Category Archives: Publishing

What Genres Do Literary Agents Want?

Since agents work on commission, they are looking for books they can sell and make money from. Those don’t necessarily match what books are the best sellers. Some very popular categories don’t sell for high contract prices, meaning less commission to the agent. Agents are looking for the high dollar contracts. If you want to appeal to an agent, these are their most common requests:

1 Young Adult
2 Fantasy
3 Literary Fiction
4 Children’s
5 Science Fiction
6 Thrillers/Suspense
7 Middle Grade
8 Romance
9 Historical
10 Women’s Fiction

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Proofreading tips

Proofreading tips to help professional writers, students, or anyone that writes as part of their work day. Error free writing and typing is possible!

The skill of proofreading is necessary whether you are a student, a professional writer, or someone who creates lots of office memos. No matter the context in which you are writing, there are systematic procedures that you can follow to ensure you produce the best work possible.

There are three types of proofreading: Comparison, content, and format. A comparison proofread may not be applicable to every project you do. It applies to projects in which you have an original document you are copying from. This ‘original document’ could be your own handwritten notes, they could be a typed document that needs to be re-typed because a file was lost, or they could be a document with changes scrawled by hand all across the pages. A comparison proofing requires a word for word, character for character comparison of the new document and the old document. The purpose of this reading is to make sure that the exact same words and punctuation are in both documents. A comparison proofread is the first type of proofing that will take place.

For a content proofread, you may put aside the original document and focus on the new document. At this stage, you will be looking for correct sentence structure, logic, spelling, punctuation, and factuality. You will also be looking for consistency. If your memo says, “(s) he would be in violation of company policy” and then later states ” he/she would need to report the incident to the appropriate supervisor”, there is a consistency error. A change should be noted to use either “he/she” or “(s) he” consistently. The purpose of the content read is to make sure the document is correct and reads well.

Finally, a format proofread is performed. A format proofing is just what it sounds like. You are looking for a correct format and consistent format in the document. There are certain formatting conventions that are followed when typing, for example, a business letter. There may also be specific formatting rules when typing a memo for a company. An easy way to start a format proofread is to ‘scan the edges’ of the document and look for anything that sticks out and doesn’t look right. Then look at the overall page: Does it look balanced? For example, is the text consistently justified or consistently left aligned? Now scan the document and pay attention to the spaces instead of the words. Take out any extra spaces you find within the text. Finally, this is the time when you will check page numbers and footnotes, if applicable.

Give yourself ample time to go through each of these three types/stages of proofreading for the cleanest most professional resulting document. The following tips will help you do a more accurate proofing at any stage:

1. Always proof from a hard copy. Do not try to proof a document from your computer screen; you will miss many errors this way.

2. When marking the document, try using proofreader marks. If you are unsure of the proofreader mark for a particular correction, write out the change you want to make. Be clear and specific about your corrections, do not simply circle the errors.

3. When possible, do not proofread your own work. You know what you mean to say, so you are more likely to skim over errors. If you are able, get more than one person to proofread your work. Everyone has different strengths and they will find different errors.

4. Break down your tasks. When you are doing a content proofing, the number of things you need to look out for may overwhelm you. It is best to break it down into quicker, more specific proofreads rather than one big proofread. For example, do one proofing for spelling and punctuation, next proof the document for grammatical errors, then do a third content proofing for factuality and consistency.

5. When you are doing a comparison proofread, use a straight edge (such as a ruler or piece of paper) as a guide. If you carefully move the straight edge from line to line on the original document, you are less likely to miss omitted text in the new document.

6. During a proofing for spelling, try reading the document backwards. When each individual word is looked at, outside the context of a sentence, you are less likely to miss spelling errors.

7. After corrections have been made, don’t forget to proof the revised document. First check to see that all the corrections were made, then read over the document one more time to make sure you didn’t miss something the first time around!

 

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A New Publisher Who Promotes Your Book

When JK Rowling first wrote Harry Potter, she couldn’t land a publishing deal. That’s right, the greatest money making book of our time was passed over repeatedly.

However, it was finally accepted…not because an editor actually read it, but because one of them gave the first chapter to his eight-year-old daughter and said, “Here, you read it.”

Not only did she read it, she begged for chapter two. She was hooked!

And so, a billion dollar industry was created.

This got me thinking about modern publishing, which is very much web-driven.

It doesn’t really matter much anymore what traditional publishers think about your book because brick and mortar stores are going away.

Today, it matters what readers think about your book. It’s what moves books to the top of the Amazon best-sellers list.

There’s a relatively new publishing company called Inkitt that I think is taking the right approach.

Inkitt creates a free copy of authors’ books that people can read using their app. If readers like the book, then Inkitt offers the author a publishing contract.

Authors then receive 25% of the book’s sales, which is a very generous contract.

But why would authors use Inkitt when they could just self-publish and keep all the proceeds? The reason is that Inkitt agrees to spend money promoting their authors’ books, and driving them to the top of Amazon’s rankings. Individual authors are usually not able to accomplish that.

This seems like a really good approach for new authors, especially if you are unsure about the details of formatting and self-publishing your book.

To get your book in front of Inkitt’s readers, all you need to do is upload the text to Inkitt’s site. If readers like it, you’ll be offered a publishing contract.

They accept all genres of fiction (but not fan-fiction). You can even submit already published books.

There are a few requirements:

  1. Your book must be 20,000 words or more.
  2. It can’t be a collection of stories or poems.

And…that’s it.

So, if you have a book that didn’t do well, or sales have started to dip, submit it to Inkitt and they’ll get it to their readers. You can even tell them to limit the number of free copies they allow their readers to read, just in case you’re worried.

If it works out, then you’ll have the option to sign a contract with them and let their professional marketing team get to work. There is no cost for this service — their revenues come from book sales.

Inkitt already has quite a number of successful authors. You can see some testimonials on their site.

Click here to visit their site and upload your books:

www.inkitt.com/getpublished

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NaNoWriMo: Creating a Novel in 30 Days

November is National Novel Writing Month, when authors can sign up at http://nanowrimo.org and receive encouragement as they work to create a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Hundreds of my students have successfully used NaNoWriMo to complete their first draft, so it’s a valuable tool.

It sounds like a lot of work, but you may be surprised how easy it is to create a novel in a month — if you approach that goal with the right strategy.

