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imagesIn the first post of this series we discussed writing a synopsis (fiction) or a book proposal (memoir). This is the first thing a literary contest, agent, or publisher will see. That makes it more important than you might think, which is unfortunate, because writers suck at writing this important road map.

How do I know this you ask?

Because I have seen over 300 synopses before reading, critiquing, and judging those manuscripts for the very large literary contest I have been volunteering my services to for over a decade now.

Luckily for the writers of these terrible synopses, I don’t let their lack of skills with laying out their plan affect my opinion of how well they actually write those first 30 pages of the manuscript.

Speaking of how publishers will read your road map before experiencing firsthand the journey that would be your book, they are the next step to consider in that 12-Step plan. It is not news to anyone that publishing has become quite a diversified field. Here is how it breaks down:

3-Publishing: Do your homework on your publishing options. This, obviously, is not one of the criteria on the sheet we follow to judge manuscripts, but I have inserted it as an important step in my fiction-memoir writing class for those would-be authors who need to know what to do once they have written their Great American Novel.

There is a sea of publishing options out there including large traditional publishers (mainly based in New York), and small independent and boutique publishers (still traditional).

There are also hybrids, which offer something between an independent press and self-publishing (non traditional because you pay them for their services), self-publishing – which provides all the services you could ever need or want (you pick what services by what price you’re willing to pay) and purely independent self-publishing.

In that last category (purely independent) you man your own ship from start to finish, with no one to hold your hand, support your efforts, or share much of your profit. Of course, you need to be a savvy computer program whiz to pull this last option off without needing psychiatric sessions.

Large publishers give you little to no control over anything from editing to your front cover. They do, however, write you a check up front to ease the pain of turning your baby over to them after the excruciating process of birthing and raising it to be world-ready.

Independent and boutique (which specializes in certain genres or a certain image) publishers do not write you a check up front, but they don’t charge you anything either and you share in the royalties at a better cut. You also have tons of control over your editing, front cover art, and all other factors such as in-house marketing strategies.

Hybrid and full service self-publishing companies offer you quality services for a price. The difference is that the hybrid companies might turn you away if your work is not of a standard they deem worthy, whereas straight-up self-publishing companies are not concerned with the quality of your work if your money is green and plentiful.

Pure independent self-publishing (usually through internet sites such as Amazon) only require your ability to maneuver through it, and generally do not charge you for using their self-publishing program; however they do want a portion of your profit. For clarification, ALL forms of publishing will take a portion of your profit. 

4-Agents: Speaking of publishers, traditional publishing will not (as a rule) take un-agented manuscripts, which means if you have chosen this route, you will need an agent. You do not pay agents up front, but if they sell a publisher on your manuscript they will expect a percentage of the profit from your book sales. What do you get in return for going traditional by paying an agent AND a publisher part of your profit?

That’s a good question. Truthfully, it narrows down to credibility, and knowing that you have made the grade. Your work has stood out above all the other work out there, and like fine art, is generally valued by the caliber of gallery that will accept it. This is because experts in the field (professional agents and editors) have the well-honed skills necessary for skimming the cream off the top.

If nothing else, it will certainly help establish you as a serious author sooner, and it will bring greater attention to your book when released. Traditional magazines and the top tier of social media marketers will review your book, because someone other than you and a self-publishing service have deemed it as worthy-mention.

Having said all that, obviously, there are a lot of very good quality novels out there that chose to take a more independent path because it is much less of a hassle and the more independent your publishing route, the more of your profit you keep. It is also true that anyone can pay independent book reviewers such as Kirkus for a review. Regardless of your publishing credits or lack there of, the cream will always float to the top. And that’s the beauty of it. In the end, the reader decides.

As it should be.

It is also important that your novel get noticed. No one can read or appreciate something they don’t know about, no matter how good it is. If you have decided to go the route of traditional publishing, that means the first person who needs to know about and appreciate your work is an agent.

How do you get an agent you ask? This is another good question. Stay tuned for the answer and more to come in the 12-step series…..



Kathryn’s next novel, Journey, will be released September, 2015 by Winter Goose Publishing

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Personal blog and website: http://kathrynmattingly.com Edgy Words Unleashed

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00EILN6YE

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WGP page: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/kathryn-mattingly/