Playing the publishing game

Now that the writing course is coming to a close, with just a few modules left, it’s starting to get into information that I find interesting and useful.

The latest module was all about how to get started in the publishing world.

It included etiquette and technique tips for how to reach out to publishers, what information you should include, how much information you should include, how to format your manuscript and accompanying materials, and things like that. 

Example, a cover letter should explain your book, why you write it and why it fits their publishing patterns. It shouldn’t be more than a paw long. Also, instead of sending the whole book, send just a few chapters. This accomplishes everything. How likely are you to finish a book that doesn’t interest you in three chapters? So why publish something that three chapters of doesn’t pique your interest. Anyone can tell if he or she wants to read a book after a few chapters; editors are trained to tell if anyone wants to read said book.

You’ll also want to include an outline and details on the rest of the book, to prove that you can finish a storyline. It goes without saying that you’ll want spelling and grammar to be flawless.

Nothing particularly mind-boggling, but still useful to know.

What it largely comes down to is that both writer and editor have services to offer, and it needs to be a mutually beneficial partnership.

Writers have content to offer, and at the rate people consume, publishers want all they can get. But it has to be sellable. Once an editor has agreed to work with you, they will do all they can to make you a success, after all, it reflects in him or her as well. In addition to marketing ability, editors also have experience to offer. This means, when an editor suggests a change or revision, it’s not made on a whim, but suggested based on experience and knowledge of what sells and what doesn’t.

As a writer, I know the attachment that develops between you and every word you pen. But, having been an editor as well, I know that a fresh pair of unbiased eyes can take something good and make it better (I know that from the writing end too).

A mistake many new writers make, according to the course authors, is assuming what they give to an editor is ready for publication. In my own journalism career, heck, even in simply college essays when permitted, I could count on one hand the number of times I got something back indicating my first draft was flawless.

The thing to keep in mind is that, whoever your editor is, they challenge you to do better. Every critique is a chance to grow, every revision is a chance to ask yourself why, and learn from that.

When I was starting my junior year, having transferred from a community college to a four-year, I had to take a reporting class which, after writing and editing a school newspaper for two years, I could do in my sleep. The professor told me that he was going to nit-pick my work, grade me harder on little things because I had more experience. I veiw the publishing and editing world the same way I viewed that class, a constant chance to improve. Once you’ve mastered one thing, you grow in the next. Anyone who says they write (or do anything) perfectly is lying. There is always room to grow.

I think as a new author trying to get started, that is the most important thing to keep in mind, whether it’s a rejection with some feedback, or an editor who wants to do some revising, someone is trying to share their experience with you, so you can learn and grow. It’s foolish to ignore that simply because you’re too proud to admit you’re not perfect.

I wish this module had included discussion on literary agents, though. In a brief explanation of contracts, the course authors state that, while some people say an agent isn’t worth the money, it’s nearly impossible to get published without one, which begs the question, who are these people saying agents aren’t worth the money? However, it would have been a nice addition to discuss the pros and cons, as well as how to go about finding an agent, especially if it’s hopeless without one.

1 thought on “Playing the publishing game

  1. Chelsea

    o/ Chelsea from work here, hi. I’ve been reading your posts on this course since I write as well and thought it would be interesting to see what you learned and if you netted any worthwhile advice from the class! Just commenting to say that if you want to know anything about agents/agencies/how they work and whatnot feel free to ask me. I interned with an NYC based agency for a while so I’ve got a good grasp on that (and the publishing world in general, honestly). It’s not at all as complicated as some people make it out to be. Anyway, have fun with the end of your course. đŸ™‚


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