Preface: Approximately one million books are published each year. That includes fiction, non-fiction, young adult, children, picture books, coffee table books etc. About 300,000 + of the million are self published. Such a large pool of self published authors hoping to “make it big” with their book have spawned many scammers. I will try to expose those scams as I talk about publishing.
Agents are very selective. On average, the good ones receive 200-300 queries a month. That doesn’t mean you can’t find one to represent your book. However, you must be prepared for rejection.
The best agents belong to the Association of Authors Representatives. You can be 100% assured that any agent in this group is not a scammer. They have a code of ethics and strictly enforce it.
There you will find the list of agents with the genre of book they like to represent.
Don’t send them a book that doesn’t meet their criteria. That will get you a guaranteed rejection.
Follow their instructions carefully. If they want a query letter first don’t send them your book. If they want the first three chapters don’t send them 5. If they only want a synopsis, don’t send them sample chapters.
Most of these agents take e-mail queries so it won’t cost you money to query them.
It should be no longer than if you are typing it on one page of paper.
It should list no more than a catch line and a one or two paragraph description of your book. For example, here is the catch line and the brief description of my new book coming out this fall:
Love and faith are tested as Jason and Ariel are caught in a battle to expose smugglers selling weapons to terrorists.
It is said opposites attract. There can’t be two people more opposite than Ariel and Jason. Ariel is a traditional Quaker with an absolute aversion to war. Jason is head of the legal department of America's largest weapons manufacturer.
Their budding romance is thrown into turmoil when Jason uncovers evidence linking his employer to international arms deals that could devastate America. His determination to stop the treason puts Ariel in the middle of dangerous territory.
The kidnappings, killings and harrowing escapes from those trying to retrieve the evidence force Jason and Ariel to delve deeply into their often opposing long-held convictions, and question if they are truly meant to be together.
Note how I put the description of the story in 3 short paragraphs instead of one long one. It’s easier to read short paragraphs than one long one.
Naturally you should list your address, tel. no. e-mail.
Don’t use fancy fonts or italics. Times New Roman font at 12 point is always good. However if you find you are going a line or two over one page you can go to 11 point but no lower.
If you have done any previous writing mention your credentials like winning a writing contest, or publishing credits. If you don’t have any previous credits say nothing.
Don’t say things like: This is my first book or anything about your skills as a writer. The agent will figure that out themselves.
Many agents will ask if this is a “multiple submission” which means you are submitting to more than one agent. Be honest. If it is tell them.
I strongly urge you to make multiple submissions to as many agents as you want. An agent usually takes 2-3 months to answer so if you have given an agent exclusivity on your submission and they reject you, you have lost 2-3 months in trying to submit to another agent.
The last line of your query letter should read: Thank you for considering my novel for representation. (If it’s not a novel, say memoir, non-fiction or whatever your genre is)
SYNOPSIS OF YOUR BOOK
Basically it should be a three to five page version of your “book jacket” description you put in your query letter. It should describe the plot; the main character’s names (note I even did that in the short version); the conflicts the characters meet; the resolution of those conflicts; and the end of the story.
Do not say something at the end of the synopsis like: You’ll have to read the book to see how it ends. That is a definite no no. Agents and publishers what to see how the book ends.
If you find an agent and they offer to sign you, you should definitely have a clause in the contract that gives the agent six months to sell your book. If they don’t sell it in 6 months then you can cancel or renew.
You should have a lawyer read the contract. I know it will cost you, but it will save you grief in the end if you want to get rid of the agent.
Agent commissions generally run 10% to 15%. Anything more is out of the norm.
Your contract should allow you to audit the agent’s sales of your books. Some authors are complaining that their agents are holding back on their royalties. These are obviously not AAR agents.
If possible your contract should say how many publishers the agent will be submitting your novel to and they should provide you with verification that they submitted your book. Some are only connected to one publisher.
One of the biggest scams is a reading fee. No reputable agent will charge a fee to read your novel. If they ask for one throw their letter in the garbage.
Evaluation fee: Again a scam. You won’t use an agent to evaluate your novel. That’s what editors do.
Your book needs editing, I’ll do it for X dollars. Again throw the letter away. If they sell your book a publisher will edit it.
