If you don’t want to navigate the deep, swirling waters of self-publishing and you are’t too sure about using a vanity press, you still have a number of options that are available to you. At this point you will be looking for a more traditional way to publish your book. There are a bazillion reasons why this is a good option. Presses, or publishers, cover costs such as editing, artists, blurb writing, reviews, printing, distribution, ISBN, and the big expense (in time and money) in marketing. This alone would make anyone squeal with delight. Squeeee!
But rather than search out publication from one of the BIG publishing houses, you may want to give a small press, or an independent press a look. Small or Independent presses publish a few, probably less than 100, titles per year. They will occasionally accept unsolicited manuscripts. (Unsolicited means they didn’t ask you for a manuscript nor did they ask an agent to find one for them.) Small presses typically focus on a particular genre such as children’s literature, picture or board books, young adult literature, general fiction, poetry, romance, horror, and so forth. Where can you find these gems? Poets & Writers has a fantastic database of small presses. You will be able to narrow down your search based on genre and book type. You can check it out here.
But there’s a caveat. The dreaded contract. Yes, you will be legally bound to this press. You may lose your copyright for a number of months or years in exchange for an advance (hopefully) and royalties during the lifetime of the contract. Then there are all sorts of fine print you need to watch out for such as royalties don’t start until the expenses associated with the publishing of the book are met, sliding scales of royalties (10% until the first 10,000 are sold then 15% to the next 10,000, etc.), whether you get to keep the cover art, yada, yada, yada. What? You’re a writer not an attorney? That’s unusual these days but it could happen. You, the non-attorney author, will need to seek out a literary attorney to read, review, and advise you on the contract deal. Guess what – you pay that fee.
There is another option. Locating a literary agent. She can help you locate an appropriate press for your work and even help you with translating the contract. Keep in mind that she will need to be paid for her services. Sometimes they take a percentage of your advance and retainers. Maybe she wants an upfront fee. Depends on the agent. You will have a contract with her too so don’t throw away that attorney’s phone number just yet. Writer’s Digest has excellent resources to locate a literary agent. One such article is here.
But don’t forget, that if you haven’t written a good first draft, and done your preliminary editing and revisions so that it’s a really, really good draft, the odds of an agent taking you on are slim and the odds of a press taking a raw unsolicited manuscript are slim. Write your story and clean it up so that it sparkles. Don’t forget to write your synopsis too!
And while you are writing, don’t forget to type up you story for the April issue of Pilcrow & Dagger. The theme is Dirty Little Secrets. What are you itching to tell? Did you put itching powder in your camp counselor’s cot? Did you give poison ivy to someone? Did you give something else itchy to someone? Eww. Do you want to kiss and tell? Did you kiss the bride? The groom? Write it down and sent it in!