Here are my tips for how to succeed at NaNoWriMo:

  1. Don’t just start typing. If you do, you will get lost, hit a dead end, and give up. You must start with a plan, prepared even before NaNoWriMo begins.
  2. Start with a scene list. If you have a list of 50 to 100 scenes planned to get you from start to finish, then it’s easy to start writing each day, because you know exactly what you need to work on.
  3. Your scenes need to flow, so create them within a three-act structure. The easiest way is to use the nine checkpoints I teach in all my writing classes.
  4. To create a checkpoint structure you need to know your characters, especially your protagonist, so start by designing that character. Most importantly, you need to understand the flaw your protagonist must overcome to achieve the goal that drives your novel.
  5. Steps 2-4 may sound familiar. If you work through them in the opposite order — from character through checkpoint structure to scene list — you are following the path I teach in all my classes. With that done, success is just some dedicated effort away.
  6. So how much dedicated effort is that? If your scene list is ready to go at the start of NaNoWriMo, then you can focus on writing. 50,000 words is about 1700 words per day for a month. But you should write more than that, because Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or having relatives to entertain are all likely to get in the way as the month draws to a close. Plan on 2000-2500 words per day.
  7. How much writing time is that? Even if you can type very fast, you probably can’t “write” faster than about 20 words per minute. The great thing is that even if you can’t type very well, you can still probably write about 20 words per minute! That means you need to dedicate 90 minutes to two hours per day to writing during November. If that sounds like a lot, think about how much time you spend watching television. The easiest way to succeed at NaNoWriMo is simple: don’t watch any television in November!

If you follow these guidelines you’ll have a finished first draft by November 30.

Then what should you do?

Put it aside and enjoy the holidays. Then, on January first, create your own NaNoEdMo — that’s National Novel Editing Month! Polish it into a second draft and you’ll be ready for publication in February.

I’ve listed some course links with great discounts below, specifically for NaNoWriMo. The first three will get you ready for NaNoWriMo, and the last one will get you published in February.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo:

Novel Writing Workshop at 90% off (just $19)
https://writingacademy.com/p/novel-writing-workshop/?product_id=1909&coupon_code=20160824

Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy at 84% off (just $49)
https://writingacademy.com/p/writing-science-fiction-and-fantasy/?product_id=128260&coupon_code=SFSPECIAL716

Young Adult Fiction Writing Workshop at 90% off (just $19)
https://writingacademy.com/p/young-adult-fiction-writing-workshop/?product_id=1910&coupon_code=20160824

Publishing Your Finished Novel:

Publish Your Book Now! at 60% off (just $19)
https://writingacademy.com/p/publish-your-book-now/?product_id=1922&coupon_code=HOLIDAY

Sign up today and you’ll have a completed novel on November 30th!

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Publishers Who Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts

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I’ll try to keep this list updated. Please let me know of any good or bad experiences with these by dropping me a note at [email protected]

Books for Adult Readers

Baen Books

Baen Books is a science fiction and fantasy publisher. It accepts unsolicited manuscripts for all books and prefers electronic submissions through its manuscript-submission form. Baen is very accepting of new authors and has a large e-publishing department.

Beacon Publishing Group

Beacon Publishing Group accept all genres of Fiction and Nonfiction.

DAW Books

DAW Books is the science fiction and fantasy imprint of Penguin Books. It accepts unsolicited manuscripts and prefers them in paper form. It will respond in about three months and will not consider simultaneous submissions.

Chicago Review Press Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoirs

Dream Big Publishing 

Dream Big Publishing is looking for fiction works. Full length novels – 20,000  words and up, 120,000 + words, if applicable for the work, may be split into separate novels.  Short stories are acceptable. No non-fiction.

– Romance
– Historical
– Dystopian
– Erotica
– Paranormal
– Zombie
– Fantasy

Harlequin Romance

Inkitt

Inkitt creates a free copy of authors’ books that people can read using their app. If readers like the book, then Inkitt offers the author a publishing contract. Authors then receive 25% of the book’s sales.

Joffe Books

  • Thrillers, Mysteries, Detective, Romance, Horror, Suspense, and Literary Fiction are favorite genres
  • Great books which say something interesting about the world as you see it
  • We prefer full-length novels

Kellan Publishing

Kellan does not charge authors, and provides limited cover design, editing and marketing advice services.

Kensington Publishing Corporation

Zebra:  Kensington’s flagship imprint publishes nationally bestselling women’s fiction, romantic suspense and bestselling historical, paranormal and contemporary romances.

Brava:  Publishes popular contemporary romances.

Pinnacle:  Publishes bestselling thrillers, westerns, horror and true crime titles.  Among Pinnacle’s western bestselling authors is William W. Johnstone, the country’s most popular western writer.

Citadel:
Citadel is Kensington’s non-fiction imprint.  Citadel publishes acclaimed memoirs and books about popular culture, past and present.

Aphrodisia:  Launched in January 2006, Aphrodisia publishes an extremely diverse and popular line of erotic romances, ranging from historical, to paranormal, contemporary, ménage, bdsm, and more.  Quality writing, a fascinating variety of sexual relationships, and a willingness to push the boundaries of explicit content far beyond those of traditional romance is what Aphrodisia offers the adventuresome reader.

Dafina:  Launched in the fall of 2000, Dafina is the leading publisher of commercial fiction written by and about people of African descent.  The word Dafina, which is Swahili for an unexpected gift or treasure, reflects the imprint’s mission:  to share the gift of storytelling.  Dafina Books has established itself as a publishing home for dynamic stories for adults in genres as diverse as women’s fiction, street lit, romance, and inspirational fiction.  In 2006 Dafina expanded its program to include books for teens.  Dafina Books publishes over eighty books a year in hardcover, trade paperback, mass market and eBook.

KTeen Kensington:  Launched in the spring of 2011, Kensington Kteen focuses on publishing a wide variety of exciting, commercial teen fiction with positive messages, cutting-edge stores and all the drama, humor, and fantasy teens love.

KTeen Dafina: Under the imprint Dafina Kteen we publish romance, mystery, paranormal, and street lit for teen readers.

eKensington:
  Launched in the summer of 2012, eKensington is a digital imprint that publishes in many genres, including:  women’s fiction, romance, urban fantasy, thrillers and mystery among others. eKensington offers a new platform for Kensington’s established authors and a fresh way to launch authors and introduce readers to burgeoning new talents in all their favorite genres.

Rebel Base Books: 
Not for dudes only!  But guys really seem to dig these manly books, which gleefully push the limits of taste, humor, and snarkiness.

Lyle Stuart Books: 
Learn how to win at poker, blackjack, and more with advice from the pros, including Gus Hansen, John Vorhaus, and Lou Krieger.

Holloway House: Holloway House publishes legendary street lit fiction that has set the standard for the genre.
They feature material that is both edgy and provocative in any era.

Lyrical Press: Founded in 2007 by Renee Rocco, Lyrical Press offers readers a rich catalog of titles ranging from tender contemporary romances and edgy erotic paranormals to suspenseful thrillers and shocking science fiction. Authors can expect a personalized publishing experience from Lyrical Press, where the relationship between the author and publisher is understood to be symbiotic. When the authors succeed, the house succeeds.

Koehler Books

Imprints: Battle Flag, Beach Murder Mysteries, Cafe con Leche (Coffee with Milk), High Tide. They offer a booklet about all aspects of publishing, including self-publishing and offering paid services: http://www.koehlerbooks.com/author-center/author-101/publishing-guide/

NCM Publishing

NCM Publishing publishes all genres of fiction, non-fiction, self-help and young adult fiction.

Regal Crest Non-Fiction

Topics of interest to both alternative (GLBTQ) readers as well as mainstream readers including, but not limited to humor, popular culture, current events and politics, psychology, erotica, education, health, sports, travel, pets, biography and memoir, social issues, and history. We are also interested in anthologies and How-To books (such as writing instruction), and depending upon the approach, we may also be interested in topics in the fields of business, sociology, and religion.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications

Sky Horse Publishing Non-Fiction

Poets and Writers Small Presses Database for Poets and Writers 

Search for small publishers who publish poetry or collections of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction (memoir), etc. You can filter the genres and it will show you your choices.

Books for Adults and Children

Arthur A. Levine Books

August Books

Adult books about storytelling and collections of folktales.

Children’s books – Original folktales

Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books were not recommended by Preditors and Editors. I think it wise to research the internet for complaints and decide  for yourself before placing judgment.

Free Spirit Publishing (Children, Teens, Parents, Educators, Counselors)

Free Spirit Publishing publishes high-quality nonfiction books and learning materials for children, teens, parents, educators, counselors, and others who live and work with young people.

MuseItUp Publishing

Romance – everything from: romantic comedy, contemporary romance, fantasy romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, western romance, sweet romance, sci-fi romance, time travel romance

Paranormal – Fantasy –  we love vampires, ghosts, witches, werewolves and shape shifters…and dragons

Mystery – Suspense -Thriller – captivate us with the pacing of your novel. Hint: we love cozy mysteries

Young Adult – we’re big fans of the Potter & Twilight series but seeking a unique voice for this target group

MuseItYoung – this division is for our tween crossover chapter books for 10 – 14 year olds – NO PICTURE BOOKS

Horror & Dark Fiction – scare the living daylights out of us with your settings, dialogue, and characters – not with blood and gore and missing human parts. Use the power of your writer’s voice to draw images that will leave readers sitting at the edge of their seats.

Science Fiction – do you have a fantasy/romance/paranormal/etc. set in another planet? Fleshed out your otherly world? Then give us a shout.

Peachtree

For children’s picture books, send full manuscript.

For all others, send either full manuscript OR table of contents plus three sample chapters.

Peachtree does not accept query letters where no manuscript is included.

Peachtree currently publishes the following categories:

Children’s fiction and nonfiction picture books, chapter books, middle readers, young adult books

Education, parenting, self-help, and health books of interest to the general trade

PublishingHau[5] (pronounced “publishing house”)

Publishing startup focused on publishing non-fiction Kindle books and providing web-searchable versions to Google to make their content more findable by readers.

Sky Azure Publishing (Teen, Young Adult, Adult)

A small independent publisher based in Cornwall in the United Kingdom. We are a traditional royalty-paying publisher, accepting electronic submissions now from authors, irrespective of previous publication history or genre. They are not accepting non-fiction (Feb.2016).

Sterling Publishing

Woodbine House

Mostly publishes books for parents of special needs, but said they would look at submissions for children’s books, too.

Book for Children

Albert Whitman & Company

Picture book manuscripts for ages 2-8.

Novels and chapter books for ages 8-12.

Young adult novels.

Nonfiction for ages 3-12 and YA.

Art samples showing pictures of children.

 

Charlesbridge

Charlesbridge offers free activities and downloadable items.

Curious Fox

Curious Fox does not publish picture books

Dawn Publications

Dawn publishes “nature awareness” titles for adults and children. Our picture books are intended to encourage an appreciation for nature and a respectful participation in it. We are seeking to inspire children as well as educate them. An inspired child is a motivated.

Dial Books For Young Readers 

Flashlight Press

Flashlight accepts only picture books.

Guardian Angel Publishing 

Kane Miller EDC Publishing

Just Us Books and Marimba Books (Multi-Cultural Children’s books)

Click on Contacts and scroll down for submission guidelines.

Lee & Low Books (Children of Color)

Lee & Low Books publishes books for children and young adults with a multicultural theme. All manuscripts must be aimed at children of color, with an authentic voice. They accept submissions from new authors through regular mail. They accept no email submissions.

Little Pickle Press Middle Grade and Young Adult

Mighty Media

Onstage Publishing chapter books, middle grade novels and young adult novels

Saguaro Books, LLC (Middle and Young Adult)

Saguaro Books, LLC is a publisher of middle grade and young adult fiction by first-time authors. They also accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Sky Pony Press

Tall Tails Publishing House

Small independent children’s press, Krystal Russell, Phone: 918-770-9923,

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Literary Agents Representing Young Adult Fiction

Are you writing a Young Adult novel? Have you finished a Young Adult novel, and are now looking for an agent to secure a book deal and get that manuscript on to shelves?

Webook.com’s AgentInbox has agents that specialize in Young Adult/Juvenile fiction. Go here to see the full list of the agents on AgentInbox.

Here are a few of the YA agents and their perspective on the genre.

Susanna Einstein, LJK Literary Management: Susanna has worked in publishing since 1995 and is one of the founding agents at LJK. In an interview with Guide to Literary Agents, Susanna explained her attraction to YA books:“The opportunity to be involved in that process where kids and teens discover their own favorite books is one that I couldn’t pass up. And there’s a joy and creativity in the children’s/YA market that is less present, or at least less visible, in the adult market.  I also think, perhaps naïvely, that there’s a sense of purpose, of good work being done, in finding and selling books that young people will want to read, and that’s important to me.”

Check out Susanna’s WEbook profile.

 

Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media: Mollie began her publishing career as a literary scout, advising foreign publishers regarding the acquisition of rights to American books. She then worked as an editor at Random House before becoming an agent. When asked what qualities she looks for in a first-time YA author, Mollie said:

“I really enjoy learning something new with every project I take on. And really, what I’m looking for in anything I take on is the same. I’m looking for a book with a unique voice. I’m looking for a great plot and great characters that convey a bigger idea. And I’m looking for a book I can’t put down.” 

You can see Mollie’s WEbook profile here, or check out one of her best known clients’ book, Promise of the Wolves.

 

 Tamar Rydzinski, Laura Dail Literary Agency: Tamar worked at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates prior to joining the Laura Dail Literary Agency. She is also one of the honorable PageToFame Judges. In a guest blog post at Magical Musings, Tamar talked a bit about her experience representing YA:

“When I started [as an agent], I had never read anything but very literary young adult novels. Now I can’t get enough of them, and I am not talking about the literary stuff. I never would have thought that I would be representing fantasy as it wasn’t a genre I had grown up reading. And that’s the beautiful thing about publishing and books in general. There is just so much learning, exploring and discovery available.”

To learn more about Tamar, check out the PageToFame Judges video.

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How to Write a One-Page Synopsis

An important selling tool is the synopsis. For novels these can sometimes run many pages, but it’s also useful to have a shorter, one-page version, and it’s the primary selling tool if you are writing a screenplay. Try to aim for about 500 words.

A good rule of thumb is to only name three characters in a short synopsis – usually, the protagonist, antagonist, and possible love interest/side-kick/contagonist. All other characters should be referred to by their roles.

You must tell the ending! The purpose of a synopsis is to show an editor/agent you can tell a story from beginning to end.

Do not include subplots unless you have extra space. Stick to the main plot events.

Here are the elements you need, along with an example from Star Wars:

1. Opening image
An image/setting/concept that sets the stage for the story to come.
Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a controlling government called the Empire takes control of planets, systems, and people. Anyone who resists is obliterated.

2. Protagonist Intro
Who is the main character? Give 1-2 descriptive words and say what he/she wants.
Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland.

3. Inciting incident
What event/decision/change prompts the main character to take initial action.
When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it – a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.

4. Plot point 1
What is the first turning point? What action does the MC take or what decision does he/she make that changes the book’s direction? Once he/she crossed this line, there’s no going back.
Ben tells Luke about a world where the Empire rules and Rebels fight back, where Jedi Knights wield a magic called the Force, and how Luke must face Darth Vadar – the man who killed Luke’s father and now seeks to destroy Luke too. Luke refuses, but when he goes back to his farm, he finds his family has been killed. He has no choice but to join Ben.

5. Conflicts & character encounters
Now in a new life, the MC meets new people, experiences a new life, and meets the antagonist/villain.
To escape the desert planet, Ben and Luke hire a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend. Luke, Ben, Luke’s robots, the pilot, and the hairy friend leave the planet and fly to the Death Star, Darth Vadar’s home and the Empire’s main base.

6. Midpoint
What is the middle turning point? What happens that causes the MC to make a 360 degree change in direction/change in emotion/change in anything? Again, once he/she has crossed this line, there’s no going back.
Once on board the Death Star, Luke discovers the princess is being held as a hostage. He and the group set out to find the princess, while Ben sets out to find a way for them to escape the base.

7. Winning seems imminent, but…
What happens that makes the MC think he/she will win? She seems to have the upper hand, but then oh no! The antagonist defeats her and rushes off more powerful than ever before.
After rescuing the princess, Luke and the group try to escape. Ben sacrifices himself so they can flee, and Darth Vadar kills Ben. The group flees the Death Star on their own ship.

8. Black moment
The MC is lower than low, and he/she must fight through the blackness of his/her emotions to find the strength for the final battle. What happens here?
Luke is devastated over Ben’s death, and he is more determined to fight Darth Vadar and help the Rebels defeat the Empire. Luke joins the Rebel army, and helps them plan an attack on the Death Star’s only weakness.

9. Climax
What happens in the final blow-out between the MC and the antagonist?
The Death Star arrives in space near the Rebels, and the attack begins. Luke joins the assault team of fighter ships. The Rebels suffer heavy losses, and soon Luke is one of the few remaining pilots and ships. He takes his chance and initiates the final attack. Guided by Ben’s voice and the Force, he manages to fire the single, critical shot to explode the Death Star.

10. Resolution
Does everyone live happily ever after? Yes? No? What happens to tie up all the loose ends?
With the Death Star destroyed and the Empire severely damaged, the Rebels hold a grand ceremony to honor Luke and his friends. The princess awards them with medals for heroism.

11. Final image
What is the final image you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC succumbed to his/her own demons or has he/she built a new life?
Though Luke is still sad over the loss of Ben and his family, he has found a place among the Rebels, and with them, he will continue to fight the Empire.


Here it is, all put together with connecting words to make it flow:

STAR WARS

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a controlling government called the Empire takes control of planets, systems, and people. Anyone who resists is obliterated.

Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland. When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it – a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.

Ben tells Luke about a world where the Empire rules and Rebels fight back, where Jedi Knights wield a magic called the Force, and how Luke must face Darth Vadar – the man who killed Luke’s father and now seeks to destroy Luke too. Luke refuses, but when he goes back to his farm, he finds his family has been killed. He has no choice but to join Ben.

To escape the desert planet, Ben and Luke hire a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend. Luke, Ben, Luke’s robots, the pilot, and the hairy friend leave the planet and fly to the Death Star, Darth Vadar’s home and the Empire’s main base. Once on board the Death Star, Luke discovers the princess is being held as a hostage. He and the group set out to find the princess, while Ben sets out to find a way for them to escape the base.

After rescuing the princess, Luke and the group try to escape. Ben sacrifices himself so they can flee, and Darth Vadar kills Ben. The group flees the Death Star on their own ship. Luke is devastated over Ben’s death, and he is more determined to fight Darth Vadar and help the Rebels defeat the Empire. Luke joins the Rebel army, and helps them plan an attack on the Death Star’s only weakness.

The Death Star arrives in space near the Rebels, and the attack begins. Luke joins the assault team of fighter ships. The Rebels suffer heavy losses, and soon Luke is one of the few remaining pilots and ships. He takes his chance and initiates the final attack. Guided by Ben’s voice and the Force, he manages to fire the single, critical shot to explode the Death Star.

With the Death Star destroyed and the Empire severely damaged, the Rebels hold a grand ceremony to honor Luke and his friends. The princess awards them with medals for heroism. Though Luke is still sad over the loss of Ben and his family, he has found a place among the Rebels, and with them, he will continue to fight the Empire.

FINAL WORD COUNT: 452

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Query Letters and Literary Agents

This is a quick description of the query process for beginning authors.

Why write a query letter?

Unless you already know a literary agent, book publisher, famous author, or are extremely lucky, a query letter is your best chance to get your foot into the publishing business.

What is a query letter?

A query letter is a ONE PAGE professional letter describing your book and yourself to a literary agent.  If the literary agent is interested in your book, he/she will typically write back and request that you send a portion or completed manuscript, which he/she will then read and evaluate.  If he/she likes the manuscript and thinks it has potential to sell, the literary agent may offer

Some literary agents may request that you include the first few pages of your manuscript or a separate synopsis with your query, but that is strictly up to the individual literary agent.

