Without a good agent, big publishers won't even look at your story. However, if they are looking to take on new authors, usually it all starts with a query letter, and possibly some sample pages and/or a synopsis. Send what they ask for. If you don't, you're showing that you aren't able to follow directions, and that gives them a reason not to want to work with you.

Step 3 - Write your query letter. There are a lot of great resources out there to help write this, and I will probably go over that later this week. This is the heart of your proposal and will be what catches the attention of the agent. Think of it as being like the blurb on the back of the book.

Step 4 - Mail or email your query to a number of agents at a time. This day and age they expect that, just make sure that each letter is personalized and not directed to "Dear Agent." However, publishers still often expect you to send to them exclusively.

Step 5 - Wait for responses. From my experience, agents who accept queries through email are usually very fast to respond, often getting back to you within a couple of weeks. One agent replied within 24 hours. Publishers will take a few months to respond.

And those are the basic steps to submitting your work to publishers. Good luck! And don't forget, everyone gets rejections, even authors who have had twenty books out. The key is to not get too disheartened, keep submitting, adjust as required, and never stop writing.

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