There are many ways to get your book published―through and agent who submits to a major publisher, with a small publisher, and self publishing.
There are hundreds of small publishers. The problem is they come and go. I had two of them go out of business on me. However, many of them are good.
You can google independent publishers and you will find organizations of small publishers. Many of them specialize in specific genres like romance, sci-fi, gay and lesbian, mysteries. Others publish all genres. Find the one that fits with your genre.
Some small publishers only publish e-books. The biggest advantage is that if they are legitimate they will edit your book, create the cover and format your book for all e-book reading devices.
The biggest disadvantage is that there are still readers who only want to read a printed copy.
Because many small publishers come and go, you should inquire how long they have been in business. In addition you can inquire about a publisher on one of the groups I am going to mention below such as, “Has anyone used or heard of so and so publisher?”
Most of these contacts are boiler plate, but you should definitely have a lawyer go over the contract. Here are a couple of things you should not agree to.
Do not agree to give them your next book. You may decide you didn’t like the publisher and if you have a clause that you will give them your next book your stuck with them forevermore.
There should be a clause that the contract ends usually in 7 years and that your rights return to you at the end of that period unless you decided to renew with the publisher.
The contract must read that the publisher will pay for everything necessary to bring your book to market including cover, editing, formatting and obtaining an ISBN number.
You own your characters which means in case you want to write another book using the same characters (you’re making a series) you have the right to do so.
Because publishers created the cover, they own it. If the publisher goes out of business and you want to use the cover they will ask you to pay for it. Try to get ownership of the cover to revert to you if the publisher goes out of business or ceases to operate. They publisher will have paid for the cover, but you spent a lot of time and possibly money promoting your book.
The biggest advantage of finding a publisher is that they will create the cover and edit your book free of charge. That’s their job. If they want you to pay for the cover and the edit they are truly too small and you should not sign with them.
However, the publisher does not own the edited book. So when they send the edited copy to you for approval make sure you save that edited book to disc or some other save format and not just in your computer.
All publishers contracts are different, but if you see something you don’t like then try to get it out. If you can’t then you have two choices: Take a chance, or don’t sign.
My first publisher’s contract stated they will pay all the publication expenses to bring this book to market. However, they had a clause in their contract that said they do not pay royalties until they recoup their publishing expenses from book sales. My naiveté let me pass right over this clause without a thought. You should never accept a contract with a clause like this. This makes the publisher basically a vanity press that charges you to publish your book.
The royalty clauses in your contract should be very specific and state:
When the royalties will be paid.
How much the author will receive for a print book sale and an e-book sale.
What dollar or percentage amount of your royalties the publisher can hold back against potential returns and for how long.
The minimum amount that has to be earned before a check is issued
The amount an author will be paid for “special sales, custom product deals and premium offers.”
Royalties run differently also but generally run 8% to 10% of the retail price for print copies and 40% of the retail price for e-books.
Movie: The chances of your book being made into a movie are as big if not bigger than winning the lottery. But as they say in the lottery ads, “Hey, you never know.”
Most publishers will have a clause in the contract about movie rights. They deserve something for putting out your book, but not the 40% of the money you receive for the movie rights. Only give the publisher the print rights. Here is a clause to add for film rights:
Author grants Publisher the non-exclusive right to negotiate for sale, lease, or license or other disposition of the Work in the motion picture, television, dramatic and/or other broadcast fields ("Film/TV Rights"). Negotiations of Film/TV Rights must be approved by Author upon recommendation by Publisher. All Net Amounts received by Author or Publisher for Film/TV Rights will be divided between Author and Publisher in the following manner: 15% to Publisher and 85% to Author. Publisher or Author will remit corresponding Net Amount to the other party within thirty (30) days of receipt along with an accounting statement.
There are many scammers out there that will charge you a lot of money to bring your book out and then they will pay you royalties. Many don’t pay your royalties when due. Others pretend to go out of business and then restart under a new name, leaving you with nothing.
My suggestion is if you are going to hire someone to do all the work you need to self publish your book, you contract with a highly reputable company like Smashwords or Amazon Create Space. Of course there are others but these two in my opinion are probably the most reliable.