What goes into a query letter?

  • Your manuscript’s title.
  • Word count.
  • Genre.
  • A short synopsis.
  • Any writing related credits you may have such as previous publications or contest awards.
  • The reason why you have chosen to query this particular literary agent.

What does NOT go into a query letter?

  • How much your mother, brother, uncle, neighbor liked the book.
  • How often you have queried.
  • Never mention you have never been published (they probably know that already.)
  • Never mention this is your first book (they know that, too.)
  • Don’t tell them how great the book is; let your writing speak for itself.
  • Don’t tell them how much money your book is sure to make; it’s their job to determine that.

What is the perfect query letter?

No one knows.  Every literary agent seems to have their own idea of what makes a perfect query letter.  Some like quirky and clever, some like professional and reserved (most lean towards professional and reserved, so use quirky sparingly).  But even the literary agents who have very specific ideas of what they do or do not like will often highlight and praise a query that breaks the rules they themselves set down.  So, what does this mean for you?  It means there is no easy answer.  Your best bet is to read as many sample query letters as you can find, pick the style you like best and give it a try.

There are many literary agents who keep blogs and will often post examples of good or bad query letters.  Here are a few of them:

How to Write a Query Letter in 7 Steps

The following blog post was written with help from literary agents. It includes an infographic to help you make sure your query letter is up to snuff before you send it out.:

https://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-write-a-query-letter

Why do I need to research an agent?  Can’t I just pick one?

You research a literary agent for a few important reasons.

  • To make sure the literary agent is legitimate and not one of the many crooked literary agents out there just trying to steal your hard earned money.
  • To make sure the literary agent is a good match for you and your book.  If you write fantasy, you don’t want to query a literary agent who only represents true crime novels and How-To books (hopefully these do not describe the same book).  You want to find a literary agent who has shown interest in the type of books you write.
  • When querying a literary agent, it is a good idea to mention previous clients or books that the agent has represented, and explain why your work is similar to theirs.  This tells the literary agent that your book is something they will like since they liked the same thing in the past.  So, while researching a literary agent, you should be on the lookout for this sort of thing.

How do I research a literary agent?

There are many very useful resources online for researching literary agents, but my advice is to never trust any single one of them, and that includes QueryTracker.  The information changes too fast for any one site to keep up with it, and any site that says they do are either lying or they just don’t understand.  That said, there are a few very good websites that should always be checked when you are researching a literary agent.

  • Of course, QueryTracker.net should be your first stop, but that goes without saying.
  • The website of the literary agent.  Not all agencies have their own websites, but many do.  Any information posted on an agency website takes precedence over anything you’ve read anyplace else.  Again, this includes QueryTracker, but I would appreciate being informed if you should find an agency website which disagrees with QueryTracker so I can update our information.  If available, QueryTracker’s agent pages will contain links to that agent’s website.
  • AgentQuery.com contains very extensive information about literary agents, and is a must for agent research.  For your convenience, QueryTracker has provided a direct link from the agent’s page on QueryTracker to that literary agent’s profile on AgentQuery (when available).
  • Publisher’s Marketplace will contain information about the literary agent, previous sales, and current deals. Again, QueryTracker will preload the search for you so all you have to do is click the Quick Research link on that agent’s page.
  • The Association of Author’s Representatives.  Find out if the literary agent is a member.  Membership means the agent is held to a strict Canon of Ethics.  Not all legitimate literary agents are members of the AAR, but if a literary agent is a member you can relax.

Each literary agent’s profile on QueryTracker contains Quick Research Links for each of the above websites. The search information is already embedded in the links so all you have to do is click and go.

How best to send my query? E-Mail or Snail-Mail?

Each individual literary agent is different.  Some only accept E-Mail, some Snail-Mail, and some both.  Some will even have submission forms on their websites where you enter your query letter into their form for immediate delivery.  See the agent’s website, QueryTracker, and AgentQuery.com to determine the submission preferences of each literary agent.

How do I avoid being scammed by an unscrupulous agent?

First rule is never pay a literary agent.  Money flows towards the author, not away. No matter how much the literary agent tells you that you’ll be a famous bestseller, don’t believe him.  If the literary agent says you’ll get the money back right after publication, don’t believe him.

Another rule is that if the literary agent has to advertise (either online or in print) they are more than likely a scam.  Real literary agents have so many submissions already they do not need to advertise.

You should also read through this topic on the QueryTracker forum – How to spot a scam literary agent.

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Print on Demand: Opportunites and Cautions

Since the original publication of this article in the early 2000s, traditional publishing has declined due to the loss of bookstores and the surge in ebooks. Print on Demand and ebooks are no longer stigmatized as they once were, and there are excellent cost-free Print on Demand services such as Amazon’s createspace.com. Nevertheless, caution is still needed when paying a fee for formating, graphics or other Print on Demand services. This article points our some of the things to beware of.

What is Print on Demand?

Print on demand (POD) is a digital printing technology that allows a complete book to be printed and bound in a matter of minutes. This makes it easy and cost-effective to produce books one or two at a time or in small lots, rather than in larger print runs of several hundred or several thousand.

POD has a number of applications. Commercial and academic publishers use it to print advance reading copies or when they can’t justify the expense of producing and warehousing a sizeable print run–for instance, to keep backlist books available. Some independent publishers use it as a more economical publishing method, trading lower startup costs against smaller per-book profits (due to economies of scale, digitally printed books have a higher unit production cost than books produced in large runs on offset presses). Last but not least, there are the fee-based POD publishing service providers, which offer a service that’s similar–but not identical–to self-publishing.

The “POD Publisher” and the POD Stigma

Strictly speaking, “print on demand” doesn’t describe a business model. Over the past few years, however, digital technology has become so firmly associated with a particular complex of business practices that the term “POD publisher” has taken on specific meaning.

What defines a POD publisher?

  • Inadequate selectivity. Some POD publishers accept just about everyone who submits; others do more screening, but aren’t expert enough to ensure high quality.
  • Inadequate editing. Some POD publishers do no more than a light copy edit, releasing books that are essentially unedited. Others employ inexperienced or unprofessional editors, to more or less the same effect.
  • High cover prices. As noted above, the unit cost for digitally printed books is higher than for books printed on offset presses. Cover prices, therefore, must be correspondingly higher in order for the publisher to make a profit. Depending on length, a POD book can cost more than twice as much as its offset counterpart.
  • Short discounts. Booksellers expect discounts of 40% or more. POD publishers usually offer much smaller discounts.
  • Nonreturnability. Booksellers expect to be able to return unsold books to the publisher for full credit. POD publishers rarely accept returns, or if they do, have such a limited returns policy that it’s hardly more attractive than no returns at all.
  • Minimal marketing and distribution. POD publishers don’t want to cut into their profits by spending money on book promotion. They’ll ensure that their books are available for order online and through a wholesaler such as Ingram, but they won’t advertise, and will make little or no effort to obtain professional reviews and bookstore placement.
  • Other nonstandard practices. These may include amateurish formatting, terrible cover design, hellacious contracts, and fees of various kinds.

