QUESTION & ANSWERS
If you have publishing-related questions
LOOKING FOR AN AFFORDABLE EDITOR?
SEE ANSWER #70.
1. I self-published my book. I need a
publisher to get my books in all the bookstores. Who can do it?
That depends on your book. No publisher, regardless of how large they are,
can guarantee your book will end up on the shelves in all the book stores. If you
visit a supermarket or bookstore, you will notice the shelves are packed solid.
There's no room for your product or book! This means, to place your book on the
shelf, some other book needs to be removed; and that "other book" is likely a
proven consistent seller. The bookstore's buyer makes these decisions, not the
publisher or the writer. There's more to this, but to get a self-published book into
the major chain bookstores is close to impossible. Why? Because you need
clout, contacts, reputation and major distribution representation. These are items
publishers have and the self-publisher simply can not obtain. The distribution
system is complex and has rules that are quite difficult for the small self-publisher to
meet. It's pretty well designed for the publishers who have good distributors, and
they are very difficult to get! We were lucky and the Lord smiled upon us that we
were picked up by Baker & Taylor and Ingram, the two largest book distributors in the
world. It can be done if you put time and money into the venture. How much
money? About $30,000 to $40,000 of investment per title and there is no guarantee
you will succeed. See Answers #4, 5, 24 and 36.
"A professional writer is an
amateur who didn't quit" - Richard Bach, Writer
2. Should I have my book published by a small or
Small publishers will generally keep your book on the market longer. You
earn royalties for many years, since they have few books, they push them hard to all the
established markets. Large publishers will take you on, present the book in a
fast-track manner. If the books sells? Great! If not, you go into the
backlist, fast! Example: Publishers Weekly (10-15-99 newsletter issue) stated one major publisher
had 13,500 titles in print, 8,200 were backlist and had sales of less than 100 copies a
year! The average backlist title sold just 32 copies and 1,000 titles were
discontinued in just one year. Those poor authors! The large
publishers are like shredding machines grabbing as many manuscripts as they can, trying to
see what sells and what does not. The author's book is grinded up in the process
along with any hope of obtaining royalties. It's a numbers game with the large
publishers. The small publisher will likely do you better. Also, when a book
becomes a bestseller it is often subcontracted from small to large publisher. The
bottom line, it's not the publisher that is better or not, it's the book. Most books
fail simply because the book did not take well in the market.
an agent or publisher offers you a deal, take it! Don't hold back and wait to see if
a better offer comes around. Writers mail many query letters and obtain two or more
offers per year. Don't wait for better opportunities. First come, first served
is often the best opportunity for an unpublished author with no track record. You
have to start somewhere!
A COMMENT FROM A WEB SITE VISITOR
First, let me say that your advice on query letters was invaluable
to me a few years ago when I was writing my first book. At the time,
you were not receiving any new manuscripts, but your helps most
certainly did help me.
My manuscript Word of LifeWord of
Prayer has been accepted by a Christian publishing house for
publication! Everything looks good so far, but they do want me to
check on my quotations. I thought that since you have published,
you must have at least a few quotations in your texts and might be
able to advise me.
I have only two quotations. One is short,
only about four lines. One is longer, actually 297 words, a
combination of selections from Fr. Keatings work on centering
prayer. The publisher thinks I need to check to see if I need
written permission to use them. I have always understood that as
long as the quotation was accurate and the source properly
documented that there was no problem quoting from someone unless you
were actually reprinting an entire section. I only have the normal
kind of quotations. In fact, if any source I have ever consulted
had anything like a statement that no part of their work was to be
reproduced at all without express written permission, I just didnt
quote them; I used their material in some other way.
So, has it been your experience or have you
ever had legal advice that you needed express written permission for
every quotation in your books? Ive never known that to be the
case. Please advise. Thank you.
Our Reply: Each publisher
is a bit different due to each having differing policies and
attorneys. Just go with the flow and enjoy the view.
3. I still feel a large publisher is better as they
are fully established in the marketplace. True?
Yes, they are more established; "they: meaning them, not "you" or
your book. Unfortunately, writing and publishing is a crapshoot. You have to
accept where the dice rolls. If you are published by a small publisher you may begin
to wonder if it was the right move or not, thinking "A large publisher would have
given me more money in royalties." If you are published by a large
publisher and find your title backlisted or discontinued in less than 1-year, you'll
be saying, "I should have gone with the small publisher." Most
writers do not have this choice. They are just hoping some publisher will pick them
up, anyone! There are major best-selling authors who still remain with smaller
publishers. These small publishers sell print rights to the major publishers. If
your book becomes a hit, the big boys will move in and work a deal with your small
publisher. The best way to answer your question? Query large and small
publishers and take the best offer you can get. Just roll the dice and hope for the
submitting your query letters. If you send one per day you will reach 365 agents and
publishers per year.
4. I self-published my book and now no publisher
wants it. Why?
The market has been destroyed. Once you publish a book and present it to
the market, no matter how small the market may be, few, if any publishers will want the
book. This is the perils of self-publishing. It tells the publisher right from
the start, "I published my book and failed, so now I want you to publish
it!" The publisher is thinking, "If this book was any good in the
first place it would have been picked up by another publisher. Since all rejected it, so
will we pass on this book." There are three markets you can still tap and
that is the movie, theatrical and television industry. They are not prejudiced by
self-published books. You will need to write the screenplay. See Answer #9
below. Click here for; Advice for Screenwriters
5. I should not self-publish? I know others
who are successful.
If you have no experience in the publishing business, don't do it.
You will end up with a garage full of unwanted and unsold books! You will sell a few
to friends and maybe you'll get a few local bookstores to carry your book, but it ends
just about at that point. You'll need distributors and wholesalers to go the rest of
the way and they won't pick you up with just one book title. Even the internet is
hard to get your books sold, as the major internet sites are buying books from publisher's
distributors and wholesalers to contain costs. Let's assume you get lucky and sign
on with the distributor and wholesaler. Do you have the time and money to process
orders, accounting, shipping, warehousing, billing, publicity, marketing, advertising,
typesetting, cover design, illustrations, editing? It's an 80-hour work week!
Will you make a profit? Doubtful. Self-publishing can be performed with
success, if you have the time and the money to invest with "established
contacts" with the right people in the trade. Best advice? Get a
publisher to publish your book and sit back and cash your royalty checks.
Self-publishing is hard work and more often than not results in total failure and
frustration. Even experienced book publishers have books that fail in the
marketplace. That should tell you something about how tough it is to successfully
publish a book!
6. One publisher offers me a 10% royalty.
Another offers 15% with an advance. Which should I take?
Probably the the 10%. Advances are "lures" to attract writers.
The advance money is always paid back to the publisher, one way or another, taken
from your royalties. Publisher expenses will certainly account for the advance and
you'll pay for it. Royalty and advances can be very misleading to writers.
It's not the royalty or the advance that counts, but the sales of your books!
Pick the publisher you believe has the most experience in the specific genre. It's
better to take a 10% royalty on $100,000 in sales than 15% from $1,000. Look in the
book contract for hidden expenses, etc. One of the bigger problems in book contracts
is the publisher offers a large 15% royalty based on the retail price. This sounds
fabulous, but there will be a "royalty reduction clause" for discounted sales.
Since most all sales are discounted to book distributors your royalty could be as
low as 5%. Other cautions: the 15% royalty may be based on net sales, meaning all
the publisher's expenses are deducted first, then if any money is left over, then you get
15% of that, which could be nothing for many years. We don't use these formulas.
We use the gross formula for royalties based on actual sales. Every book we
sell you earn a royalty payment. Keep in mind, that big 15% royalty will need to be
shared with your literary agent, so what are you really getting now? See question
publishing contracts are intimidating and downright confusing. You can hire a
competent attorney or agent to review the contract. Publishers always write
contracts for maximum self-benefit, but the bottom line is this; they want to make money
so they can pay you royalties! Generally, an unpublished writer should not be as
"picky" about contract terms as a published writer. If you nit-pick too
much, the deal will fall away. There is always another writer that will gladly take
your place. Use common sense.
7. My book is published but sales are low. What can
the author do to pick up sales?
Talk to your publisher. Tell them you will help market the books. Example: Visit the major internet bookstore sites
and you'll see many publishers do not even fill the book description or customer
testimonials. Some even fail to post cover photos of the books; the cover sells
books on the internet. No cover? Few sales. Did you fill in the
"Author Comment" section? You may be saying, "This is the
publisher's job, not mine." You are right, it is. But marketing is
still everyone's job. Are you presenting your book to the local bookstores?
Are you willing to go on an author's tour? Radio and television talk shows? Are you
writing review articles for magazines and newspapers? Are you obtaining testimonials
from customers you can present to your publisher for posting on the internet and print
media advertising materials? These are just some of the things you can do to help
out. But don't be too hasty to blame the publisher. Marketing procedures takes
time and often requires three years for a book to become an established seller! Just
because a book is published does not mean it will be an instant success. Writer's
confuse "mass market" books with "trade books." Mass market
books, generally best-seller novels, operate on an entirely different fast-track formula,
with a very short shelf-life. And, it is not always the publisher's fault when you
visit a web site and see your book's cover missing, your comments or testimonials.
They were deleted by the webmaster! It happens all too often when they update their
database. Inform your publisher when you see this.
"The good news is that the bad
news can be turned into good news
when you change your attitude "
- Robert Schuller, Clergyman
8. What is the secret to writing a good query
letter? I still struggle writing them.
Click here for a sample of a professional query
letter. Follow this format and you'll see an immediate improvement. Powerful
query letters contain strong "copywriting techniques." It's a specialized
skill that many writers do not have. You can purchase books on copywriting to learn
how to incorporate the selling techniques into your query letter, but powerful queries
also contain the proper "elements" agents and publishers need to read. The
sample query letter is free and it will help you!
9. Can you share any advice to compose my book into
Check out our Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets
book. It has most everything you need to get you started. It is not uncommon
to sell a movie script option then see the book published before or after the release of
the film. We have a listing of books for your review. Click here for Books For Writers.
10. As a literary agent, how can I increase sales
for my authors?
Be aggressive! Have you tried placing an advertisement in the Publisher's
Marketing Association newsletter or annual directory? Are you attending the
major book publishing trade shows? For advice on all these things contact the PMA.
Here's the web address PMA. There are many
publishers looking for authors and you will find them here. Surprisingly, not many
agents have discovered or utilized this valuable resource. Examine your submission
request query letter and synopsis. If the results are poor, your query and synopsis
letter's form and style needs to be overhauled. Publishers make decisions based on
the query and synopsis letters. You may have fine verbal communication skills for
initial telephone pitches, but ultimately, someone in the administration level will be
reading the query and synopsis and will not hear your voice. This is the area
where most agents (and writers) fail in the marketing process.
"When I face the desolate
impossibility of writing 500 pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can
never do it. Then gradually, I write one page then another. One day's work is
all I can permit myself to contemplate." John Steinbeck
11. I have a book and I am looking for a publisher.
Can you help?
We receive many questions like this! New writers need to contact Writer's
Digest Magazine. Click to our links page or
Logo below or write to: Writer's Digest Magazine 1507 Dana Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45207 or
call: 800-333-0133. You can also find many great books to guide you on our Books for Writers page. From these points of contact,
you will be guided into finding publishers and agents that specialize in publishing the
book you have written. Writer's Market is one of the best books you can buy
for publisher/agency contact information. It is also available in electronic format
for your computer. The question above reveals the writer has no experience in
marketing a book to agents or publishers. The odds are great the book would also not
be well written. It is query letters like this, asking general questions, that will
tip off the reader quickly the author is amateur. A query letter has a protocol
structure containing vital elements. If you don't follow the rules, your book will
never be published. See question #8 herein for a sample of a professionally-written
12. For a new writer, which agent is my best bet?
For a new writer, any agent is your best bet. But keep in mind, you do not
need an agent to sell your book or screenplay! Agency relationships are too complex
to explain in this medium, however to sum it up... you should contact the larger agencies,
but before you do, you had better make certain your query letter is written
professionally! See links below for advice. Your script must be well-written,
properly structured, no spelling errors, and your cover letter and synopsis written in a
professionally accepted form. It would be best to "test" your submission
materials with a few smaller agencies to see how they respond. Tweak the package
until you get good responses, then send your package to the larger agencies -- this
advice is highly recommended. An agent helps you find a publisher, but you can do
this yourself using the Writer's Market book published by Writer's Digest
Magazine. See our links page for books below. An agent can get your book
published with publishers (or production companies, if you are submitting a screenwriting,
TV or play script) that will not accept submissions, unless you are represented by an
agent or a recognized attorney in the industry. Many books and scripts are sold without
the use of agents. What many writers fail to realize that; even if you have an
agent, you still must perform a lot of marketing submission work. The agent does not
do it all, and you can not just sit back and relax. If fact, you have to market your
product harder or the agent will drop you!
13. Where can I go to obtain more advice?
Use a search engine to find others. Here's a few tips to obtain best
responses. 1) Make absolutely certain your e-mail address is
correct. They can't answer you if your address is in error. 2)
Be specific in your questions. Don't ask, "I need a publisher for my
book" instead ask, "I have written a book titled How to Catch Tooth
Fairies. Can you guide me as to how I may find a publisher interested in this
genre?" You get the idea. The more specific your question is, the better
response you receive.
14. Many agents and publishers ignore my e-mails.
Why is this? What can I do to stop it?
Some agents and publishers, and more are daily, are not accepting E-mail
submissions. It is found that the quality of E-mail submissions are far inferior in
professionalism than the old paper letter method. Everybody has a book these days
and are flooding mailboxes with E-mail that just does not measure up to professional
standards. However, if you write a professionally-written query, it will be read and
you will receive a response and most likely a positive one, too! Here's a secret:
We receive postal mail queries and the spelling is perfect. We receive E-mail
queries and the spelling is horrible. Spelling errors are not tolerated in this
industry. You may get by with one error, but not two. The E-mail will be
rejected by most all agents or publishers, so check your spelling carefully before you
mail. If your query letter is professionally written, and the firm is open to query
submission, your communications will not be ignored.
15. I sent my manuscript to a publisher and I never
heard from them. What did I do wrong?
You sent an unsolicited manuscript. That is, a script was sent that the
publisher or agent did not ask for. This is a huge mistake to make. For legal
reasons the publisher or agent can not read it, period. Don't do it again. You
are simply wasting your time and postage money. You can't break the rules and expect
success. Here's a tip: We don't do this, but some do. The firm can
punish you for sending an unsolicited script by leading you onto thinking they may
publisher or sell your manuscript, but they have no intention of doing so and will
effectively take you off the market for up to a year by offering an exclusive rights
agreement. It's rare, but it has happened. There are other ways and means to
retaliate, but the essence here is not to send unsolicited scripts.
you submit your manuscript, always note, "Requested Manuscript Enclosed" on the
outside of the envelope. If you don't? Agents or publishers will not know they
requested it and will place the manuscript envelope in the slush pile.
16. I want to write a book, but what is the best
topic for maximum impact and sales?
The best topic is the subject that interests you the most and the knowledge to
write. You should perform initial interviews with individuals you feel would be
interested in your book and ask them what chapters they would find to be of most value to
them. Suppose you plan to write a book for automotive mechanics. You would
assume they would be interested in the engine, transmission, electrical systems and drive
train. But they may reveal important selling chapters such as how to deal with the
boss and irate customers, getting a pay raise, staying calm on a hectic day, etc.
This also makes your book "different" than the typical automotive repair book,
so then agents, publishers and bookstore buyers would find the book of more value than
other repair books on the market. The best topic is to write a book nobody else has
ever written! Those are the books that hit the big time.
17. I want to write a book but I don't know
how to begin.
Starting is easy. Visit our links page and get a subscription to Writer's
Digest Magazine and join their book club. Everything you need to learn about
writing a book is included. There is no way around it, so that is the first route to
take. You can take creative writing courses, join local writers groups, surf the
internet for writing sites to obtain advice (see links page below). Second, and most
important, is to start writing now, today, something. The more you write the better
writer you will be and the sooner you will have your first book finished, then start on
the second book right away. Keep writing, rewriting and writing. Read other
books on the subject similar to yours and you will see how the author structured and
styled the writing. Use your own unique style of writing.
18. When should I start contacting agents and
When you have a completed manuscript. Few publishers or agents will hire
you to write a book unless you have a proven track record to get the job done. If
you are a new unpublished author, you have to have a product to sell and that is your
finished manuscript. The smallest book we publish (and now prefer) is between 110
and 140 pages 6x9 inch paper size at 10 or 11 point font size. We also publish large
books between 170 to 212 pages of 12 point, Times New Roman font, single-spaced, 8.5 x11
size paper, with at least 30 illustrations. We receive hundreds of queries from
authors who query us and we find the book is not a book at all, but a booklet of just a
few pages. Book publishers publish books, not booklets, so give the publisher and
agent something they can sell. Also, do not make the mistake of submitting your
manuscript without first having it "professionally" proofread and / or edited by
a professional with book publishing experience. (See Question #75, 39) If your
book requires an index, hire a indexer. Yes, it costs money, but if you think the
publisher's editor will correct these problems and index your book you are mistaken.
Your manuscript will not even get past the publisher's secretary! If rejections are
severe even with a great query letter, this is likely the reason why. Also, hire an
illustrator to design your page illustrations. Yes, there are books without
illustrations or photos, but publishers, readers, librarians and bookstore buyers love
them! As you can see, witting books is more than just writing. You have to
create a salable product! Hard to do? Yes. Expensive? Yes.
Discouraging? Yes. But if you want to be a successful published writer you
must invest in yourself and in your product so it can be published.
19. I am a published magazine writer. Can I
compile my articles into a book?
No. A book is generally written in a different approach and style than
magazine articles. A book is more in-depth writing, very instructional to the
reader telling the reader what to do. Magazines tend to inform, but do not
instruct. You will have to, at least, add pages to your article to instruct the
reader what to do, then you could possibly attract a book publisher or agent.
20. Do I need a literary agent or attorney?
It depends. Many publishers accept query submissions from authors.
See the Writer's Digest book titled Writer's Market for an extensive listing of
all publishers and agents. An agent will take money from your royalty, 12 to 15%.
It's worth it if you are selling a mass market novel that could sell millions of
copies for a month or two, but for most writers an agent is not required. Agents and
attorneys can help you negotiate a book contract, but they can "ruin the deal
fast," too! They can alter the contract to extremes to the point the publisher
just says no, then the author is told it was a bad deal anyway and the author loses a
publishing opportunity. Agents can be good and agents can be bad. It's okay to
hire a literary attorney to review the contract, but beware of changing too many items in
the contract or the deal will crash and burn. It's a tough situation dealing with
publishers as they want the maximum publishing terms and if they don't get it from you,
there are other writers who will gladly sign on the dotted line. It is probably in
your best interest to accept the contract as is if this is your first publishing
opportunity. On your next book, then negotiate better terms, if possible.
Your first book is high risk and the publisher needs maximum returns to recover the
costs in attempts to penetrate the market, and hopefully, make your book a success.
If the book becomes successful, then you are in a good position to negotiate better terms
on your next book.
21. A publisher wants me to sign a contract for a
34 year term. Is this good or bad?
It is good as long as there is a "Reversion of Rights" clause in the
contract that states if sales go south or the books are not made available for sale in a
certain time period the contract can be terminated. Many authors suffer when they
find their book on the publisher's "backlist" category forever (35 to 45 years
is the copyright max for publishers) and can not get the book back to submit it to another
publisher. The larger the publisher, the higher this abuse appears to be.
Welcome to the world of writing and publishing!
22. Should I copyright my manuscript before sending
it to agents and publishers?
Yes, in most all cases. Write to: Copyright Information Center, Suite 480,
1707 L. St. N.W., Washington, DC 20005. Phone: (202)-479-0700. Ask for a
instructional guide book and an application to copyright a book. They will send you
form PA. Fill in the form, include a check for approximately $20 (fee has increased)
with a sample copy of your manuscript. It's that easy. Most publishers and
agents are not going to steal your work, in fact, it rarely happens at all. The
copyright is important to "prove" you are the original author. A copyright
registration lasts your lifetime plus fifty years.
worrying about theft. Yes, ideas can be lawfully stolen but agents and publishers
are not interested in stealing your work. All novice writers are terrified of the
prospect of submitting material to agents and publishers for fear of theft. Get rid
of these fears! You have to present your work to get it sold, right? Copyright
the work and get your manuscript into the mail!
23. How do I find agents and publishers to submit
Click here for the Writer's Market book: Writer's Market
2000. This is the book you need. It lists all literary
agents and publishers along with submission guidelines and material they consider.
So, if you have a manuscript for children or a book of poems, the book will list all who
handle these book categories. A valuable book for the writer! Yes, we are listed in
the book. Check for the next edition of Writer's Market as it is updated
24. Should I self-publish my book or have it
It is close to impossible to self-publish a book successfully. Major
distributors will not pick up your book. They primarily deal with publishers with
multiple titles who know what they are doing. Yes, you can post your book on the
internet bookstore sites, but it will often be deleted when the site is under maintenance
inserting distributor databases, etc. Also, Internet listings are different than
physical bookstore databases, so your book will not be in the stores. Few readers
will find your book on the Internet sites, so your efforts are doomed from the beginning.
Unless you want to be a publisher with multiple titles, and you have the money to
launch the business, do not self-publish, get a publisher who knows how to market books!
Publishing is a grueling and expensive business. People who are successful
with self-publishing tend to be already well-known who perform seminars and speaking
engagements and sell the books at these locations, but still they can't penetrate the
bigger markets and are always still seeking a publisher with no luck. Why?
Once you self-publish a book in any form, no other publisher will accept it. There
are many offers now to publish electronically, but you are still in the same predicament
as above. It is not a good idea at all to self-publish a book because the
distribution and bookstore industry not only frowns upon self-publishers, they are not
geared up to take on small accounts. Even professional publishers fail launching new
books and they know every marketing and publicity angle. It's near impossible to
self-publish a book and make a profit. Become a multi-book publisher or get
published. Those are the only realistic viable options.
you self-publish a book, videotape or audiotape it is doomed. Few publishers will
pick it up! There are legal and marketing reasons for this. If you
self-publish be forewarned of the hazard. It is a bitter pill to swallow. As
of Summer of 2001, Ingram Book Company refused to take on any new publisher with less than
ten books in print. Do you have ten books? If not, then getting your book
distributed worldwide will likely be a major problem for you. Despite the Internet
and distribution company's golden promises to authors to self-publish, It's getting
tougher, not easier to become a book publisher! The industry defends itself from
self-published authors by setting up tougher requirements. No distribution = no
25. No agent or publisher wants my book. What
should I do?
Write another book! It is to your advantage to have multiple books for
sale. Agents do not want to deal with authors who only have one book and,
publishers know a first-time writer needs more writing experience to make a good
book. Being a writer is not a one-shot affair having only one book to offer, you
need three to six books to be taken seriously! Everybody wants to write a book these
days due to computers making the process easier thereby the competition has increased by
the millions. Have your manuscript professionally evaluated, proofread,
edited, illustrated (indexed if needed). Publishers and agents now demand finished
products ready for press. There are many professional writers who will do just that
and that is why they get published, they put in the time, effort and money to make a
salable product! The days of simply submitting double-spaced rough draft text and leaving
the rest up to the publisher are gone. Package your product so well completed that
it entices the agent and publisher to say, yes! It will cost you money, but if you
want to get published and make money this is what you have to do.
26. How do I copyright a pen name?
There is a line you fill out on the copyright form for this purpose. It's
27. How do I find a title for my book so I don't
infringe on anyone's copyright?
First, you should not not be concerned about this as titles are not
copywritable. Second, the publisher will likely change the title of your book for
marketing reasons. Just pick a tentative title that has a glitter of attraction and
leave it at that.
28. Please explain the submission process. I
It is confusing, since each agent and publisher has specific demands. If
you try to follow all of the details listed in directory listings it will drive you up the
walls. Some ask for you include sample chapters, or a synopsis with query, or an
outline, or 20 pages of manuscript or whatever. Generally, you can disregard all of
this and simply submit a query letter as the first contact. It is acceptable!
But if you want to send sample chapters of 20 pages, send five pages of the first four
chapters. A synopsis is a one page description of the story highlights covering the
beginning, middle and ending of the story. It's a good idea to submit one with your
query letter, if it is well written. Keep rewriting it over and over again to make
it a strong read. An outline is not required in many cases, even if they ask for one
in a directory listing such as in the Writer's Market book. If you have an
outline, fine. If not? Forget it, you won't need it. A query letter's
job is to get the agent or publisher to request the manuscript. It is the manuscript
that makes sales, not an outline, not a synopsis! The bottom line is this.
When you query, you should simply query and that is sending as little as you possibly can,
as the more you send, the more unprofessional you will appear and the likelihood of
rejection increases. Many good writers can't write good query letters, synopsis
letters or outlines, so why demonstrate this by submitting an invitation for
rejection? Concentrate on the query letter, as it is the most important letter
you can write, then use the query to get your manuscript requested, bypassing all the
other listing requirements! After you send the query, and they ask for a synopsis or
sample chapters, then submit them at that time.
29. Must I have an outline? I don't know how
to write one!
No, you don't need an outline. Generally it is a waste of time to write
one for submission purposes. The outline can help some writers write a story, but
many successful writers don't use them. You can learn how to write an outline by
reading books on writing. If an agent or publisher
requests you send them an outline? You can write one or simply tell them you can
send the manuscript, as you do not employ outlines in your writing projects.
the submission process easy! Don't get so picky over submission requirements that
making submissions becomes an agonizing adventure. Just write a good strong query
letter and get it into the mail. The query performs no selling, it simply teases the
reader to request the manuscript. It's a one-two approach; query letter and
manuscript. That is all you need to submit to make a sale!
30. I've tried desperately to get published for
years with no luck. Now what can I do?
You could self-publish, but it's a heavy commitment of time and expense riddled
with pitfalls and failure. It's not advisable to do so. Generally, you have to
keep trying, but I must say it again -- the query letter must be perfect to get results
and the manuscript must be written professionally. Get your material professionally
evaluated, or hire a ghost writer and illustrator to elevate your material to marketable
standards. When you do this, you will be published! Why? Because you
will have a marketable product and that is what agents and publishers are looking for.
The most famous writers in the world use ghost writers on a routine basis, so
should you! Often, to make a good book, a writer needs help from others. Just
get a written agreement with the ghostwriter or editor that they do not own the copyright
or any other intellectual rights to the story they write for you. Writer's Digest Magazine
lists ghostwriters for hire. See Answer #70.
you keep submitting inferior material, the rejections will continue on for years until you
buckle under and realize that you simply can't do it all by yourself and succeed. Do not
be shy about seeking professional advice or obtaining writing services. If the pros
do it, so should you.
31. Why are authors paid so little money in
First, the risk to the publisher is astronomically high of failure and the
production and start up costs to get your book to market is enormous. Second,
royalties of 10% seem low, as the publisher keeps 90%, but the work is over for the writer
and the publisher has to keep working on, and on, and on for years. Publishers have
many associated costs of doing business, so they will be lucky to earn ten or twenty
percent when all is said and done. It's the middlemen that take most all the
profits; distributors and bookstores! It's just the way the system works. Some
books command higher royalties, such as mass market novels earning over 15% royalties to
the author, but there are "royalty reduction" clauses in contracts that can
bring that royalty down to 5%, and in some cases down to 0%. Just because a
publisher advertises they pay a 15% royalty does not mean you will get it! We pay
10% to 15% royalties and with very few reduction clauses in our contract, so the author
makes money on the first book sold at the stated royalty rate bases on actual sales we
have made. We don't recover our production / advertising costs first, as many
32. I am contemplating writing a book, but how does
First, read books on how to write books;
manuscript formatting, style and story structure, etc. This will give you the basic
formulas for putting a book together. The next step, and the most difficult of all,
is to find the time, sit down and begin writing your book. If you had begun three
years ago you would have a completed project today. So, in the same light, start
today and you won't be sorry three years from now. At some point you need to stop
contemplating and make a decision to write the book, all the way to the last
chapter. It may take years, but that's what authors must do. A shortcut is to
hire a ghostwriter. See Answer #70.
33. Are there any distant education writing
Yes. Writer's Digest School has many mail correspondence courses for
writers. Call 800-759-0963. I believe a new writer will greatly benefit
taking these courses.
34. I don't understand the Books On Demand offers.
Can you explain it?
First, publishers placing magazine ads inviting authors to be
published with the Books On Demand system can cause irreversible harm to the author and
many of these firms are equal in stature as a vanity press. Second,
these publishers are not real publishers, they simply transcribe your manuscript into
electronic form and post it on their own Website, where nobody can find their Web site or
your book. Third, book distributors, librarians and major chain
bookstore buyers do not purchase books from individual authors, or from these Websites so,
the author is out of money and out of luck. Fourth, once your book
is published in any form, no publisher will touch your book. This is the greater
harm to the Author, besides losing your money. The only way to go is to get
published by a true full-service book publisher and they will (if feasible, depending on
the book) will place your book into electronic form, but it will be placed with the major
players; such as Ingrams, Bowker, Baker & Taylor and other large cataloging
distribution systems that generate sales. If you still wish to go with an electronic
transcriber service, make sure they advertise their Web site in all the major trade
journals for book buyers (they usually don't). If they are only advertising in
mediums that writers read, then be aware they are after the writer's money and have no
functional marketing strategy to sell books to the trade's major book buyers. Many
of these firms thrive on desperate authors who have been rejected using cute ads,
"Get Published! No Rejections! You Retain All Rights!" All of this
is to lure writer's books into their Web site where sales will be nil to disappointing.
You'll have bragging rights, "My book is published," but no money to back
it up. What good is it? It's not a good deal at all, unless you are a
full-service publisher, then they can be an alternative marketing resource for backlist
titles; however, their pricing structure and fees are way out of line with reality to sell
books on the demand system and enable a profit for the publisher or a royalty payment to
the author. See Question 24, 35 and 36.
35. How does subsidy publishing work? Is it a
Subsidy publishing firms are called vanity press for a reason. The books
usually fail terribly in the market and all the writer has is "vanity rights" to
claim the book is published. Then the vanity press ships thousands of books back to
you to stuff in your garage where they remain virtually forever unsold. What the
vanity press does is simply make you pay for production of the books, then they place a
few publicity ads and hope the books sell. A handful of books over the past 50 years
have become successful, but very few do; in fact, most all fail. The vanity press is
not a true book publisher and does not have the distribution channels the full-service
publisher has. They are book printers with a publicity angle, but they are not book
publishers and are not recognized in the industry and therefore can not truly represent
and sell your work as a full-service publisher can. But, if you desire to
self-publish a book and become a book publisher, the vanity press can get the job done and
give you a publicity launch, but all the other marketing requirements will be left up to
you. You will find it more economical to employ the services of a book printer.
Most are located in the Midwest.
away from book printers offering frills; hosting your book on their Website, fulfillment
services, credit card processing, etc. They are likely not going to produce a
quality book as they are involved with way too much side-business ventures. You'll
be endlessly and hopelessly lost as they shuffle you from one account rep to another
resulting in chronic misplaced orders, double-billing errors, shipments to wrong
customers, including receiving defective books you can't sell! And, they will
absolutely ignore all of your concerns to correct the problems! We have experienced
these disasters from these multi-service printing firms. Plus, you will pay
warehouse fees, order fulfillment fees, credit card fees, insurance fees, and other hidden
fees you would not imagine even exists until you get the bill "fees on the fly,"
you name it, they got the fee for it! Little to no profit will be left by the time
they get done with you with all their "services." Your author may suffer with no
royalty payments. Stay clear of these firms. Use a dedicated book printer!
36. How difficult is it to self-publish a book?
I am a salesperson and planning to do it.
Self-publishing a book is easy and that's the pitfall! Just send your
manuscript to a book printer and they will print your books and ship them to you.
The hard part is selling the books and making a profit. You have to advertise and
list to the buying markets and it's not cheap or easy to do. If you try mail order
sales, you will find it expensive and unprofitable. Few publishers advertise
books for this reason, as only mass market books and certain technical books profit.
You'll have no distributors, so the book will not sell. It's the marketing and
distribution publishers have that makes a book a successful. That is why manuscripts
are rejected, publishers know the market and know the book will not sell or they do not
have the capabilities to sell the specific genre. Go to our Books for Writers page and you'll find two books you should
read before you self-publish. It's more difficult than you think to become a book
publisher. It is easier to be a lawyer or a doctor than to be a successful book
publisher! You must have strong marketing skills, not sales skills. There is a
huge difference between the two. A salesperson can't expect to be a book publisher
just because they have the skills to sell cars or industrial equipment. Even if you
have an MBA in marketing you may fail as a independent book publisher, as many have tried
and discovered the hard way. It requires years and years of trying and it will
easily cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars until you succeed. That's why you
don't know see and meet many book publishers in life's adventures. You'll meet more
lawyers, doctors and dentists than a book publisher because it's hard to succeed. It
can be done if you are willing to pay the price and never quit the dream.
37. What can I do to increase interest in my
manuscript to agents and publishers?
Enter a writing competition. If your manuscript ranks in the top100 then
mention the ranking in your query letter. "This manuscript ranked #15 of 40,000
entries!" That will get the attention you desire and will likely lead to a
publishing deal. Writer's Digest has contests for manuscripts, short story,
screenplays, stage plays, inspirational, poems and much more to list here. The cost
is is only about $10 per entry and you can submit all of your material. I recommend
you take advantage of this and keep trying each year. Entry deadline is May 31 each
year. See question #11 for the address.
38. A publisher wants to see a synopsis and outline
of my book. Is there a standard format I should use?
There is no "standard" format. Authors use differing methods,
but here's a guide:
Synopsis: Write a one page (single space) summary of the essential
elements of your story in three paragraphs revealing the beginning, middle and ending of
Outline: This document can be from five to thirty pages pages
long, depending on how much you wish to reveal in your outline. It is better to have
a smaller outline. Why? A long outline document is really not needed! A
good one page query letter should be all you need to have your manuscript requested, but
in your case the publisher wants an outline. Normally, 8.5 x 11 size unlined no-hole
white paper, double space the text, with your name and book title in the top heading of
each page. Each chapter requires a four to six paragraph like this:
CHAPTER 1 - THE STRUGGLE: Bill Trunley had no idea he would
face his boss Joe Handerson so soon about the money he stole, but a vial of mercury
pouring into the hot cup of coffee makes him smile ear to ear. Handerson sips the
coffee and in ten minutes falls to the floor screaming in agony.
CHAPTER 2 - DETECTIVES: Lt. Charles (Lucky) Boris
interviews Trunley, screaming, using the might of intimidation he has. Moments
later, he too tumbles to the floor, but from a gunshot fired by Trunley.
Okay, you get the idea. You could likely do better, but this is just a
brief example. Don't use red ink, use black ink in all of your communication
documents! I use red here only for contrast.
Cover letter: A cover letter should be included. Here, you need
to be very careful. Often, a manuscript or other materials are not even read if the
cover letter is defective. A rejection is earned. Best advice? Simply
state your name and address, title of the work submitted, then stop. If you start to
write about how great the story is or supply marketing information, etc., you may reveal
all sorts of errors in grammar, spelling, inaccurate or useless facts. Screenwriters
use deeper levels in cover letters. Book authors should use less. If you are a
great writer, you can write heavier queries.
39. What can I do to prevent my manuscript from
entering the slush file?
Big question! First; never send an unsolicited manuscript
to an agent or publisher. Second; read answer to question #38
regarding the cover letter. Third; hire a professional
(proofreader) to proof your manuscript, query, cover and synopsis letters. An editor
would be better! Agents and publishers can tell right away, within seconds, if a
document is written well or not to industry standards. Authors can write great
stories, but editing is entirely another discipline. Most writers can't do both
well! Fourth; make sure you are submitting the proper genre to the
agents and publishers that specialize in that market. If you follow these rules, you
will begin to see success coming your way!
40. How do I find a proofreader or editor to fix my
There are no better sources than the Internet, Writer's Digest Magazine,
and sometimes Editor & Writer Magazine. Ads are placed in the
magazines. Most will want $2 to $3 per page, but keep requesting discounts and
you'll find some that will do it for as low as $1 per page, typed single-spaced,
too! There are some writers in Writer's Groups in cities that will do it for free,
or for a flat-rate fee. Some English teachers are willing to work on the side for
extra money. See answer #40 and #70. (Note: Publisher does not
endorse or recommend any ghostwriter, but are listed here only for convenience.)
41. Why do publishers reject so many queries?
Every publisher has a limited budget with specific marketing targets. This
is the main reason every manuscript written will not be published. Another reason is
the "timing" is wrong. The manuscript may be great, but the publisher is
not interested in the story at this time. It's a mood thing. Resubmit your
manuscript again in one year. Moods and conditions change; editors are replaced,
etc. A rejection today may be acceptance next year. Another reason is the
editor had a headache the day your mail was opened. Imagine yourself opening fifty
query letters and all of the submissions are great. You still can't request that all
manuscripts be accepted for review. In thirty days you'll have 1,500 manuscripts to
read! Rejections must happen, even to the best of authors. Keep submitting!
Eventually the time and expense will pay off with a publishing deal.
42. I want to write my life story. Is this
Depends on how complex, knowlege-based or tragic your story is. If you
lived a "normal" life, the book will have little value in a marketing sense.
If it is full of knowledge or comedy, it could sell. Tragedy stories do sell
and are sold to television (movies of the week features). Most everyone says,
"I should write a book." I say you should, but not an autobiography on
yourself unless you are a famous person.
43. Why do good writers fail to be published?
Hundreds of reasons. Here's two. 1) The writer's
ego is so inflated they lose touch with the real world. They become so literate they
become severely critical of other writers work as being flawed. This is the first
sign an ego problem is blocking sales, as the ego boasting manifests itself in the writing
(manuscript or query letter). Publishers see this and know they have a psycho with a
manuscript and will not publish. Why? The writer would not sign a publishing
contract anyway, as he will be convinced he's getting a bad deal. Who can trust such
a writer to be professional in the business arena and abide by the contract stipulations?
2) The better writers (those who think they are great) want
the prestige of signing on with the major publishers (ego thing again) and will not
consider a small press. Little do they know that these small presses can make big
sales happen and arrange co-publishing with the majors, book clubs, etc. So, they
remain unpublished and likely will for a very long time. Many famous authors have
started with small press publishers (and small literary agencies) and moved up over time
into the big league.
44. What chance does a new writer have to be
If you do your homework, reading books about writing books, a new author can
make major inroads quickly if the manuscript contains a structured story with compelling
characters and situations.
45. I want to write Christian book. Any
recommendations on how I should begin?
Contact the Christian Writers Guild. They have an inspirational
correspondence course. Here's an e-mail address you may use to request information:
NVRohrer@spiralcomm.net It's a
three year program and costs about $400. They have a $15 per month installment plan
so you don't need to pay the entire tuition at one time.
46. I read in a magazine not to send a SASE.
Why does everyone else say otherwise?
The article is likely referring to the manuscript S.A.S.E. Some writers
recycle the manuscript over and over again. The manuscript looks terrible with
creased pages, smudges, stains, etc. It's always best to absorb the costs of
printing up a fresh new manuscript for each submission. The cost is offset by the
savings in return postage anyway.
47. A publisher wants to change the title of my
book and I don't like it at all. They won't see my point of view. Please
Go with it. There are good reasons for a title change and it all boil down
to the marketing function. The alternative is the publisher will drop you.
Authors do not control the titles of the books they write, if they want to be
published! Your title may be dear to you, but the publisher must face the harsh
realities of the business environment and a title can destroy or enhance sales.
48. What computer, printer and software should I
use to write a book?
IBM PC compatible computer will give you access to a wide choice of software.
You should buy a computer with as much power and speed as you can afford, as it
will soon be outdated with the huge programs constantly arriving on the market. Get
two high-capacity hard drives and a CD Rewritable drive. This is so your data will
be well protected for backing up your data. A floppy drive will not afford you the
capacity or protective reliability. For software, Microsoft
Word For Windows (word processor) will perform perfectly for the text. Adobe
PageMaker can take the place of Microsoft Word, but it's not as easy to use and may not be
compatible to the publisher's system and may not convert to text-only format. Adobe
Illustrator is recommended for art illustrations. Adobe PhotoShop works fine for
touching up and filing photographs. Don't buy a used computer, get a new one.
Don't take shortcuts with your business equipment. Any black ink laser printer will
do. You only need 300 dots per inch resolution, but printers today are way beyond
this limitation. You don't need a color printer to write a book manuscript.
You may want to purchase a scanner to scan in any artwork or text. Basically, all
you really need is the word processing software to write a book. The rest is up to
you to set aside time to write your book.
49. Can I use real names in my true story?
It depends on the specific story. 1) If the story
has negative views and is not authorized by the person(s) depicted in the story, then
using real names is risky and it will intimidate agents and publishers to reject the
manuscript. It is always best to change the names of real persons and use
alternative locations where the events took place. The facts may remain to maintain
the inherent story elements that bases the story on truth. The job of the writer is
to insure that the persons (or their friends/neighbors) were to read your book, they could
not identify the characters as being the persons. True stories have a strong
propensity to trigger costly libel law suits. To demur a libel suit, the truth is
the absolute defense, but still, it costs a lot of money to answer a suit even if it were
frivolous. 2) You can use real names at any time you have a
written release agreement from the main and secondary characters in the story. The
release gives you the right to use the names and locations with permission. When in
doubt? Stick to number one above. 3) If your story is a
hot media scandal, just write it and let the publisher's lawyers deal with the libel
50. I am new to writing but I don't know how to
begin. Please guide me.
1) Most certainly subscribe to the Writer's
Digest Magazine. 2) Join the Writer's Digest Book Club.
Details to join will be in the magazine. 3) Join a small writer's
group. Large groups tend to ignore new writers when it comes to book readings.
4) Read books on how to write
books and format manuscripts. 5) Sit down each night and write.
Write what? Anything, just start writing. As you do, you'll find the story
that is right for you. 6) Complete what you finish. Do not
start two or three books. Pick one idea and finish it. 7)
Search Web sites related to writing. 8) Take a writing course if
you can. This advice will get you started in the right direction.
52. I subscribe to Writer's Digest. Any other
magazines for book authors?
Writers' Journal, Val-Tech Media, P.O. Box 394, Perham, MN 56573-0394.
We have their Web site listed on our links page.
53. Will winning a writing competition help me sell
It can. Contests serve two purposes. 1) It gives
you feedback how your manuscript is accepted by professionals in the industry. 2)
If you rank in the top 100 this statement of fact should be used in your query
letter. This will get your manuscript requested by many agents and publishers.
