Nancy Mehl lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Norman and her very active puggle, Watson. She’s authored fifteen books and is currently at work on a new series for Bethany House Publishing. The first book in her Road to Kingdom series, “Inescapable,” came out in July of 2012. The second book, “Unbreakable” released in February of 2013. The final book in the series, “Unforeseeable,” became available on September 1st.
Readers can learn more about Nancy through her Web site: www.nancymehl.com. She has a newsletter located at: www.nancymehl.blogspot.com, and is a part of another blog, The Suspense Sisters: www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com, along with several other popular suspense authors. She is also very active on Facebook.
PUBLISHERS AND EDITORS. OH, MY!!!
Many writers, unable to sell a book to a traditional publisher, may start looking for alternatives. But there are things you should avoid at all costs. Let’s look at some these.
Remembering the mantra – “Money flows to the writer, not from the writer” will help you to stay away from the publishing sharks that are out for fresh meat. Their primary target? Unsuspecting writers. If you are approached by a publisher who will “get your book out all across the country for only $6,000.00!!!” run like the wind! First of all, you shouldn’t pay to publish. Secondly, a publisher like that has no effective way to market your books. Bookstores won’t stock them (no returns and usually over-priced), and the so-called publisher has no reason to promote your work any other way. Why should they? They’ve already made their money.
My advice is to keep perfecting your craft until you can land an agent. A good agent can help you sell your novel to a traditional publisher who will pay you a good advance. An advance is paid to help cover your expenses while you write the book (or books) they’ve contracted. Usually, half of an advance is paid after the contract is signed. The other half comes when you turn in your finished manuscript – after an editor approves it. Sometimes, it will go through editing before the other half is paid. In the past few years, several publishers have begun to spread out advances even more. One third upon signing, one third after the novel is written and approved, and the final third when the book is released. Some pay smaller advances – some bigger advances. Your first contract will probably net you a smaller advance than you’ll be able to get later, once you’ve established yourself in the industry. An agent can not only advise you what you should expect, he can help you negotiate for more. Without his help, you may not get as much as you’d like. One thing to remember about advances – you have to pay them back. Publishers hold back royalties until the entire advance is earned back. “What if my book doesn’t sell enough to earn back the advance?” you might ask. Then the publisher takes a hit. You do not have to return advance money. This is why you will probably make smaller advances at first, until the publisher has confidence in your ability to sell books. Knowing and understanding how, when and how much your publisher pays you will save you confusion and trouble. Your agent should find out all those details and share them with you before you sign your contract.
Editors at large publishers are experienced professionals who will help you perfect your book. Even though it can be disconcerting to get your manuscript back with red marks all through it, professional editors are worth their weight in gold. When working with them be courteous and humble. For the most part, they know what they’re doing. Sometimes, however, you may not agree with a suggested change. There’s nothing wrong with voicing your opinion. Good editors may restate the reason for their suggestion, but in the end, most of the time, they’ll bow to the author.
One great bit of advice in reference to large, traditional publishers: (Please listen to this. I was given this advice and didn’t follow it. It cost me a lot of time.) READ BOOKS FROM YOUR TARGET PUBLISHER. FIND OUT WHAT THEY’RE PUBLISHING – AND WRITE THAT!!! I’m not advising you to sell your “writing soul.” I’m telling you to find a publisher that is interested in the kind of writing you want to do. Then read their authors so you can fine turn your submission. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Just do it.
Small and Mid-list Publishers
So…what if you’ve tried and tried to get an agent, but you’ve been unsuccessful? It may be time to consider smaller but reputable publishers. Most of them accept un-agented manuscripts. With all the sharks out there, how can you find a good one?
Here are some guidelines to follow when choosing a small or mid-list publisher to submit your work to:
Don’t pick a publisher without investigating them thoroughly. The best way to find good small or mid-list publishers is to get recommendations from other authors who have worked with them. They will be able to give you a clear idea of the positive and negative aspects associated with any publisher you may have an interest in. Also, “GOOGLE” OR “BING” YOUR PROSPECTIVE SMALL PUBLISHER! There’s no excuse for being caught by a scammer. Information is plentiful. Here are two very useful sites for checking out a prospective publisher: www.absolutewrite.com (their forums are awesome) and Preditors and Editors: http://pred-ed.com.
· As I said before, don’t PAY ANY PUBLISHER to publish your book. No reading fees. No money for ANY reason. If you give a publisher money, you are basically self-publishing.
· Most smaller publishers don’t pay advances. Or if they do, they’re very small. That’s just the way it is. Don’t be surprised by this.
· Remember that you will have to promote, promote, promote! If you’re not a promoter, this route may not be for you. Very few small or midlist publishers are able to get their books into bookstores. Most bookstores only work with large publishers who will take back books that don’t sell. Smaller publishers can’t always do this. If you can learn how to sell books online, get your books picked up by a large distributor, or grab a good review from a respected review site, this will boost sales.
· Many smaller publishers don’t offer the kind of editing you can expect from a larger, more professional publisher. Make sure your novel has been professionally edited before you contact them.
I worked with three smaller publishers. Two of them were okay. One had a terrible cover artist, but I was able to get my son to design my covers. The editor wasn’t that great, but she wasn’t awful. Another one had better covers, but the editor wasn’t very good. If you decide to work with a small publisher, I suggest you hire someone to design your covers (unless you sign with a publisher that has great covers). And as I already said, make sure your manuscript is in good shape. Allowing an editor who knows even less than you do fiddle with your novel isn’t smart.
Neither of these publishers did much promotion. It was left to the author. Royalties were almost always late. Am I sorry I went with them? No. In retrospect I learned a lot, and my books were read by people who still follow me. But…if I had to do it again, I’d probably keep working until I snagged a bigger publisher.
This is the world of small publishers unless you’re very lucky and find a great one. And they are out there. It just takes time to uncover them.
One final note. Please, please, please stay away from “author mills.” These are large publishers who don’t edit, don’t promote, and don’t care. They want your book so they can put it into print and then get you to buy copies. All it takes is a little online research to find out that they are a bad, bad choice.