Most of these practices are characteristic of the fee-based POD publishing service providers discussed in the next section. However, they’re increasingly common among POD-based independent publishers, whose often inexperienced staff may not have the skill to rigorously select and edit (never mind market and promote) books, and whose shoestring budgets force them to keep costs as low as possible.

Not all POD-based publishers employ these practices, of course. Unfortunately, however, a great many do. This, together with the aggressive policies and poor-quality offerings of the fee-based PODs, has tainted print on demand in general. Many booksellers, reviewers, and readers are wary of POD just on principle, and may assume that a publisher that relies exclusively or mainly on digital technology is a POD publisher, even if the publisher is entirely professional. This POD stigma is something that anyone who’s thinking of signing a contract with a POD-based independent publisher needs to take into account, because it can make marketing extremely difficult.

Fee-Based Print on Demand Publishing Service Providers

Fee-based print on demand publishing service providers (I’m going to call them fee-based PODs for short) aren’t publishers in the traditional sense, but purveyors of publishing services to writers. They charge a fee for publication, ranging anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. They don’t screen submissions (except perhaps to exclude pornography or hate literature)–anyone who is willing to pay will be published. They don’t routinely provide editing, proofreading, or book marketing (though some offer these as add-ons to the basic publishing package–at, of course, additional cost). Income to the author comes in the form of a royalty on sales.

Many fee-based PODs call themselves self-publishing services. Some will even let you put the name of your own imprint on your book. However, there are important differences between the fee-based PODs and true self-publishing:

  • Control. With self-publishing, the writer controls all aspects of the publishing process, from cover art to print style to pricing. With fee-based PODs, choice is limited to the package of services the publisher offers.
  • Revenue. With self-publishing, the writer keeps all proceeds from sales. With fee-based PODs, payment comes in the form of a royalty (you are, essentially, paying the publisher twice: once upfront, and once with each book produced and sold).
  • Rights. With self-publishing, all rights remain with the writer, who has full ownership of his/her books. With fee-based PODs, rights may go to the POD service, which has an exclusive claim on them for a set period of time.

In practice, fee-based PODs more closely resemble vanity publishers–which is how they’re generally regarded by readers, reviewers, and booksellers.

For writers who don’t want to go through the submission process required by commercial publishers, or who feel they’ve exhausted the possibilities of the commercial publishing market, or who just want to produce a few dozen copies of a family memoir or recipe book for private distribution, fee-based POD can be an excellent solution. It provides an attractively-designed book at a far lower cost than traditional self- or vanity publishing, and offers many of the same benefits, including guaranteed publication and lack of editorial interference. Also, since the book is produced only when ordered, you don’t risk winding up with a garage full of unsold volumes.

Fee-based POD also offers an opportunity to established authors seeking to bring their out-of-print books back into circulation at minimal cost. A number of fee-based PODs offer programs specifically targeted to such writers. And it can be a good option for the motivated self-publisher who’s able to devote time and money to marketing his/her product–typically, a nonfiction author with a niche market s/he knows how to reach, or someone who tours and speaks extensively and can sell books at these occasions.

But if you’re a new writer looking to establish a career, fee-based POD is probably not a good choice. As noted above, it’s widely equated with vanity publishing; it’s not likely a book published this way will be considered a professional credit. Too, fee-based POD companies’ policies on pricing and marketing limit their books’ availability, resulting in small sales and readership even for authors who diligently self-promote. While there have been some highly publicized successes, the average fee-based POD book sells only a few hundred copies, mostly to the authors themselves and to “pocket” markets surrounding them–friends, family, local retailers who can be persuaded to place an order. In a 2004 press release, AuthorHouse, one of the largest of the fee-based PODs, reports that it has 18,500 authors in print with total book sales of 2 million–which averages out to around 108 sales per author. A 2003 Wall Street Journal article on Xlibris revealed that of the more than 10,000 books published by the company since its inception, 85% had sold fewer than 200 copies, and only around 3%–or 352 in all–sold more than 500 copies.

Here are some additional issues to consider of you’re thinking of using a fee-based POD.

