Every January I get a barrage of messages and emails and, unfortunately, the odd call from people deciding that the new year will be the year that they become a published writer. Good, I am happy for you. I am a fan of resolutions and goals.
But instead of putting in even a minimal amount of work to investigate for themselves how a person might go about getting published, they contact me. They want me to tell them - in as short an email as possible because they are busy you know - how to be a writer. I am once again going to address some of the most common questions I get asked. Please, if you know someone with inclinations toward becoming a published writer, cut out this column and give it to them.
Below are actual messages I have received from people:
1. Someone told me you are a writer, can you tell me how to be one too?
This is classic: How to Insult a Writer in less Than 20 Words. You have not even had the courtesy to lie about the fact that you have read none of my work?!
Move along please.
2. I want to publish my novel but I do not have money. Can you help me?
This is a surprisingly common message despite how often I talk and write about this. You do not need money to publish a novel!! If a “publisher” tells you that you must pay them money to publish your book that company is NOT a publishing company. It is posing as a publishing company but in fact it is a glorified printer. It would be the same as if you went to a printing company and wanted to print wedding cards or advertising fliers. That is not publishing.
Reputable publishers do not charge writers to publish their books. You submit your book to them, they assess your book. If they think that the book is good and they can make money on it, they will offer to publish it. If they do, they will put up all of the money to take your book from manuscript to published book, and, keep in mind, this is a substantial amount of money. You will be paid 10% royalties on sales, which means 10% of the money that the publisher earns from your book. This is standard and it is not “cheating”.
3. I have written a novel. Can I send it to you so you can read it and tell me what you think?
No, you cannot. Unless you want to pay me for that service, but even then I really do not want
4. Can you give me the names of your publishers so I can contact them?
All books have the names of the publishers on their covers. If you cannot take the time to check my books either on my blog, at Amazon or in a bookstore how will you ever have the wherewithal to survive in the brutal world of publishing? The best way to find a publisher is to find a book similar to the one you have written, check who the publisher is, research the publisher online, and submit to them according to their guidelines.
5. I want to self-publish my book. How do I do it?
I only recommend self-publishing if your book is in an area where you either are well known, you have a large social media following, are a popular performance poet, or you are a public speaker and you want to sell books at your gigs.
If you write fiction, self-publishing, in nearly 99% of the time, is a waste of money. If you are a new writer, write short stories, submit them to literary magazines. Get rejections, improve your work. If you want to write a novel, write it and spend time editing it to make it as good as possible. Submit to a publisher. Get rejected. Polish your novel until it is the absolute best that it can be. Submit to a different publisher. Do this until you have success. If you survive this process and your book is finally published, I can assure you, it will then be a product you can truly be proud of.
Best of luck in 2017 to all of you writers out there!