Wednesday, January 28, 2015


To Publish Together. 

The options that exist for getting your book out into the world are growing.

let's review:

There is the modern way of self publishing – there are many companies to choose from, you are responsible for all of your own illustrations, editing, marketing, but you retain 100% of the rights to your book. Usually digital only or printed on demand (when an order comes in, a book is printed and shipped)

There is the traditional way of submitting your manuscript to an agent. That agent represents your book and often prefers to work with a separate illustrator. They take control of the editing and layout and work with you to strengthen the plot and rework any sections that may need to be refined. For that, they take a cut of sales. They may or may not help with marketing efforts depending on the agency.

There is the less traditional way, but still very selective way of submitting your manuscript to a publisher directly.  Similar to working with an agent, they work with you on editing, layout and plot structure. There is less marketing and and in most cases, they take less of a smaller portion of the sales. The large majority of publishers choose to only work with agents. That vastly limits the options of publishers that you can submit a manuscript to directly.

And the one I most recently ran into, co-publishing. I’ll get back to this in a bit… but first, a story.

At the end of 2014 I buried myself in research and narrowed down a list of publishers in the US that might be a good fit. The publishing agency had to be:

  • Willing to look at unagented submissions (I do not have an agent after all)
  • looking for beginning chapter books (such is my current manuscript)
  • open to topic content with elements of fantasy mixed with the struggles of youthfulness. (Pumpkin Lou is both fantasy and a kid) 
I came up with a list of eight.

So before Christmas, I sent out my eight manuscripts – some via email, some via snail mail, but all with very specific (and very different) submission guidelines.
Six days later, I got an email from Renaissance House

“We like your manuscript, we feel it has a lot of promise, we want to work with you, but…” 

I know I was excited too!

“… we aren't accepting new projects at this time. However our co-publishing partner is . Would you be interested in working with them?”

Still exciting. 

"Perhaps." I told them… let me ask a million questions and see where this ends up.

I learned that co-publishing is supposedly the best of both worlds – you get the control of your story and the fast turnaround time of self-publishing.  But you also get a professional editor, layout and graphics department, and possibly illustrator depending on the type of book you are publishing.
All for the low, low price of…?  Well in this case it was $2400

You do still have to be accepted by a publisher, so not every Random Joe off the street has this option. But at the same time, publishers can clearly be less picky about who they are selecting because there’s not quite as much time or effort at stake like there is for traditionally published books.

The question that I never got a clear answer to is that of “Returnability”.

What is returnability? Great question.  Let’s say you are Barns and Noble - book store giant. You have thousands of new books at your fingertips every day. How do you possibly narrow down which ones to put on your shelves?  One quick way to shorten the list is the “Returnability Guarantee.” If the book you choose does not fly off your shelves at break neck speed, those books need to be returned to the publisher ASAP. You are wasting useful shelf space!

This means that if the books cannot be returned, Barns and Noble will not risk putting them on their shelves. Or any other large books store for that matter. They may offer them online – because they don’t have to keep track of any physical stock - but that's the best you'll ever do.

With self-publishing, the publisher does not ever want books back. They are not in the business of helping their authors get books sold, so they do not care if your book flops. You can often pay extra for the option, but it’s usually a lot extra. From what I can gather co-publishing falls into the same non-returnability category.  This may not be true of all contracts, but if you find yourself with a co-publishing offer, you now at least know to ask the question.

Needless to say, I turned down the offer from Renaissance House. I have set my standards high and refuse to give in just quite yet. 
It’s coming up on one year since I first submitted the picture book manuscript of this same story. It has gone through major revisions, lengthened by about 9000 words and changed titles twice. 

I have learned a lot, and when I do finally get this book published, it will definitely be because of hard work and perseverance.  And that in itself makes for a good story – and hopefully an interesting blog.

Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment