The Publishing Process

Fact — from POD, Self-Publishing and Independent Publishing:

“The latest 2009 statistical report released by R.R. Bowker today is a real eye-opener. The total number of titles produced last year was 1,052,803, and significantly, 764,448 of that overall figure came from what Bowker describe as non-traditional channels – a mix of micro-publishers, self-publishers and reprints of public domain titles.

In simple terms, 2010 will see non-traditional produced titles outstrip traditional titles by three to one—something that would have been considered mind-blowing three or four years ago.”

As most writers have come to understand and certainly experience, getting our work published with one of the “Big Six” publishers, which requires getting an agent to agree to represent us, is nigh unto impossible.

My own experience and that of my colleagues, is an agent will not even look at a manuscript over 100,000 words, because they can’t sell it to a publisher. Paper is expensive, and publishers are cutting back in every possible way.

Small press publishers receive as many as 10,000 submissions a year, more than they can reasonably deal with. (As do agents, who are swamped and overwhelmed with the sheer volume of queries to process.) Either type of publisher will a) take about two years from acceptance to actual publication, and b) expect the author to do the publicity and marketing for the book, and pay their own costs associated with marketing, including arranging and financing book tours. Of course, this isn’t true for well-known best-selling authors, and isn’t necessarily true of all publishers.

Which leaves the “hybrid” publishers: online publishers who share costs and profits with the writer. Most of them are “Print On Demand” (POD) publishers, which means books are printed as they are ordered. The investment is small, and there’s no inventory of books moldering in the garage. (Most) hybrid publishers also will format and place a digital version to be downloaded for Kindle, iPhone and iPad, Nook, and other electronic readers. They, too, however, expect the author to do his/her own publicity and marketing.

Hybrid publishers (like the one I chose, Virtual Bookworm) received very high ratings from all publisher evaluation websites, in part because they have standards for the books they publish. Since they make their profit when the books sell, each submission is read by several editors, who evaluate the manuscript on a number of criteria before deciding to publish it. They warn the author upfront that they reject from 20% to 80% of the manuscripts submitted. Eight days after I e-mailed my manuscript, I received an e-mail message that it had been read by three editors, all of whom gave it “extremely high” ratings, and it was accepted for publication. They immediately set up a private web site for me that allowed me to track tasks as they were accomplished, and showed every communication between me and the editor assigned to me. Four weeks after that, the book was on the market.

Most non-traditional publishers will do the upfront tasks like getting an ISBN#, placing the book in Books In Print, placing the book with the major distributors used routinely by bookstores, and preparing the manuscript as camera-ready copy. Beyond that, the author can do as much of the formatting as s/he chooses; the publisher will charge if they do those formatting services, as well as for editing and cover design, unless you have them done yourself. I chose the most basic package, since I had the novel edited, knew how to format it myself, and had a photographer-and-artist-in-residence.  I filed for the copyright, which I own, not the publisher, online.

It’s important to note that an author can find a cover designer/artist, a copy editor, and a publicity/marketing agent, usually in an area nearby.

As opposed to a roughly two-year timeline for publication by a traditional publisher, here was my timeline:

  • 11/  3/10 Submitted manuscript (edited and polished and complete) to VBW
  • 11/11/10 Manuscript accepted for publication; VBW suggested one last careful edit
  • 11/16/10 I submitted the once-more edited manuscript with cover art, author bio and photo, and synopsis
  • 11/18/10 My account was open, and I had a private web page as an author
  • 11/23/10 VBW e-mailed my first proofs
  • 11/29/10 I e-mailed my corrections (worked on it all through Thanksgiving break)
  • 12/  6/10  I received and went over the second set of proofs and signed the contract
  • 12/  7/10 VBW sent the files to the printer and began placement with sellers
  • 12/27/10 I was notified that my author copies had been sent, the book was print-ready, and was now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many others.
  • 1 /   5/11   I ordered my first 50 copies at 50% author discount. Future orders will be 30% discount; these copies are for my “readers” and immediate family (large family). I don’t expect to sell books myself–will leave that up to the booksellers, in stores and online
  • 1 / 13/11 My 50 books had been printed and shipped
  • 1 /17/11 Received my first royalty statement

Just under eight weeks from submission to acceptance to proofs to contract to market availability.

There are, of course, other options for non-traditional publishing. I’ll blog about them on another day.

Nikki Broadwell published an interview with me about the process of publishing my novel. Questions about traditional and non-traditional publishing are posed and frankly answered on her blog, featuring a number of authors and publication modes.

BOOKMARK THIS BLOG to see frequent entries about writing, and publishing.

INVITE ME to speak/read/sign at your book group, critique group, writing group, or bookstore.



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