The world of publishing is pretty tough business to crack into, especially if you’re a newbie who’s just starting out. Many of them are tied to one of five organizations, and most of them are, in some way, based in New York City. These groups of publishers, called “The Big Five” by many in the industry, are basically the businessmen and -women who run the industry. But the question some writers, without a doubt, wonder is, “How do I break in?”
The answer to that question is going to be different for everyone. Everyone is different, so every writer will be different, and every publishing house is going to be different as well. The Big Five represents what many writers in the literary world would like to achieve: a major book deal with a big publisher. But the problem, more often than not, is that the Big Five are solely focused on making a profit. The fact that many are based in New York is a clue that this is the case, but beyond that, this is the reason getting your foot in the door is such a problem (one reason I chose to self-publish my novel, Kingslayer). In order for them to take you seriously, you have to have an agent. And at each agency, you have to send a query and other deliverables to them in accordance with their guidelines.
All of the above, however, is what things look like if you want a major book deal. If you’re okay with working your way up the publishing ladder, you can always go with a middle-sized traditional press. They may be run regionally (like a university publisher), or they may simply be a publisher based outside of New York. Needless to say you won’t have the success of an author at one of the Big Five, but this is a very good place to start if you want to see your work in print and want to make a little profit. You’ll still get an advance (though not as big as one from a big house), and you’ll still gain readers. In the end, you still win.
Small presses, on the other hand, are not as trust-worthy as all of what I’ve posted above. The truth is, small publishers are as close to self-publishing as you can get with traditional publishing. If your advance isn’t at least $250, don’t sign with them. I cannot stress this enough. An advance represents the publisher’s commitment to selling that amount of dollars worth of your book. If you don’t get an advance from them, they’re not committed. Additionally, you have to do all the networking and marketing yourself, which you have to do anyway if you’re self-publishing. The real question is, why sign the rights off to your book if you already have to do the same amount of work if you chose to self-publish? Take it from someone who’s been scammed by a small press, it’s not worth it.
Granted, this isn’t to say that a small publisher is going to scam you 100% of the time. But make sure they have two things at their disposal: a marketing team and an advance ready for you if you choose to sign with them. Otherwise, it’s a scam. Period, end of story. There are lots of scams out there, claiming to be traditional publishers, when in reality they’re either lying or they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Anyway, that’s it for now. Maybe one day I’ll post on the pro’s and con’s of traditional publishing, but that’s another blog for another day.
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