Thursday, July 12, 2012

Becoming a Published Author: Part II-If It Doesn't Fit, Don't Submit!

During the day-long on-line discussion I mentioned in Part I, we learned that authors shared common concerns about publishers, as well as common praises. After all, where would most of us be without our publishers?
Two years after I stopped submitting to New York, I was ready to try the small electronic presses. The list came from RWA, once again, on their website under "approved publishers." This meant epublishers who met RWA's criteria for a legitimate publisher--not a vanity press.
I studied each one on the list and narrowed them down to about ten. The others required something more than I had to offer, or at least some facet that did not apply to me.

With these ten, I made notes of the submission requirements, the appearance of the home page, and very important to me--the covers. (I made another spread sheet!)
During this process, I learned how important covers were to me. Some had covers that were garish, amateurish, too dark, and especially--too sexy. I didn't care for half-naked people in a  suggestive pose. This narrowed my list to five. Of the five, I finally chose one that really appealed to me, and I felt I would be proud to have a novel with them.

Next, I sifted through my finished manuscripts, seeking the most polished, the best opening, and the best characters. All my opinion, of course.
I bit the bullet, wrote my query, sent three chapters--and in a week--I was offered a contract!

I have never regretted that choice. 
Now that I have had seven publishers, and soon will be narrowed to five, I do have a wide range of knowledge about what publishers offer--or don't offer.

So, what do you want from a publisher?

(1) Length of contract. At the beginning, all I saw were two-year contracts. Now the trend seems to be five years. Some of those who offered two, have now changed to five.
Think carefully about this. Five years is a long time. The publisher has a reason for the length, but you might not agree. On the other hand, you might feel secure with  five year contract. Think about that carefully.
Note: All My Hopes and Dreams has a two year contract, but it's still selling in its fifth year.

(2) Publisher rights. Publishers list their rights to a movie of your book, an audio book, prints, and anything else that might be invented in the future. The only one I might argue with are the prints. If a print is not promised, why keep the rights? More and more avenues for authors to take on a project on their own exist, and I suspect in this new world of publishing, more will appear. You might want to keep your options open.

(3)  Cover art. Since a cover is so important to me, I want a publisher who will give me what I want. There are some very talented artists out there, and I've been lucky enough to get what I wanted on my covers. I love every one of them.

(4) Royalties. Percentages for ebooks and prints are close among all publishers. One publisher I have gives a much high percentage on both.

(5) Price of ebooks and print. The amount set is the publisher's decision. I have ebooks ranging from $3.99 for a full-length novel, to $8.95; and prints range from $9.99 for full-length, to $16.99. Which would you choose as a reader?

(6) Author's Discount. A real sticking point, and one I advise the author to study carefully. On one print, with a very low discount for me, and the high price of the print plus  paying the postage, I lost money selling these books in town. At the other end of the spectrum, with a very high discount for me, and a low selling price, I made a nice amount of cash.

(7) Requirements for prints. Study your contract carefully. Usually an author does not know the terms of a contract until it's in hand. If you must pay a certain amount to get prints, don't sign. If you must buy a certain number of books, I do recommend you don't sign--with this one stipulation: if you know you can sell the amount, then go ahead. You'd be buying them anyway.  
Praise for Publishers!
(1) One who listens to my concerns and answers in a timely fashion.
(2) One who treats me as an individual and not part of a crowd.
(3) One who sends my books to multiples sell sites.
(4) One who is professional at all times--no scolding or harsh words.
(5) One who likes my book as is and doesn't require rewrites and doesn't make me eliminate a good, useful character.
(6) One who has good editors to help me polish my masterpiece.
(7) One who gives me fair return for my efforts.
(8) One who doesn't play favorites.

Think there's no such publisher? Oh, yes there is. More than one is fact. You just hope you can find one.
If you have an opinion, please share.
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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  1. Hey Celia,

    I recognize the content of your post from our discussion the other day. I agree with all the things you've stated here about publishers. The good ones are out there. We have to keep our eyes and ears open to take advantage of opportunities as they come along.


  2. Maggie-I wish I'd taken notes. Surely this is not everything, but it's enough, I think. These two posts have been more work...the next blog I write is going to be fun...or I'm not going to do it!

  3. Celia, you list a lot of concerns - there's much food for thought before signing a contract I think. This is a great list for authors to consider. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Celia, as you know, our "careers" have paralleled in many ways, having multiple publishers who have often been the same. It has been a learning experience for me and I've learned what is important to me so I think I know what to look for now.I hope your blog will help some authors to avoid having to learn the hard way!

