Saturday, July 30, 2011

Choosing A Publisher

The second question people ask me when they find out I am getting a book published is how I chose, or even found, a publisher.  I think a lot of people have something in them they'd like to write, or communicate, or see in print.  While of course I hope that you will all buy and read my book when it is published (!), I think this blog is more for people who would like to write their own work.

The answer to finding a publisher is quite simple, and it's the same thing I learned when I was applying for college scholarships and when I was working in sales.  You apply everywhere!!  Some writers choose a publisher, submit their work, receive a rejection, and that's that.  When you work in sales, you send direct mailers, sales flyers, and coupons to as many people as possible.  You hope that a percentage of them will come in and buy your product.  Finding a publisher works the same way.  Some publishers do not accept "simultaneous submissions," which are works that have been submitted to other publishers at the same time.  Some publishers will accept them but require that you let them know your work is a simultaneous submission.  You will need to read the guidelines for each publisher.  Even if you submit your writing to one publisher at a time, though, do not accept a rejection as the end of your dream.  Keep submitting!  Some best-sellers were rejected a number of times before they were finally put into print.

To begin, simply Google "publishers," along with the genre you wish to publish.  After unsuccessfully submitting my book to several publishers with which I was familiar, I Googled "publishers Christian children's books."  You may search for "publishers children's books," "publishers romance novels," "publishers historical fiction," etc.  Once you have a list, check each website and look for submission guidelines.  Many publishers now take submissions online.  Make sure your writing has already been edited to the best of your ability and formatted correctly.  Depending on what type of work you are doing, you may also want to search the Internet for sample query letters in your genre.  Some publishers require a query letter first, while others will take your submission immediately if it is ready.  All this information can be found in the submission guidelines for each publisher.

It may also be helpful to understand the different types of publishers in today's confusing market.  Once upon a time, publishers accepted a manuscript, published it, and paid royalties to the writer.  This traditional publishing contract is, of course, what we all want.  If you can get it, more power to ya!  Now that everybody and his brother has a computer on his desk and a couple of laptops strewn about, publishers are inundated with manuscripts.  They might have the next best-sellers crumpled on their floors, but they don't know it because they simply don't have time to read them all.  You may want to hire an agent to help you get your book noticed.

Another avenue that is gaining momentum is self-publishing.  Basically, you pay the costs of publishing and they publish your book.  This method has its place, but if you are not careful, you could spend a lot of money without gaining much.  Self-publishing is useful for several reasons.  For one, you may be a grandparent who has written a story for your grandchildren, or a public speaker who has written a book for a workshop.  You do not need the distribution and marketing that a large publisher would provide; you just need your book printed in a professional manner.  You can self-publish (just Google "self-publishers") and use your copies however you see fit.  Self-publishing can also be a way to get your "foot in the door" with the big publishers if you are sure you have a winner and you can do your own marketing.  Be aware that if you wish to sell large numbers of your book, that in addition to paying for the self-publishing, you will probably need to pay a publicist and/or some type of marketing agency to advertise your book and sell it in the public sector.  These contracts will run thousands of dollars.  Self-published books can be sold on the Internet, such as through Amazon, but to get them into bookstores you would also need to have contracts with distributors and the stores.   I say this not to discourage you, but to make you aware of what you may need to put into this endeavor in order to get something back.  It will require an investment of time, effort, and money.  The payoff comes when you either sell a large number of the books yourself, or are picked up by a large publisher with a traditional contract.

Some large traditional publishers have a self-publishing arm.  The top sellers among the self-published authors each year may be offered a traditional contract.  This could be a way to get your foot in the door.

One publisher has offered another solution to help new authors get published - a compromise between the two former methods.  Tate Publishing specializes in offering contracts to new authors.  They do, however, require that each new author hires a publicist to help ensure the success of both author and publisher.  To some, this looks like self-publishing, or even a vanity publisher (that is, a publisher that will publish anything for anyone if you pay them enough money).  I was surprised to see how much controversy this has generated among writers' blogs on the Internet.  Well, Tate Publishing offered me a contract, and I have cast my lot with them.  I am confident that they have a good business model, and I am excited about our future together.  If you have questions about them, though, especially if you have been offered a contract and are trying to decide whether or not to accept it, click "follow" over there in the margin and stay tuned to my blog.  I will cover more about Tate Publishing in my next blog entry.  As I said in my beginning post, you may read this blog and share the ride with me, pass or fail.  If I have placed my trust where I shouldn't have, you will discover that along with me, right here.

Join me for the ride!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

If You Want To Walk On Water, You've Got To Get Out Of The Boat

Catchy title, don't you think?  Look how the "A" in boat is actually a piece of the boat.  No, it's not mine.  It is the title of an inspiring book by John Ortberg.  This book did not change my life dramatically all by itself or anything like that, but it was the last in a series of kicks in the pants that I needed to pursue a dream.

You should absolutely read this entire book, but for the purposes of this blog, I will just say that the title about sums up what you need to know.  Before Peter could walk across the water to Jesus, he had to take a step out of the boat into the raging, stormy sea.  He had to fix his eyes on Jesus.  When he looked away from Jesus in fear, he began to sink. (Matt 14:22-23)

In the same way, if you have a dream of something big you'd like to do for God, you must take the first steps.  Take a risk.  Don't take foolish risks and squander your family savings.  But pray and research and take a risk on something God has put into your heart to do.  Dare to fail.  This was the theme of a Sunday School class I attended in 2010.