It does not guarantee a sale, but at least it opens up a door to place your foot
54. What is the secret to success?
Nobody knows what book subject will be the next bestseller. If you have an
editor proof your manuscript and/or hire a ghostwriter to co-write and polish it, you will
find success a lot faster than trying to do it all on your own. Expensive?
Yes, but very effective to get your works published. It's just too hard for a writer
to be a story writer, editor and market specialist. Generally, professional
ghostwriters can get your published. They know what they are doing.
55. I have so many ideas for a book I don't know
which one to write. Help!
You'll just have to pick one and follow it all the way to the last page, then
start the next book. You should consider writing the book that will be the easiest
and fastest to write. Select a subject that is most familiar to you, the
subject of which you have the most personal knowedge.
56. Can I dictate and have someone else write the
story for me?
Ghostwriters can do the entire job based on a simple idea. If you have
every chapter the way you want it, you can hire a literary service that will type the
manuscript for you. They advertise in the writing magazines. I don't endorse
firms in this medium, but here are a few to contact: DJF Literary Service
(520)-708-0469. Word Management Toll Free Number 1-877-789-2083. GEM Literary
57. What do you see most often that is wrong when
you read submitted manuscripts?
The following may help you to evaluate your manuscripts to meet marketable
standards. 1) Many are written not as a book, but more like a
magazine article. Articles are talky and generally not very instructive.
Articles inform; whereas, a good book gives precise instructions and scenario examples, so
readers can learn and relate. A nonfiction book is truly a "tell me what to do
and how to do it" book. Go to a bookstore, scan successful books and you'll see
the light. 2) The manuscript has too many grammar errors, the book
would be too small, or it is incomplete. 3) Authors outdate
the manuscript by mentioning too many yearly dates, or use the words "in this new
millenium." The new millenium is already old! Never date your manuscript
so that it will be pulled off the bookstore shelves in three or five years. 4)
Similar to #1 above, the writer is talking so much to the reader that the reader feels
inferior and gets bored with the chit-chat sermon. Is your manuscript entertaining
the reader as well as it educates? There is always room for humor. Insert
funny examples and situations. Readers love it! Remember, the writers job is
to entertain the reader. If you fail to do this, the book won't sell. 5)
The biggest error we see is the writer thinks writing a book is easy. It shows in
the manuscript the writer truly does not have the knowledge or the ability to communicate
the knowledge in written form. A good book requires months to years of hard work to
get it right! Not just text, but many of charts, photos, illustrations, tables,
etc., are required. It's not like writing a magazine article at all. 6)
Novels don't need illustrations, but they are harder to writer. Proper story
structure and a strong imagination is often missing. Each page must be exciting to
read. Things are changing in the publishing world. Make your book a fun read!
These are just a few errors.
58. What is the fastest way for a new author to get
Read a bestselling book and make it two times better. The advice is
simplistic, but it it's true. Just find out what books have sold well over a period
of years and make your book better. Idea: add more photos and illustrations, graphs,
charts, more detailed instructions, etc. You will be surprised with the results.
59. I'd like to adapt my manuscript to a stage play
and screenplay. How do I begin?
Go to our Advice for Screenwriters page. Read
the suggested books and you'll be well on your way. You need to purchase
professional software to format the scripts. Don't cut corners here! They are
required tools. See advice page for more information.
60. I write poetry. Is there a magazine for
Yes. Poets & Writers Magazine, P.O. Box 543, Mount Morris, IL
61054 (815)-734-1123. See our links page for the Website. Dustbooks P.O. box 100,
Paradise, CA 95967 publishes a directory listing all book publishers that publish
poetry... get that book!
61. Do famous authors receive rejections?
Before they became famous they received dozens upon dozens, year after year,
just like everyone else! Not every book idea they have are published, so even their
proposals are rejected. You should read the book The Making of a Bestseller.
It will open your eyes that nobody is immune to the dreaded rejection letter.
The book is on our Books for Writers page.
62. My publisher demands copies of my birth
certificate, driver licensed, marriage license. Why?
Life can be complex in the publishing world the moment the author or publisher
passes away or other challenges materialize. Heirs often battle for the author's
royalties and the publisher must be able to identify who is who to assign royalties to the
right person. That is only one scenario. Law suits against the author and
publisher can arise from anyone at anytime for many reason. The publisher must have
documentation to locate the author or spouse. Authors move without telling the
publisher, get married, change names, and how is the publisher to find the person?
They use the birth certificate, marriage license, driver license. Publishing law now
demands the publisher obtain these documents to prevent disaster. The documents are
usually placed in a file and only pulled when needed.
63. How can I increase sales of my books to help my
Go to sites like Amazon.com and post interviews, author comments about your
book. Promotion of a book for most authors is a partnership venture with the
publisher. Ask any author who has had his/her book published and they will
tell you they must participate in publicity. You can contact radio stations,
magazines, newspapers and Internet sites that give author interviews. Your publisher
can supply leads and advice, if you ask them. Novels and self-help books are the
hardest to sell and rely heavily on "publicity" and this is why the author must
do some leg work. Why? The competition is severe. How-to or
instructional books are the easiest to sell. You can schedule and attend signings at
local bookstores, then branch out to other cities. Inquire your publisher for
64. Is it possible to obtain free editing?
Some publishers will edit your manuscript at no charge, but this is rare.
The editing fee is usually charged against future royalties. Most publishers
can't accept works that are not professionally edited. Your manuscript must be ready
to be published. Many colleges have creative writing courses. Present your
manuscript to the instructor and the class may edit your manuscript as a school project at
no charge. Also, a college student may need extra money and be willing to edit your
manuscript for as little as $100.
65. How can I stop the rejections?
There are two ways to get published today, 1) You know somebody
in the publishing industry who can approve your manuscript for publishing, 2)
Hire a professional editor. Even if you self-publish you will still need to hire a
pro editor (or pro ghostwriter) otherwise your book will not sell. When we say
professional, we mean professional. You can't use your family and friends
to edit books. You need someone who is familiar with the book industry and knows how
to structure, format and edit books. As long as you keep submitting unedited
manuscripts to publishers and agents you will never get published, ever. It's just
not going to happen (unless you are already published or a pro writer). Once you
realize this, hire a professional to clean up your manuscript and you will see amazing
things happen. This is the #1 best-selling advice we can give you. Mention in
your query letter the manuscript is professionally edited and you will see agency and
publishing house doors swing wide open! This is the one best method of getting your
book published. When you are tired of the rejections remember this good advice.
66. What is the difference between a Ghost Writer
and an Editor?
The Ghost will rewrite your entire manuscript to conform to story structure,
readability, and perform a total rewrite and overhaul to meet industry standards.
Editors will correct grammar and some structure problems. Of the two, the Ghost is
better as they do it all, but will charge more money per page. Is it worth the
money? Yes, they can get your book published! Problem is, you have to find a
Ghost that is professional and has a successful tract record of books being published.
They are listed in the Writer's Digest Magazine. If you can't afford a Ghost,
go with the Editor. Both can enhance your manuscript to meet publishing industry
67. How can I tell if my query letter is effective?
The query letter's purpose is not to sell, but to entice the agent or
publisher to request your manuscript for review. If requests are low there
are two basic reasons, 1) the story/subject matter is not marketable,
dated or not compatible to the publisher/agent's interests and, 2) the
query is poorly drafted. Make certain you are sending your query to the appropriate
markets and keep rewriting your query letter until you do increase requests for your
manuscript. Read books on how to write a query
letter, it's not as easy as you think it is. you should see our sample query letter as a guideline. Keep in mind a
synopsis is not a query letter and a cover letter is not a query letter.
If you don't know the difference read books on how to write them. You can
hire a professional to draft the query letter. Most query letters we receive are
poorly written and if they are in such bad condition the manuscript usually is too!
Most successful writers understand how important it is to have pros assist in their
writing. Those who don't, don't get published. Put two and two together!
See Question #69 for an e-query sample.
68. Do you accept scripts from writers without
At the current time we do, but this will likely change. We receive
inferior manuscripts with gross story structure problems and other errors that clearly are
not ready for publishing. Even with the advice we give on our Web site, we still
receive terrible manuscripts and amateur query letters from writers who have stated they
found us on this Web site and still will not follow submission instructions. These
writers are wasting our time and their own time and money by not following sound
advice. For some reason they believe they can ignore the publishing industry's
standards and still get published. That's not going to happen. Writers who are
serious will hire professionals to rewrite and edit their manuscripts and those are the
writers who will be published. Our recourse may be to accept submissions only from
represented writers in the near future because the agent insures the manuscript is up to
industry standards before submitting to publishers.
