Over the last few days, I’ve been part of a discussion with some other writers in my area about publishing. Specifically, about whether or not traditional publishers are keeping up with the times. One of our group still holds out hope that traditional publishing will return to its glory days, bookstores will once again show up in major numbers and they will have their books prominently on display. Unfortunately, the latter isn’t going to happen, at least not the bookstore culture of the last several decades. Locally owned indie bookstores are popping up, but they are more speciality stores, catering to a very set customer base. Unless B&N manages to adapt, it isn’t long for the world. So what about traditional publishing? Read more
Posts tagged ‘traditional publishing’
Welcome to the business of monetizing intellectual property.* No, you’re not in a different dimension or that nightmare of a class where you showed up for the test without studying (or clothes). I say again, welcome to writing and publishing.
What is a story? What is a nonfiction book, or a work of art? The writerly answer may be that it’s a form of communicating facts and emotions to an audience. The business answer is that it’s intellectual property, and intellectual property is something you can resell again and again to many audiences, in may formats. For art, the original may be an oil painting, but it can be resold as a poster, a fine art print, a t-shirt, a mousepad, a desktop background, or a book cover. For a story, it might have been written on paper (or not), but you can license or sell it as a paperback, as a hardcover, in English, in Polish, in ebook, in Indian translation, in audio, as the basis for a movie, a play, or tv show, or all of the above. As long as you hold the copyright, you can license the IP to anyone you want, or not, for any terms you can come to mutual agreement on how long, and for how much.
Once upon a time, knowing what you needed to do to become a published author was easy. You had to write a book that would get past the gatekeepers. To do that, you needed to find an agent and then that agent needed to sell your book. You typed up your manuscript, made it as publication as ready as possible, shoved it into an envelop and then sent it on its way. Then you waited, praying each time the mail was delivered for good news. Those were the good old, bad old days. Read more
From time to time, I’m asked whether I think a writer should publish their book as an indie or try to go the traditional route. Depending on who it is, I might temper my response a little. By that, I mean I will tell them the decision is theirs to make. Then I ask them why they consider going the traditional route. Almost every time, the answer is the same: they want to get into bookstores. You know me. So you know my follow-up question is to ask them where the closest bookstore is, when the last time was they were in the store and how many books a year do they buy from there. Almost always, you can see the lightbulb go off over their head as they consider the question. Read more
One of the most frequent comments you’ll hear when you ask someone why they want to sign a traditional publishing contract has to do with the “services” they get from a publisher. Next to distribution to bookstores, probably the most often quoted reason authors want a publisher is so they have an editor. They trust the publisher to make sure their book goes through not only content editing but also copy editing and proofreading. Because of that, they don’t worry as much about turning in a publication ready manuscript as they would if they were going the indie route.
It doesn’t matter if they are talking about a small press, mid-sized press or one of the Big 5. Too many authors believe the hype publishers try to sell – that they will get the kind of attention you see the Castles or other fictional authors receiving. Unfortunately, just as they won’t get the sort of promotion and push they see in fictional settings, they also aren’t guaranteed the level of editing they believe they’re going to get. Read more
This question came up recently in comments – why should we, on MGC, report on what The Big 5 (4?) are doing, or on B&N?
1. There’s scope and scale. What business are we in? We’re in the entertainment business. We’re competing with every other entertainer out there for Joe Sixpack’s beer money – and for Jane Doe’s attention span when she wants something to take her mind off the fact that she’s in a waiting room. Read more
I want to thank everyone who took the time to tell us what topics you’d like to see us cover over the next six months or so. It really does help us to have that sort of input. While we don’t guarantee that we’ll get to ever topic, or in the exact way it was suggested, we will do our best to cover as many of them as possible. I’m still pulling the list together and I’ll be sending it out to the other bloggers later today. In the meantime, Dave kicked us off with his post about prologues yesterday.
One topic several of you requested was formatting. There were variations on the topic and a request for exercises. I’ll figure out the best way to do exercises over the next few days. I might go back to a workshop I did on formatting several years ago and update it for the purpose. But, while I figure out the best way to do that, here are links to some recent posts I’ve done on formatting for both print and digital editions.
These posts are targeted for those who are planning on going indie with their work. For those of you who are wanting to go traditional, formatting is a bit easier. The first thing you need to do is check the agent’s website or the publisher’s website you are submitting your work to. If they have special formatting requirements, they’ll be listed.
For example, Baen lists the following as its requirements:
- Attach the manuscript as a Rich Text Format (.rtf) file.
- Send the manuscript as a single file (do not break it into separate chapter files).
- Synopsis and contact info needs to be in the file with your manuscript.
- Minimal formatting, please. Do not format text boxes or sidebars into the manuscript; use block quotes. Indent paragraphs; center chapter headers and scene break indicators (###, ***, etc.); use page breaks only at the end of chapters. For emphasis, choose either underline or italics and use it consistently throughout.
- Do not use “smart quotes”/curly quotes or single character elipses, mdashes, etc. Use straight quotes and apostrophes, . . ., –, etc.
- Avoid non-standard fonts, and unnecessary changes in font face, size, etc. Publisher likes CG Omega and Lucida Bright.
For hard copy submission, here are some of the requirements for Baen:
- Standard manuscript format only: double-spaced, one side of the page only, 1 1/2″ margins on all four sides of the page. We will consider photocopies if they are dark and clear.
- Font must be readable, or we won’t read it. This means seriphed or at least semi-seriphed, 12-point or greater. Publisher likes CG Omega and Lucida Bright. Typesetter likes any standard bookface, Times Roman or Courier.
You can find the submission guidelines for Tor/Forge here. Actual formatting requirements are as follows:
- Standard manuscript format means margins of at least 1 inch all the way around;
- indented paragraphs;
- double-spaced text;
- Times New Roman in 12 pitch.
- Please use one side of the page only. Do not justify the text.
- Do not bind the manuscript in any way.
- Make sure the header of the ms. includes your name and/or the title of the book as well as the page number (on every page).
So you can see the two publishers have similar, if not identical, requirements. But that’s not always the same, which is why I say to check the sites for wherever you are submitting if you are going the traditional route and trying to find an agent or publisher. That is especially true if you are submitting to a small or mid-sized press because some of them want the author to submit their work in a format that will be easily converted into digital formats (in other words, they want the author to do that part of the work for them).
So, I guess here is where I give you the first “assignment”. Look at your current work-in-progress (or the work you just finished and are trying to figure out what to do with). Decide whether you want to go indie or trad with it. If going trad, decide if you are going to try for publishers where you need an agent or if you are going to a publisher that has open submissions. If the former, start looking at agent requirements. (For example, some agents have you send the first few pages as part of the body of your email while others don’t want to see anything but your query.) If the latter, find their submission guidelines and figure out, based on those, what you have to do to get your submission packet ready.
We’ll get more into the nitty gritty of it next week. Until then, if you have any questions or if you want input on your formatting decisions, post them in the comments below.
Edited to Add: Let me know in the comments which OS you use to write in and what programs you use for writing and for conversion (if any on the latter). That will help me as I put together the next couple of posts.