I do not suggest you work with a “vanity press” that says they will do the worK and ask for a commission. Why share your commissions with them? When you post your self published book on Amazon or other sites those sites take a sales charge. So if your “vanity press” also wants a commission then you are double paying.
Expenses to expect if you are going to do all the work yourself to publish your book:
You must have your book edited. Do not self edit it. You are too close to the book and have probably gone over it a few times and you will begin skimming and miss things. I’ve seen prices range from as little as $.005 (half a cent) per word for proof reading only to $.015 (one and half cents) per word if you want more advanced editing. Some editors will say send me a couple of pages and they will edit free and you can see their work
Unless you are artistically oriented you must pay to create a cover. I’ve seen prices range from $75.00 to $250.00 depending if you only want an e-book cover or a print and e-book cover.
You may have to buy an ISBN number if you need one.
Formatting your book is relatively easy for an e-book. There are many sites on the internet that will explain how to do it. You do not have to be a computer genius. However, Formatting for a print copy can be a bit more difficult. There are also companies that will format your book for you for a fee. I’ve seen prices from $300.00 to $500.00 depending on whether you want e-book only or both print and e-book.
All these costs can run $700.00 to $1500.00 depending on what you want done. That is one reason you might want to consider a publisher even if the publisher is only an e-book publisher.
Therefore you should again check with the writing groups you have joined on Facebook, Linkedin, Goodreads, etc. (see below) to see if anyone has used the editor, cover artist, and formatter you are considering.
No matter whether you obtain a publisher or you self publish, you will have to do all the promotion yourself.
Again there are a lot of scammers out there that tell you they will promote your book for $10 to hundreds of dollars. Some work, many do not. Again check with your groups for recommendations.
One of the best places to promote your book is to get interviews on blogs. Many bloggers post messages on author and social networking sites asking if authors would like to be interviewed. Also many authors post, “see my blog interview” and give the URL of the blog. You can read the blog and if the blogger’s concept is about something that you can write about, you can contact the blogger to see if they would like to interview you.
For example: You are not going to ask a blogger whose blog is about cooking to give you an interview for a book about fishing. However, if the blog is about cooking and you wrote a mystery where the detective is a chef, the blogger may be interested.
Like all advertising, repetition is the key. Keep your name in front of readers by participating in group discussions on your author and social networking sites. Sooner or later people will say, let me try one of his books
You must have a website. They are many companies where you can design your own website or you can hire someone to build one and maintain it for you.
Again there are scammers. People will say they will review your book only to get it for free and you never hear from them again. (You have to supply the book either a hard copy or gift and e-book to a reviewer.) So ask them what books they reviewed then go to Amazon and search for that book. Look for the reviewer you are considering and click on “See all my reviews.”
SOCIAL AND AUTHOR NETWORK SITES
Read their guidelines. Some allow BSP (blatant self promotion), others do not. But they all have discussions about books. The key is that if you join into some of the conversations that interest you, you get your name spread around. And I sign my post with my name and my website.
The biggest problem with a lot of these groups is that most of them have authors as members. But that’s not really a bad thing. The writers that belong to these groups can be very helpful. You can:
Ask for reviews.
Ask for the names of editors.
Ask if anyone had experience with so and so publisher.
Ask for the names of book formatters and book cover designers if you are going to self publish.
Ask for how to write a synopsis and a query letter.
BUT REMEMBER, ANY NAMES YOU ARE GIVEN CHECK THEM OUT. Ask for references. Ask to see their work. Google them to see if there are any derogatory comments about them.
These are the groups I belong to. There are many more that might suit your interests better.
Fiction writers group
Write it down
All Mystery newsletter
Authors and publishers association
Check this out-I wrote this
Indie book review
Penandpaper world (penandpaper is one word)
Romantic fiction for readers and writers of romance
Writers and authors circle
Writing professionals and authors
Goodreads authors and readers
Mystery and crime thrillers
Books gone viral
The Mystery Reader
Marketing for romance writers.
Reading our way
Marketing for romance writers
Murder must advertise
Sisters in crime (Any one, male or female can join this group
Obviously you cannot visit all these groups every day or you’ll spend your whole life on your computer. But once you sign up to a group, you’ll get messages and you can either delete them if they don’t refer to anything you’re interested in or see what the poster has to say and leave a comment with your signature.