Publishing Pitfalls

J K Rowling is worth £1 billion.

A friend of mine has written a book about her experiences in Japan. It’s a warm, caring account of an emotional journey. It’s taken a long time and a lot of effort to write, and it shows. It’s a quality book.

She sent the manuscript out to various publishers and agents but became used to receiving gentle and polite rejection letters. It seemed her work was destined to remain unpublished.

One day, a letter came. It began with the words ‘We have read your submitted manuscript and liked it very much. We would be happy to publish it.’

She was understandably over the moon. She rang her friends, told them of this wonderful news. Felt a great relief and unbounded joy that her words would at last be read.

Because that’s what we writers need; to be heard.

It’s all very well sitting there, labouring over a hot keyboard, agonising over every word. There needs to be an end product, otherwise the frustration builds.

Not so very long ago, we had a publishing industry that wasn’t afraid. It meant that lots of different types of books were given a chance. Publishers weren’t looking over their shoulders to see the grim reaper poised to strike. They controlled book production and distribution and could afford to take an overview, allow one book to subsidise the next in the interests of diversity. Sometimes they were surprised, now and again this surprise was very pleasant indeed.

Amazon has ripped the guts out of publishers, squeezing their margins to the extent that they are closing down imprints, consolidating businesses and generally taking less risks. This is bad news for authors, particularly mid-list authors, who rely on the publishing houses for their livelihood.

Amazon has also opened the door to self-publishing, a much derided route previously referred to as vanity publishing. It achieved this by demolishing the hurdles to book distribution previously controlled by the big publishers.

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has sold 100 million copies.

To continue the story, my over the moon friend was brought down to earth when she finally read the whole letter. The gushing praise for her work eventually subsided and the real truth was revealed. ‘Send us £9000 and we’ll get on with the publishing process.’ They said. She nearly did. The only thing that stopped her was the inconvenience of not having nine thousand spare pounds at the time. The letter was very optimistic regarding the prospects of sales far exceeding that measly investment and she was inclined to agree. Her disappointment was complete until she found out that she could get published for much less than this so-called publisher was demanding. That there were people out there willing to help at a cost that she could afford.

We all need help. Sometimes it’s not the first sort of help that’s offered. Make sure its the kind of help that suits your situation.

There’s help to be had at www.opencirclebooks.com, but there’s lots of other places you can find it as well. Don’t be seduced by potential sales figures, bear in mind that few self published books sell more than fifty copies.

photo credit: Will Lion via photopin cc

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