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Publishing For The Rest Of Us
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It's been said that everyone has a book inside them. I think for some the book is content to stay there. But for others, it is like a beast scratching and clawing at the door. And when the pain finally gets bad enough, those people sit down and begin to compose.
The process of writing a novel can be described as both delightful and tedious. For most, writing a book is just like reading one except that it lasts longer and the author gets to control the story line. Prolific writers can work from sunup till sundown and never get tired, slapping down fifteen thousand words a day with nary a blister. This is the delightful part.
Then comes what some (not all) consider the tedious part, and by that I mean the rewriting. It has been said many ways, but truly the art of writing is in the rewriting. A book can be born and raised, but it shouldn't leave the nest until it's been written and rewritten, edited, proofread, and rewritten some more.
Once the beast has been freed and laid down on paper, it is time to consider publishing. And here is where authors run into those proverbial brick walls. First, few publishers will take a work that is not represented by a literary agent. So step one is getting literary agent. But hold on. Each agency represents different genres, and each has their own submission requirements. Woe to the author who doesn't follow them to the letter. Their precious baby will wind up languishing in a slush pile somewhere.
Even with the great guides to literary agents available today, there is still much work yet to be done. The author must sort through and find the agents that represent their type of work. Then they must review and obey the submission requirements, keeping in mind that agents get hundreds or maybe thousands of submissions a year. And once the submissions are made, the author must brace him or herself for the inevitable rejection letters. It is critical that authors develop a thick skin because even the best authors have gotten rejected. If by some chance an author does get picked up, the costs are split between the agent (approx. 10%), the publishing company (approx. 15%), and the distribution company (approx. 55%). Do the math and understand that the "per book" profit is not very much.
A viable alternative is self-publishing. The drawback is that it will cost a few thousand dollars, and when it's all done the author still has to do all of the promotion. This means scheduling book signings and radio/TV interviews; Internet marketing; newspaper press releases, etc... It can get very expensive, and it is always very time consuming (not to mention how much space those boxes of books consume).
The point here is that there is a faster, easier and cheaper way, assuming the author is willing to be a self-promoter. Amazon Kindle now offers publishing of novels for Kindle and similar devices. They even pay royalties. It is completely free and anyone can be published within hours. All that is needed is a book in MS Word or similar format; a working title; some cover art and a "back cover blurb." Amazon also asks for bank information so that they can deposit the royalties. But just FYI, all of this assumes that the author owns the rights to their work. If the author doesn't own exclusive rights, there are a few extra steps involved.
I have published three previous novels through traditional avenues, and once the books were published it was up to me to promote them. They delivered boxes of books to my door and told me to "go forth and sell." The other night I published my newest book on Amazon for Kindle (kdp.amazon.com), and I went from zero to published in less than one hour, and for $0. A few clicks of the mouse and it was done.
As expected, it is up to the author to promote their own work. They can do this via friends and family, through magazines, newspapers, the Internet and any other media they can get hold of. It is like anything else, the more they work it, the more it will pay. The difference is that there is no out of pocket cost; no hassle and most importantly, no rejection letters. The profit belongs to the author, and does not have to be split with anyone except the writing beast within.
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