  • Booksellers don’t like dealing with fee-based PODs. In order to sell books in significant numbers, you need bricks-and-mortar bookstore placement. Don’t believe the hype about the power of the Internet: less than 10% of all books are bought online. Bookstores are still where most people do their bookbuying.Books from fee-based PODs are generally available through the POD company’s website, and from Amazon and other online booksellers. Most fee-based PODs also list their books in the catalogue of a major wholesaler such as Ingram, which ensures they’ll be available for order at just about any bookstore in the US. But “available” doesn’t mean “stocked” (a fact that some fee-based PODs do their best to obscure). By long tradition, booksellers are accustomed to a particular set of buying protocols–discounts of 40% or more, 60- or 90-day billing, and full returnability. But many fee-based PODs don’t offer industry-standard discounts, and most require that orders be pre-paid. And while some fee-based PODs do offer returnability if authors pay an extra fee, it’s usually a pretty restrictive policy that booksellers won’t find terribly attractive. All these factors make booksellers very reluctant to stock a book from a fee-based POD.If stores won’t stock the books, they should at least be willing to order them. But booksellers’ policies on this vary. Some will order any book you ask for. Others are selective–Barnes & Noble, for instance, which owns a minority stake in fee-based POD iUniverse, at one point would only order iUniverse books–and some booksellers refuse to carry POD books in their computer systems at all. To make things more complicated, Ingram has just introduced a new ordering protocol for POD books, which means that many show up as out-of-stock. Some fee-based PODs are taking steps to deal with this, but others are not.Authors who are willing to go door-to-door can sometimes be successful in persuading local stores to stock their books (though often they must sell them on consignment, or agree to buy back unsold copies). By and large, however, books from fee-based PODs, like e-books, are available only through online sources.
  • Books from fee-based PODs are expensive. Fee-based POD services base their pricing on the amount of paper it takes to print the book. Some make an attempt to hold prices down with flat or negotiable rates, but in most cases your book will cost more–often a lotmore–than a similar book from a commercial publisher. Readers may balk at paying $25 or $30 for a trade paperback-size book.
  • Books from fee-based PODs may be of poor physical quality. POD books, when well-produced, can be almost indistinguishable from traditionally-printed trade paperbacks (though they are more fragile, because of the kind of quick-dry glue that must be used for POD). But some fee-based PODs skimp on paper and cover stock, and don’t pay enough attention to production standards. Books produced by these companies can be shoddy in appearance, with covers that curl and pages that fall out as you’re reading them. POD books are also often bound with a very narrow spine, so that they look more like pamphlets–this is something that will immediately say “unprofessional” to a bookseller. Be sure, if you’re considering a fee-based POD, to order one or two of its books so you can assess physical quality.
  • Books from fee-based PODs are unlikely to be reviewed in professional venues. Good reviews in major newspapers and magazines, as well as trade journals like Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, can be a boost to sales. But trade journals will only review in advance of publication, and fee-based POD companies rarely produce galleys or advance reading copies. Also (as pointed out above), reviewers in general are wary of fee-based PODs, which don’t employ editorial filtering and produce large numbers of unedited, substandard books.
  • Your book will not be publicized. As mentioned above, fee-based PODs aren’t publishers, but purveyors of publishing services. Their primary interest is in selling their service to you. Selling your book to readers is of secondary importance. A listing on the company’s website and with various online booksellers, as well as inclusion in a wholesaler’s catalogue, is all the publicity most fee-based PODs provide. If you want more, you will have to arrange it yourself.Some fee-based PODs offer marketing packages or media kits for an extra fee. But prices can top $1,000, and packages tend to be based on minimally effective methods such as press releases, postcard mailers, and mass solicitation of media contacts. They’re usually a complete waste of money.
  • There may be extra expenses. The cost of fee-based POD can be substantially increased by additional charges not included in the initial package: renewal fees, extra charges for cover design, extra charges for obtaining an ISBN number or copyright registration, etc. Be sure, when you’re assessing fee-based PODs, to check for these kinds of extra costs.
  • Your contract may be nonstandard. In commercial publishing, contracts vary in their particulars, but tend to share a basic boilerplate. With fee-based PODs, there’s no standardization. Many fee-based PODs offer pretty decent time-limited, nonexclusive contracts, but others can be very author-unfriendly.
  • Royalty income may be less than you think. Fee-based PODs are likely to base royalties not on a book’s retail price, but on its net price (the retail price less discounts and/or the publisher’s overhead–often not specified, so you’re not sure exactly how much will be deducted). Depending on the discount (which for some online retailers is 55%), that 30% royalty may not work out to a lot of money.
  • Terms and conditions may be changed without warning. One of the largest fee-based PODs has changed its operating model a number of times since starting up–eliminating its free service, raising prices for services, changing its royalty structure, increasing book prices. This company at least notifies its authors before changes take effect, but I’ve heard from authors with other fee-based PODs who didn’t find out about changes until after the fact. This is a good reason not to sign a contract that ties you to the publisher for more than a year or two.
  • Delays are possible. Some fee-based PODs have trouble with timeliness in book production and order fulfillment. Before choosing a fee-based POD, it’s a good idea to contact others who’ve used the service to see what their experience is.
  • Last but not least: take the hype with a (very large) grain of salt. Many fee-based PODs portray the service they offer as a revolutionary new publishing model that’s going to open up a world of opportunity for writers locked out of the market by the narrow standards of the monopolistic commercial publishing industry. Heady terms like “paradigm” and “democratization” are tossed around. But there’s nothing new about paying to get published–or about the opportunity it offers, which is mainly for the publisher to make a profit. Most of the traditional difficulties faced by authors who pay to publish are duplicated in the fee-based POD model.

Print on Demand-Based Independent Publishers

A growing number of independent publishers are relying mainly or exclusively on digital technology to produce their books. This saves money up front, by eliminating cash outlays for large print runs and removing the need for warehousing. The tradeoff is the higher unit production cost for POD books, which means that the publisher realizes a lower per-book profit, especially if it makes an attempt to keep its prices in line with those of larger commercial publishers. And of course any POD-based independent publisher has to deal with the POD stigma described above.

While there are POD-based indies that function very much like their commercial counterparts (rigorously screening and editing submissions, professionally designing books, marketing to the book trade), digital technology makes it easy and cheap for unqualified or unscrupulous people to set themselves up as publishers. These publishers come in several flavors–amateur operations run by people with abundant goodwill but little or no knowledge of publishing, vanity publishers masquerading as legitimate independent presses, and “author mills” that seek to turn a profit on enormous author volume–but the bottom line for writers is the same: no distribution, no promotion, and tiny sales.

Some tips to help you evaluate POD-based independent publishers:

