“I want to be a published author, but where do I start?” This is a question many aspiring authors ask themselves. In a world of literary agents, publishing houses, eBooks, and an ever increasing number of self-publishing options, it can be a daunting task choosing what direction is right or best for you.
As obvious as this may sound, the first thing any aspiring writer must do is write. And not write an outline, or a summary of what his or her work is slated to be, or create a blog with a few teaser-chapters, because that will not sell or catch the attention of anyone. Nobody cares how brilliant your idea is; and in fact all of those strategies hurt your chances of success. One must actually complete the process and finish something tangible and concrete. Accomplished writers do not live off of potential; they illustrate proficiency and results.
So now, let’s say you have that manuscript, play, book of poems, or novel; it is finished and perfect in your eyes, and you are chomping at the bit to see it on bookshelves across the world and eBook readers everywhere. Not so fast. Perfect in your eyes does not yet mean you are ready. Did you have someone qualified and competent proofread your work? Someone capable of catching any grammatical mistakes or typos you didn’t catch for one reason or another? More often than not, even the very best writers make mistakes because they are unable to detach themselves from their work and see it with fresh eyes.
“I wrote my novel, it has been proofread, now what?” Up until recently, because most credible large publishing houses do not accept submissions directly from authors, the only option available to you, was to get a literary agent. Most literary agents are looking only for works they believe have a “market;” works they believe will sell covering “hot topics” or “issues of the day.”
It is not uncommon to find an agent who will say to you, “Your book has no market.” It is not uncommon to find a literary agent offer up his two-cents and give you suggestions as to how you can make your work more attractive and marketable. You might have to see a number of literary agents before finding one even willing to show your work around and give it some exposure. And even having a literary agent is no guarantee that your work will be published. Many aspiring authors give up at this point and become very discouraged. But you are different, and you have decided to press forward. (Additional Side Note: if at all possible, do not send or submit your work electronically. Get someone on the phone, get a mailing address, and send out a professional cover letter addressed to a specific individual, along with two or three printed copies of your work.)
“Should I self-publish at this point, or should I contact some of the smaller publishing houses that seem more accessible?” For the sake of this argument, let us say that you are not ready to succumb to self-publishing your work; you want to find a publishing house. And right out of the box, you find a little outfit that is very enthusiastic about your work and ready to publish it immediately. Well, isn’t that strange? All the literary agents you contacted told you they don’t believe your book had a market. Why is this publishing house so eager to sign you up?
Many small publishing houses do not care if your book ever sells, because that’s not how they make their money. They make their money off of you. You as the author will begin to be hit with “set up fees.” They will bang you a few dollars to have your work proofread again; bang you a few more dollars for the cover design and layout; bang you a few more dollars to have your first few initial copies printed; and then offer you any number of services to help your book gain much needed exposure, for an additional fee of course. By the time the publishing house is done with you, you might have spent upwards of $2,500; and that will take you some time to make back with the measly royalties you will get, because after all the publishing house has to recoup their investment in you (which you paid for) AND get a little piece of you.
“But I don’t have hundreds, or thousands of dollars to pay a publishing house? Is there anything else I can do before I self-publish?” Yes there is. You can try to find a publishing house like “Wood Press Publications” that does not charge a single penny to publish your work because they believe in first time aspiring authors. They believe that passionate writers work tirelessly to sell their work; and their only objective is to see you succeed. The more books you sell, the more money both you and the publishing house will make. This is the option I personally chose, because I also wanted a support group of knowledgeable individuals capable of answering any questions I may have and assist me. But outfits like this are few and far between.
“Well, I did everything. I wrote my book. I had it proofread. I contacted literary agents to no avail. I don’t have the money to pay an Indie publishing house to publish my book. And I looked into publishing houses that have no set-up or initial fees, and even they rejected my work! I am at a crossroad!”
Today, if you’ve spent a few hours on Twitter, you will see that just about everyone is an author and has an eBook. And when you download these eBooks, or look at the free snapshot available to you; it becomes immediately apparent that what you are reading is not good writing. Anything given away for free, or with a $2.99 price-tag and is self-published just doesn’t have the same flair as something that was published by a credible publishing house. But at this point, you really don’t care what the perceived value of your work is, because in your heart you know it is good, you know people will like it, and with you behind it, it’s going to sell. Your number one priority is to make your work available and get it out there. And if you are to self-publish an eBook, and sell a few thousand copies, not only will you make a few bucks, perhaps the literary agents and large publishing houses will now begin to take notice of you.
This is very true and a valid point. That is why no aspiring author should ever give his or her hard work and dedication away for FREE. Usually anything free is garbage, and it also sends a defeatist signal to your potential fans and readers. You are unconsciously telling them, “My work isn’t good enough for me to get published or charge you money and ultimately has no true worth.” So you decide to self-publish your work in electronic format, and you charge a nominal price that is right for you.
“But wait! It was never my dream to have only an eBook! I want to see my work on the shelves! I want to be able to hold a physical copy in my hand; something that I am proud of!” Most writers do not collaborate and help each other. Even your best friends will steer you in the wrong direction with “good intensions” because somewhere deep down inside, it’s not that they don’t want you to succeed; they just want to succeed more than you. Everyone has heard that saying, “A magician never reveals how he does his tricks.” Well, isn’t that sad?
There is a very attractive option available to you that will allow you to both publish your work in an electronic format as well as have your work published in the tangible form. There is an option available to you that will allow you to do your own layout, cover design, assign an ISBN number, have your book appear on Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites, as well as make it available for bookstores to physically order in house. There is an option available to you that will cost you less than $30, and allow you to cut out all middle men, set your profit margins in different markets, and track your sales. There is an option available to you, that will allow you to give the perceived value, that you are indeed a published author, and you did not self publish your work, even though you did do so. An option available to you that will allow you to have your books printed as they are ordered and shipped directly to the customer; so not only are you not outlaying money to stock your own books, but you aren’t even touching your book to ship it. “Well, then why doesn’t everyone do this?” The answer is simple: because not everyone knows, and those who do know certainly are not going to tell you. Furthermore, why would a publishing house explain to you, or allow you to do what it is that they do ultimately rendering them obsolete? Because after all, with an option like this, not only can you publish your work, but you can begin to publish the work of other aspiring authors you may already know.
If you have tried everything and wish to learn more about this final attractive option, or have questions in general relating to your writing process, your work, or the “ins and outs” of the publishing industry; I encourage you to take an additional step and follow/connect with me on Twitter @UnseeingEyes. I am Vincenzo Scipioni, and it is my pleasure to help individuals achieve his or her measure of success. Keep writing, never give up, and try not to get discouraged.
by Dr. Vincenzo Scipioni
Dr. Scipioni is a man of many talents. He is a published author who has just released his book Silent Pages, Loud Thoughts, Short Stories (Volume 1), and is part of the team at Wood Press Publications. He is an inspiration and a mentor for anybody that meets him, and always has a great story to share.