  5. This is all very reassuring. By sheer good luck, I found a publisher who fulfilled all your criteria. I particularly appreciate the way my publisher is so responsive. I published one story with a different publisher and she won't talk to me at all. Needless to say, I won't deal with her again

  6. I've had less publishers than you, Celia--just 3 (not counting magazine contracts) but I have learned quite a bit even so. Mine is more like a wish than reality in some areas. I wish publishers helped more to promote a new release. I find I spend agreat deal of time and energy to promote my work. I also wish publishers would send new releases to reviewers. I spend so much time on the business end of writing that I am distracted from actually writing. Unforntunately, the reality is that even traditional publishers are doing less and less on promoting leaving it to the authors to do it.
    I do agree that a publisher must be on the same page with me about the heat level they expect and covers--which are a major deal as far as I'm concerned.
    I've had a publisher who didn't communicate and one that had a snarky liason so I do appreciate the kind of open communication my present publisher gives me.
    I do agree that an author needs to study the publisher they submit to before they sign a contract followed by regret.

  7. Steph, thanks for stopping by. Yes, it's a lot to consider all at once!

  8. Linda--to be honest, I don't think there's any road to getting published that's not "the hard way." It's a lot of work, if you ask me!
    Thanks so much for the ideas...I did think of a few on my own, but what would I do without you?

  9. Jenny--oh, wow, you are truly lucky! I have one, too, that fits all the criteria. The others do in fits and starts. I really like a publisher to answer my email--I do it so rarely, and with some, never--you'd think they'd answer me.
    I appreciate prompness. That's how I was taught, always be on time, and take care of those little dutes in a timely fashion. "Do not procrastinate."

  10. Sarah--the promotion part is so hard, and publishers I guess can do just so much. Whiskey Creek Press puts out a newsletter twice a month with new releases, Top five best sellers, special of the month, and Author and Book of the Month. That helps morale, maybe, more than anything, but it's something I do appreciate.
    Most pubslishers send all new releases to reviewers. Wild Rose sends everything to a long list, and so does Desert Breeze--Whiskey Creek, I don't think so. But those two who do I really appreciate. But Lisa of TWRP has explained many times: we send everything out--it's up to the reviewer to choose which ones she wants to read and reviews. There are hundreds for only a few reviewers. So you see some will be left out.

    Snarky--that is my biggest dislike. I just cannot abide being spoken to--written to--in such silly, hateful, well, snarky language. With one publisher, I got two editors for two books who started out saying the most hurtful stupid things about my books. "You repeat words to death! Stop beating me over the head with it--" Etc. And even worse. I immediately pulled both ms with notes to the editors that I refused to be spoken to like a child, or worse, an imbecile.
    One of those editors very contritely asked me not to pull my book, and please don't tell the owner. Really....this happened. I left my book and she turned very professional.
    I won't allow anyone to berate me like that--no one else in life ever has, and I'm certainly not going to allow a strangter to do it.

    I've made two mistakes with publishers--I knew the contract, yet I didn't know everything. That's the problem. A contract can look good...but then when the publisher sets the ebook price at an absurd $8.95 and won't change it,I'm not happy. That happend with one of my books. I refused to promote it (only I knew that)--and believe me, for two years it has not sold at all.
    I'll get it back in September, will do some rewriting, change the title and cover, and then get a publisher--Rebecca, I hope.

  11. Celia, you gave us plenty of food for thought. Now, I'm curious about the names of your top 5 publishers.

    I picked up on a couple of them. But the other three...?

    It could save us a lot of distress if we knew. LOL. I'd rather learn from somebody else's mistakes. I make enough of my own.

  12. Hi, Laurean--I do not mind listing them--in no particular order. There is no perfect publisher, but I've been happy with these for several reasons, which may vary one to the other.

    Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery and Western Trail Blazer (these are really one--just two imprints.)
    The Wild Rose Press
    Whiskey Creek Press
    Whimsical Publications
    Willow Moon Publishers

  13. Very true, Celia. We discovered a few things too late and got stuck.
    I only had two publishers who were great on all points but TWRP didn't advertise my books and Ellora's Cave did a great job at advertizing but is more known for erotica books.

  14. Excellent post, Celia, and I completely agree with your 'praise' list for publishers!

  15. Hi Celia, I found my way here through Paula Martin's blog, Thank you for this article. No one can tell it like someone who has been through it. I'm grateful for the information.