69. My e-query just does not seem to produce
Your e-query must be condensed. The editor reading e-mails has little time
to read a page when sifting through 50 to 200 e-mails per day! Write a four line
paragraph, six at most for the main content of your e-query. If you send more than
this you are wasting time. Never ask the editor "visit my Web site to see
my manuscripts" because they don't have time to surf the Web, they have 199 more
e-mails to respond to and it is unprofessional. If you have six manuscripts?
Send a small e-query separately mailing one per week. Never send an e-query with
file attachments. Most publishing companies have a policy never to open attachments
due to computer virus threats. Those e-mails are simply deleted. The query
you send by postal mail should be one page or less (see sample
query letter). Editors are busy people who frown on long letters with rejection
slips. Here's an example of a condensed e-mail query,
Mystic Forest is a 125,000 word
manuscript. A boy must save a magical redwood forest from destruction by loggers
enters the forest traveling the root systems to mysterious worlds in search of the golden
acorn. Facing ferocious enemies above and below, the journey entertains and
enlightens the reader to obtain the power of wisdom. May I send this manuscript for
your consideration? Thank you.
your manuscript down to its core story. An e-mail query should not go on and on
describing every chapter. That's a manuscript outline not a query! There are
five important elements in the above e-query sample, 1) word count or
page count should be mentioned, 2) the word "manuscript"
denotes the work is a book, not a script or audiobook, etc., 3) story is
explained in four lines, 4) the story explains benefits the reader of the
book receives, 5) writer is asking the editor to do something right now!
Try sending brief e-query letters and
you will see better results.
70. I need a proofreader, editor or ghostwriter who
will charge approximately $1 per page. I can't afford to pay the going rate of $3 to
$5 per page!
Contact Vilas Sawant Also, see
answer #40 and #64. or Pam Beck or
Greg Erickson. Cory Emberson. All have agreed to edit at $1 per
page. Go to our Writing Links page for more
Check out Writers Digest Editing Services. Click
(Note: Publisher does not endorse or recommend
any ghostwriter or editor, but are listed here only for convenience).
71. What is the difference between a copyright and
a publisher's right?
First, when you write a manuscript the copyright is yours. You own all
rights to the manuscript. Nobody can buy or sell it without your permission.
When a book publisher wants to publish your book they will send you a publishing
contract. In this contract you must sign away your rights, not all rights, but most
rights to allow the publisher to properly sell your book. You are signing over
rights and the publisher is obtaining the rights as spelled out in the publishing
contract. Usually, there are conditions in the contract that if the publisher does
not do their job they have to return all the rights back to the author. This is
called a reversion of rights clause. You can buy books on publishing contract law.
See our Books for Writer's page. All authors
should read legal books regarding the publishing industry.
72. How much money will the author receive if the
publisher sells a book to a movie studio?
Depends on the contract deal and they are wild contracts! There are so
many variables to these deals it is hard to give a solid answer. There are purchase
option contracts that could give the author as little as $1 or as much as $2,000,000 or
more depending on who the author is and depending if the movie is made or just left in a
turn around file. There is no way of telling, it's all a gamble in the movie
industry. Every deal is unique and there are no set formulas for consummating book
to film adaptations. Authors will have no voice in the hiring of screenwriters which
will drastically change your book in a major way. Once the studio buys the film
rights to the book they can do what they want with it. The contract will spell out
the details what the author will receive in monetary compensation, but first your
publisher has to sell the books rights to the film studio. Most books do not get
sold to movie studios. Just a few are lucky.
73. When asking a publisher for submission
guidelines can I also submit a query?
No, never submit a query letter until after you have read the instruction is the
submission guidelines. That is what the guidelines are for; to tell you how to
submit materials properly. The first step in contacting a publisher is to ask for
submission guidelines to be sent to you. You should purchase the most current
edition of the The Writer's Market book.
Submission guidelines and a valuable advice for writers are in this book. No author
should be without it. There are two elements of success in the publishing and film
industry (1) good edited writing and (2) making professional submissions to publishers and
agents. Every writer who ever made it big will agree these two elements are critical
for success. Ignore them and you will be faced with unrelenting failure.
Knowing and following the rules of marketing book manuscripts or film/stage scripts is
essential. Writers fail the marketing process 99% of the time and pay for it by
receiving perpetual rejection letters. Professionalism is knowing how to market your
manuscript with good query letters. See a sample query
letter you can use as a baseline.
74. Can I submit a manuscript when I don't have a
copyright registration number?
You can, but it is not advised until you obtain the copyright registration.
However, that can take over five months to wait. This is one reason you
should consider using alternative registration services. Protect Rite is a
firm that registers books, stage plays, TV, movie scripts, treatments, outlines, query
letters, synopsis, art work, etc. The Writer's Guild only registers
television scripts, movie screenplays, treatments and outlines. When you register
your work with these alternative registries it allows you to market your material quickly.
If you ever have to prove you are the author of the work, the alternative registry
registration will stand up in court as evidence of authorship and ownership. In any
case, never mail your manuscript until it has been registered with a registration service
or wait until your copyright registration number arrives from the US Copyright Office
(you'll wait 5 to 6 months). Alternative registration services does not replace a US
Copyright registration. They allow you to get your product to market faster and add
another level of protection. Go to our Writing Links
page to contact these firms.
75. I major in English composition. I still
need an editor?
Yes, you still need to have your writing professionally edited. What you
learned in college will do you little good. The publishing industry employs unique
editorial norms you were not taught in school. Even well-educated authors are
surprised just how different the accepted styles and content are. Also, regardless
of editorial ability, working on a manuscript diminishes objectivity. You'll be too
familiar with your own writing and that creates leaps in logic and other inaccuracies.
You still need a pro editor to offer a fresh perspective, tighten content, smooth
word flow, examine consistency and conform your writing to publishing standards.
Writers believe they can get their books published bypassing the editing of the query
letter and manuscript, but those are the writers who will never see their books published
and/or successfully sold as a bestseller. The advice is to hire a professional
editor with book publishing experience.
76. I plan to write a Christian book. What
are the chances of success?
Getting published is hard as is, getting paid any royalties for your Christian
work will be even tougher. The Christian market is terribly flooded as publishers
scramble to test-publish thousands of books, each hoping one will click and become a
bestseller. It's a numbers game. Publish as many books as possible and hope of
the one-hundred, one may be a success. To get an idea just how flooded the market is and
to see all the Christian books being deeply discounted and closed out visit Christian Book Distributors Web site.
Publishers must give Christian market distributors up to a 68% discount off the cover
price. The publisher will be lucky to turn a profit. If there is no profit
there will be no royalties to the author, even though the book is selling. Many of
the books are discounted for good reason, they have failed in the marketplace and are now
being remaindered (sold for break even or at loss) by the publisher. The Christian
retailer is a weak source of sales as they carry few books in relation to other novelty
items. A devotional or reference writing has the best chances of selling long term
in the Christian market. Christian novels are very tough to sell. The advice
is this, take a chance! You never know if your book will be the next
bestseller. This market is laden with high risk for both the author and publisher.
In any case, make certain your book has been professionally edited. Visit our
Writing Links for a list of book
77. Is there a database of literary agents I can
purchase for my computer?
Yes, we publish a CD-ROM listing over 600 literary agents for the ACT! software
program. It is primarily a database for screenwriters, but hundreds of the agents
listed do accept and represent books. Click here for
78. What are the major mistakes authors are making
- Not drafing a professional query letter. Click here for a Query Letter sample. If your query letter is
unprofessional, it's a sure tip that your manuscript is worse.
- Sending a e-mail query letter with an attachment file. Publishers and agents will
not open these files and risk a virus attack on their computer systems. Authors waste
their opportunity to be read. Don't send attachments. Put the message in the
body of the e-mail.
- Sending a query e-mail with a link for the publisher or agent to click on to visit the
author's Web site to see his query letter or book. Publishers and agents don't have
time to deal with such unprofessional submissions as these. Follow the rules.
Be professional. Send a traditional query letter. Don't expect publishers to
click on e-mail links to search out your material.
- Sending unsolicited manuscripts. Like all publishers and agents, we won't read
- Sending a requested manuscript, but not including Self Addressed
- Authors must follow industry standards or they will be ignored. Most publishers
have submission guidelines. Follow the rules
publishers and agents provide. If you can't find any rules, then send a postal mail
query letter with an SASE.
79. I am looking for publishers on the Internet.
How do I find them?
Go to our Links page and then scroll down to the
Writing links, click on it, then scroll down to Publishing links. You can find more
industry links by using a search engine. We have many listings of search engines on
our Search Engine page.
80. Can you recommend a Web site I can use to
promote myself as an author and my books?