Well, let me back up a little.  This started before 2010.  It probably started in, oh, I don't know, 1980 or so. When I was in elementary school, we learned about poetry.  Then we moved onto short stories and creative writing.  I loved this stuff.  My best friend and I said we wanted to be writers when we grew up.  We wrote notebooks full of poems and stories and traded them to read each other's writing.  In the 8th grade, I took a Creative Writing class.  In the English Seminar my Senior year, I worked harder and learned more than I ever had about writing under a fabulous teacher who instructed us to just call her "The Queen," or "Your Majesty."  I worked on the school literary magazine, and was the editor of the magazine my last year of Junior High and my last year of High School.  I even submitted a few poems to miscellaneous anthologies, where they were published (yes, they were pretty much vanity publishers, but my name was in print).

So then, you would expect that I majored in literature in college and went on to become a great writer, right?  No.  I did take a Creative Writing class my Senior year in college under another great instructor, who encouraged everyone in the class to submit at least one book for publication, but I kept my writing a hobby.  I satisfied the requirements of the class by getting some items published in the college's literary magazine.  I have made my own greeting cards for people's birthdays and told stories to my own kids through the years, and I've had articles published in a few newsletters.  The dream of being a real, published author continued to hang on in the back of my mind, though.

About three years ago, I was looking for some books on the theory of Intelligent Design for my children, whom I homeschool.  There were a few books for teens and upper elementary students explaining the theory, but while I taught the subject to my oldest son, I needed storybooks for the little ones.  Sure, there are storybooks about Creation and about God making the animals, but I wanted a storybook for small children that talked about the scientific theory.  (If you are not familiar with the theory of Intelligent Design, click "follow" over in the margin - we'll be talking more about it, I assure you!)  I couldn't find any books like this.  So I wrote one for my kids.  Then I thought, if I'm looking for a book like this, I wonder if other people are, too?  Maybe I should try to get it published.

So then, you are expecting that I began bombarding publishers with my fabulous new book and made millions, right?  No.  I still sat in the boat, thinking maybe one day I could be published, but taking no risks toward that goal.  My husband and kids were very supportive.  They kept asking me if I had sent my book to any publishers yet.  I kept saying I would get around to it.

Then came the Sunday School class.  "If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out of the boat."  The teacher asked us each to write a dream we had anonymously on a slip of paper.  I wrote that I would like to get a children's book published.  He took all the slips and wrote the class's dreams on the whiteboard.  Then he said, "Now take one step toward that dream.  Do one thing.  See what happens."

That was it.  I had to submit my book.  I did receive one more swift kick, which God must have sent lest I back down again.  I told my aunt, who also enjoys writing, about the class and about the book I had already written.  She wasn't just a little encouraging.  She practically yelled at me.  "You have a talent that God has given you, and you are not using it!  I didn't know you had already written a book.  You've got to get that published.  You are like the wicked servant who took the talent his master had given him and buried it instead of investing it!"  (Matt 25:14-30)  I did not want to be a wicked servant.  She continued, "Now submit that book to a publisher, and let me know where you are submitting it so that I can pray about it!"

I submitted my children's book to a publisher.  I received a rejection.  I submitted it to another publisher.  I never heard back from them.  I submitted it again.  I received another rejection.  I lost count of how many publishers I contacted and how many rejections I received.

Finally, last month, I received a call from Tate Publishing (we'll review Tate Publishing in another blogpost as well).  MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED!  IT IS GETTING READY TO BEGIN PRODUCTION!  I AM AN AUTHOR!!!!

In case you can't tell, I am quite excited about this.  I am - well, let's not discuss my age or how long I have taken to get to this point.  Let's just say, I could have done it a little earlier.  But that doesn't matter.  What matters is, I'm doing it now.  God put a dream in my heart a long time ago, and I finally took a step out of the boat.  I took the risk, and God blessed it.  Amazing Animals By Design is being published!

Yesterday, I received an email from a magazine to which I had submitted an article, and they will be publishing it in October.  Woo-hoo!  Two publications.  I'm on a roll now!

So, why am I creating this blog?  Well, when I tell people I'm getting a book published, they say, "How did you do that?  What publisher are you using?  What about illustrations?"  Many people have a story inside them they'd like to tell, or another dream they'd like to pursue.  Now, I'm no expert - yet - but I've taken the first step.  I could sell thousands of copies of this book or only dozens.  I may write more (that's my plan) or this may be a one-hit wonder.  The pages of this adventure are not yet written.  I am inviting you to come along on the adventure with me.  If you are interested - and perhaps would like to embark upon such an adventure yourself - click on the "followers" tag over in the margin, and join me as I continue to climb out of the boat and try to keep my eyes fixed on the Great Author of my faith.  Success or failure, join me in the journey.  (For the record, though, no matter what happens, I will consider myself a success just for getting it published.)

I can already tell you the first step you need to take.  Get out of the boat.