  • Is there a fee? Many indies can’t afford to pay advances, but they don’t ask for money. A fee, no matter where you encounter it in the publishing process, is a sign of a vanity operation, or of a publishing service like the ones described above.Fee-charging publishers are often inventive about hiding their fees. Sometimes the fees are buried in the contract’s small print, so it’s not until you actually read the contract that you realize you have to pay a “setup” charge or make an “investment” in your book. Sometimes the fees are shifted to items unrelated to producing the book–for instance, you may be required to pre-purchase or pre-sell a large number of copies, or pay for editing, or sponsor your own publicity campaign, or hire cover designers the publisher recommends.
  • Is there an advance? An advance, even of just a few hundred dollars, is a sign of a professional operation. Don’t be fooled by token one- or two-digit advances–this is usually a marketing ploy designed to produce an appearance of legitimacy, rather than a sign of legitimate practice.
  • How long has the publisher been in business, and has it actually published any books? POD-based independent publishers spring up and wither like mushrooms. This can work out badly for you, because a publisher that liquidates or goes bankrupt can tie up your rights, or may pass them on to third parties without your permission. This is a possibility with any independent publisher–small publishers’ finances are often precarious. But if you go with a publisher that’s just starting up, or has been in business only a few months, you are really taking a risk.Look for evidence that the publisher has been in business for a year or more, and that it has a backlist of published books. This indicates at least some stability, as well as the capacity to take a book all the way through the production process.You’ll also be able to obtain a book to check physical quality, and you’ll be able to judge by the existence of professional reviews and/or bookstore presence whether the publisher is marketing to the book trade.While you don’t want to choose a publisher that hasn’t proved its ability to publish, there’s risk at the other end of the spectrum–namely, the “author mills”. An author mill is a publisher that bases its business model on author volume (selling small numbers of books from a very large number of authors) rather than on book volume (selling large numbers of books from a limited number of authors, as commercial publishers do). Some of these publishers’ catalogues include thousands and thousands of authors, most of them first-timers. Author mills don’t charge fees, and often misleadingly present themselves as “traditional” publishers but in practice they more closely resemble the fee-based PODs, with the same open acceptance policies, high prices, bookseller-unfriendly business practices, and minimal marketing support.
  • Are the books professionally-produced and of good physical quality? Order one or two. Has it been edited? Does the print look good? Is the formatting uniform? Is the text free of errors? Bad writing, sloppy formatting, and large numbers of typos or grammatical errors indicate a less-than-professional operation.Questionable or amateur POD-based publishers also often produce shoddy, badly-designed books and ugly, unprofessional-looking covers. Good physical quality and attractive covers are no guarantee that a publisher is legitimate, of course, but their absence does indicate a lack of professional expertise, and won’t enhance your book’s appeal.
  • Is the pricing reasonable? As noted, POD has a higher unit cost than offset, and prices can be correspondingly higher. This can be a substantial discouragement for readers–who wants to pay $30 for a trade-size paperback? A reputable POD-based publisher will make an effort to keep prices at least generally comparable to traditionally-printed trade paperbacks, which run between $12 and $18.
  • Does the publisher accept returns? Again, this is a sign of a more professional operation, and gives the publisher a better chance of selling its books into stores. Beware, though–some POD-based independents put so many restrictions on their returns policies (for instance, limiting the return period to three months, or offering returnability only on volume orders) that booksellers won’t be any more likely to order.
  • Are the books reviewed in professional venues (Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, etc.)? Reviews in these venues, which are read by booksellers and librarians and can increase sales, indicate that the company is sending out advance reading copies–a sign that it’s marketing to the book trade. (Note: amateur book review websites don’t count, as their reviews are rarely of professional quality.)
  • Is there any bookstore presence? Not all indies are able to get their books into stores, so lack of bookstore presence doesn’t necessarily mean the publisher isn’t reputable. If there is store presence, however–even if it’s only local availability–it’s another indication that the publisher is actively marketing its titles.
  • Can you order the publisher’s books in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore? Even if a bookstore isn’t willing to stock POD books, it should at least be able to order them. Publishers whose books can be obtained only from the publisher’s website, or from online booksellers like Amazon, are further limiting already limited availability.
  • What’s the focus of the publisher’s website? Is it designed to promote the publisher and its publishing services, or to promote the publisher’s books? A reputable publisher’s marketing will be book-focused–it will publicize its authors, and try to attract readers. A questionable publisher’s marketing will be service-focused–it will promote itself, and try to attract writers. Be wary of any publisher whose website contains large amounts of verbiage about how closed-minded the “traditional” publishing industry is, or tells scary stories about how hard it is for new writers to find publication, or touts itself as providing revolutionary opportunities for overlooked writers. Be suspicious also of a publisher that solicits for authors, either in print, online, or by direct mail.
  • Is the contract standard? The Internet- and POD-fueled explosion of startup publishers has resulted in a proliferation of atrocious publishing contracts. A reputable POD-based publisher will try as much as possible to adhere to basic industry standards. A questionable or amateur POD-based publisher, on the other hand, can ask you to sign your life away and then some.Typical problems include demanding all rights for the full term of copyright without an adequate reversion clause, claiming subsidiary rights the publisher isn’t capable of marketing, basing royalties on net rather than gross income, retaining a financial interest in the author’s work even after the contract has terminated, claiming the right to edit at will without seeking the author’s permission, tying next-book option clauses to current contract terms, tying rights reversion to purchase of overstock, and offering a contract that’s not negotiable.An important point to look for in a POD-based indie’s contract: a limited term (3 years maximum–preferably with a renewal option) and/or a clause that allows termination at will. Digital technology is developing very rapidly, and you don’t want to be stuck in one place for too long. Too, if the publisher isn’t marketing your book, or there are signs of financial trouble, you want to be able to get out.
  • Is the publisher forthcoming? Will it answer your questions promptly, fully, and without evasion? A publisher that refuses information, or scolds you for asking questions, is a publisher to avoid.

Deceptive Terminology

Whether through ignorance or an active desire to deceive, POD-based independent publishers often use misleading terms. Below are some you may encounter.

Print on Demand vs. Publish on Demand

Some unscrupulous POD-based publishers that charge hidden fees or otherwise operate according to a vanity publishing model attempt to separate themselves from fee-based POD publishing service providers such as iUniverse by claiming that there’s a difference between “print on demand” and “publish on demand”.

“Print on demand”, they say, is the digital technology that allows books to be printed as the market demands. “Publish on demand”, by contrast, defines a vanity publishing operation–one that publishes (for a fee) at the author’s demand. “POD publisher”, they claim, means the latter. Despite their use of digital technology, therefore (and despite the fact that they employ many of the same bookseller-unfriendly business practices that vanity publishers do), they are not a POD publisher.

In fact, this is a meaningless distinction. The two terms are used interchangeably throughout the industry, and aren’t considered to have different definitions, or to describe different operations. Nor is the distinction recognized by booksellers–for whom, unfortunately, the POD stigma is usually reason enough to avoid any publisher that uses the technology exclusively, no matter what its business policies.

Be wary, therefore, of a publisher that makes a show of denying that it is “POD”, despite its use of digital technology.

“Traditional” Publishers

“Traditional publisher” is a term of very recent origin. It was invented by the first of the author mills in order to distinguish itself from the fee-based PODs (whose business model, except for the fee, it otherwise followed very closely). The term has no meaning in the publishing industry, which by definition doesn’t include vanity and self-publishing operations. (“Commercial publisher” or “trade publisher” is more appropriate.)

Unfortunately, the term has come into common usage, and you’ll often see a claim of “traditional” publishing on the websites of POD-based independent publishers. The implication is that though they’re smaller, they’re essentially just like Random House or Penguin. In fact, all you can count on is that the publisher won’t ask for money on contract signing. Other components of the commercial publishing model are often missing (rigorous selectivity, standard discounts, a returns policy, competitive book pricing, effective marketing), and elements absent from the commercial model are often present (nonstandard contract terms and peculiar business practices).

Publishers that call themselves traditional may simply be inexperienced. Sometimes, though, they’re dishonest, and are using the label in an effort to mislead authors. While it’s not an automatic red flag if a publisher proclaims itself traditional, be aware that the term doesn’t have an accepted definition, and tells you nothing about how the publisher selects, produces, and markets its books.


 

A Recommendation from Steve Alcorn

The best print on demand service I have found is createspace.com. There is little or no up-front charge, they don’t charge for ISBN numbers, and their prices for single copies are extremely reasonable. In addition, they are owned by amazon.com, so your book will automatically be listed at the world’s largest bookstore.

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