Here's one site I have used; http://www.authorsden.com/jamesrussell
This link will take you to my page on the site to give you an idea how it works.
There are other author Web sites you can use. Go to our Writing
Links page to find a few more. At this point in time the Authors Den site is
free. I would be suspicious of author sites that charge listing fees. It is
important for authors to get involved in the marketing process of selling books. A
publisher can do a lot, but the author can boost sales by getting publicity exposure in
newspapers, magazines, Web sites, book signings at bookstores, conducting seminars, etc.
81. I need an illustrator for my book. How
can I find one?
Go to our Writing Links page. We don't
endorse any illustrator. Here's some advice;
|The artwork must be performed using a recognized computer software program such as;
Adobe Illustrator and/or Adobe Photoshop, so publishers and printers can read and use the
files to make the book. Illustrations on artboard can be used, but is expensive to
produce the old way by shooting each with a camera and pasting into a book. Scanning
is not practical due to the huge file sizes each scan produces. A book could go to a
gigabyte size by scanning with ease. Using computer software is the only way to go,
so make sure your illustrator used the above programs and are of the most recent version.|
|It does not matter much if the illustration software used of PC or Mac format, as long
as the Illustrator will not charge you a fortune to export the illustrations in a specific
format a publisher may need. The output you should have is called a TIFF file.
This is a high quality image. JPEG is second best for all around use.
|Once you hire an illustrator to do your images, go buy the matching software the
illustrator used and get your images on disk from the illustrator. If a publisher
needs the images in a different format, like a TARGA file, all you have to do is open the
file and export it to the file format required. |
|There are a lot of illustrators out there, but is the illustrator familiar with the book
industry? What good is a 8x11 inch or larger size illustration if it's only going to
be inserted inside a book page filling a 2x4 inch space? Shrinking the image will
distort it or compress it badly and make it unusable. A computer generated file can
altered to fit at low cost compared to a hard copy of the image.|
|If the illustrator only uses camera ready images with or without color separations (the
old way of doing things) inform the illustrator to buy a computer and get with the flow of
technology. Few book publishers will take manuscripts unless they are entirely
electronic. Magazines do use the old technology for a short article, but the book
industry does not use anything but electronic files. |
|You need a written release that the illustrator is not holding any intellectual or
artistic rights to the images. You need a work for hire agreement in which you (the
author) retain the copyright to the images created for your book. A professional
illustrator will have this agreement. A book on book contracts will have such a
contract. A book publisher will need this document or the book will not be
|Is the illustrator familiar with creating book covers? Publishers usually design
the cover, but for those who self-publish you will need a full-cover spread, front cover,
back cover with bar code, cover spine and the bar code file (six separate files all in
TIFF format, except the bar code is in EPS format.|
|It is very complex to publish a book and mistakes are expensive to correct. Make
sure you hire an illustrator who is familiar with the book industry, or will not charge
you fees for getting to be familiar with the industry. Be professional by getting
all agreements in writing.|
82. What is a Print On Demand Publisher?
Generally just another vanity press with a twist. They promise to store
your finished manuscript in book format on a computer system. When orders arrive for
the book they will print the book and send it to the buyer, after subtracting their print
and shipping fees, etc. A traditional publisher publishes a book in all formats;
traditional softbound print, some hardbound books, print on demand, electronic e-book and
will market the book to all outlets worldwide at no cost to the author. The POD
vanity press may list (not market) your book to a few bookstore chains, but all other
markets are generally lacking; military bookstores, industrial market, specialty stores,
department stores, export market, libraries, independent bookstores, etc. The vanity
press will not aggressively sell your book. There will be no promotion or
advertising (unless you pay for it). There are a lot more traps for the unsuspecting
author than there were years ago now that the vanity press can offer print on demand and
e-book services. These vanity presses thrive on the failed authors; authors that
have failed to see their book published. For a fee the vanity press will get your
book made, but most all of the books never sell. The authors pay to have the books
made, listed, distributed, advertised, etc., Is there any money left for the author
after a book sells? Who owns the rights to the book? Remember, no publisher
will pick up a book once it has been published in any medium or any form (in most all
cases). Once you use the vanity press, kiss your book goodbye. Get a
traditional publisher to publish your book! They are listed in the The Writer's Market. Some books can do well
with a vanity press. It's rare, but once in a while a sneaker book comes along that
just gets lucky and sells like mad after the vanity press performed a publicity release to
a newspaper. The important thing here is to read that book contract. If your
book sells, you could end up on the losing end if the rights were squandered or not
specifically retained. Book contracts are complex. Read books about book
contracts. We have some listed here: Books for Writer's.
83. What is the difference between marketing a book
and listing a book?
Listing is submitting a book title with metadata (a description of the book) to
a book wholesaler or distributor or bookstore database. If somebody is looking to
buy your book they can find the book in the database by searching under the author name,
publisher name, ISBN number, subject category or book title. Sounds good, but
remember, there are millions of books in these databases, so to find your book, people
already have to know the title, etc., to find it in the database. The vanity press
may get you listed in databases, but so what? Who will find your book? Nobody
will. Marketing a book is what a traditional publisher will do to insure people
enter a bookstore asking for your book. They do this with using publicity releases
in magazines, web sites, advertising, and other methods. Marketing should not be
limited to a few web sites or bookstores. Marketing should include all markets
worldwide. In fact, the book market is so large I could not list them here on this
Is there a Website that warns authors of rip-offs?
What is the difference between a memoir and an
They can be categorized identically in
marketing purposes, but there is a difference and it relates to time.
A memoir covers one aspect of the writer's life, say a one or ten year
period. The autobiography reveals the author's entire lifetime.
How long is a short story, novella or novel to be?
Short stories can range from 1,500 to 29,000
words. Novellas run 30,000 to 50,000. Novels 51,000 to 300,000
words but 100,000 words would be better to keep costs down for your new
publisher. These are just guidelines. A first-time writer's word
count should fall between 80,000 to 100,000. This will be 300
double-space, typed pages and is the size that is proven to most likely to
succeed. Many agents and publishers will tell you the same thing.
I have run out of options in the USA. Is there
Yes. There is a Directory of UK & Irish
Book Publishers. You can find it on
I need advice to get my book published. Can you
write an article on this?
How To Get Your Book Published.
Do you purchase articles?
Yes. We do purchase "How-To" articles
on many subjects (no obscene or sex subjects).
We do not pay a lot of money for the articles for they are usually basic
informative articles. 350 to 1,000 words we pay $10 or more. Over 1000
words we pay $20 or more. Please do not send us the
article in your query letter. Every project
is unique as we will pay $50 or $100 or much more if we really want the
If we do purchase the article we will
need you to assign "all rights" including copyright and intellectual rights
over to us for our exclusive use in perpetuity. Do not send us the article
if you do not agree with these terms and conditions. It means you can not
sell that article anymore to anyone else as we now own the article if we
purchase it from you. However, you an always write
a similar article as long as you substantially change the information.
You may e-mail your query to us at:
put the title of your article in the
subject line of your e-mail message to us with the words
"Attention: Article Query for JR Publishing" in that subject line.
This is so it will not get caught in our spam filter.
Tips: We desire "How-To"
articles on many diverse subjects. We will consider a
proposal to write a specific article, but you must finish the article to be
paid for it and we must also agree to purchase it. There is no guarantee we
will purchase the final proposed product on spec projects, unless we agree
beforehand. You best bet is to always
have a completed article ready to be published.
We will accept new
writers! We do not require art work or photographs, text-only is fine,
but if you have jpeg photos that will make your article a better sales pitch
Proofread and have an editor edit your work if you want your writing to be sold.
This is really important if you wish to be an article writer. We are
not purchasing books, just helpful to the consumer-type articles. To see a list of our
Articles on our Web site click here.
Digest editing service which for articles is a steal at $3 per page.
Sample Subjects: Winning
at Sports, Buying Real Estate, How to Purchase a Car, Helpful
Homeowner Advice, Travel Tips, RV Advice, Railroad Articles, Power Plant
articles, Target Shooting, Carpentry Tips, Writing Advice, Motorcycles,
Screenwriting, How-to obtain quality Auto Repair, all
sorts of subjects we want! We do need articles that will endure the test
of time, articles that will remain relevant for
years to come. Recent events or news articles we do not desire.
E-mail us for our submission guidelines. Do not send us your
article unless we request it. Follow these rules, please.
Click here for Advice on
Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets
James Russell Publishing.
Legal Notice: The answers to questions are not legal advice, so hire
an attorney to guide you in legal matters. The advice is free and is given for
information purposes only. We are not responsible for any damages if you use, misuse
or misinterpret this information. (Note: Publisher does not endorse or
recommend any ghostwriter or editor, but are listed here only for convenience).