A Novel Way of Catching the Eye of a Publisher


1895 HoughtonMifflin HolidayBooks Armstrong

1895 HoughtonMifflin HolidayBooks Armstrong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s always worth keeping up to date with whatever is going on in your world, so as a writer, editor and publisher, I have kept myself up to date over the years by including writing magazines from time to time, in addition to direct author contact. These mags have given me many useful tips, but above all, they’ve given me an insight into the problems faced by writers, along with an equal insight into their triumphs. One thing that has always been clear, is that the Holy Grail for writers has always been to receive a phone call from a publisher who wants to publish their book.

It’s always been difficult for an author to interest a publisher in a manuscript, particularly as a first time author, but now it is almost impossible. Right now, in mid 2013, there are practically no UK publishers accepting unsolicited work. Very interesting that the same applies to literary agents – they are turning away potential new business.

I will explain the reasons for the worsening situation in another blog, but for the time being, I will suggest a way around the problem. To be honest, I got the idea for from an article in an American magazine, but I can see how it can work elsewhere as well.

The author in the article had self-published several ebooks in a science fiction series or saga. Conventionally published print books must be a certain size / number of pages, because the size affects the cost of production and the final price of the book. It also impinges on the position it can take on a shop’s bookshelf and the appeal it may have to the book buying public. This means the publisher will want the book to contain a certain number of words, which may be anything from 70,000 to 150,000, while an ebook that you publish yourself can be as short or long as you like.

The author in the article had started by self-publishing an ebook novella of about 50,000 words in length, and then he’d gone on to write further episodes of the saga of about the same length. The author built up a following for his work, and he actually made quite a bit of money from his ebooks, but then an agent spotted his work and approached him. It took the agent a while to persuade the author to let him find a conventional publisher for his work, but the agent soon managed to get a deal with a major US publisher. The author refused to give up the ebook rights, and amazingly, the publisher agreed to take him on for print books alone, on the basis that his ebook followers would also wish to buy the printed books. The author didn’t say what happened next, but my guess is that the publisher bundled a few of his novellas together to make one book.

The author hadn’t considered foreign rights, but agents live by these, so between the publisher and the agent, the book was printed and sold in shops in the US, but the agent also managed to sell translation rights to several foreign countries.

The author himself advocates self-publishing your own ebook, because in his opinion, it’s better to have the work out there where people can see it, than languishing in a drawer or as sheets of paper in a self-addressed envelope coming back from yet another publisher or agent. At the very least you will immediately reach people who like your kind of book, while you may also catch the eye of an agent or a publisher.

Editors don’t have time to read through piles of submissions, so they prefer to take books from agents, who only send them those that have real potential. However due to the changes in the book trade these days, neither publishers nor agents are bothering as much as they used to with the “slush pile”, while some savvy agents are searching through the list of self-published ebooks to see what’s hot. This way, they don’t need to rely purely on their own judgment to work out whether a book is likely to sell or not, because it will already be doing so, and the author will already be building up an audience for their work.

For information on how you can publish stuff yourself, or how you can let us do some or all of the work for you, for an extremely affordable price, please contact me at info@stellium.co.uk

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