You’re working on your first piece of fiction. Maybe you know a little something about what your author friends do to get put on a shelf, virtual or otherwise: pick a press, send a letter. Easy peasy. I mean, the hard part is the writing, and you LOVE that part….
This post is for you.
Stilicho’s Son is a novel I’ve been working on for fifteen years. There was the research and writing of it which took two years. Then, I spent a year or so editing. The rest of those fifteen years was spent researching print and digital options, soliciting agents and then publishers, finding a publisher, having the publisher go out of business, and then putting the book on hold as I pursued, well, life.
Why put my favorite and likely best piece of writing on hold?
That’s what this post is about. The submission process is the worst part of writing, if you choose to publish with a professional press. It isn’t the rejections. Long before you might ever deal with a rejection, you have to spend hours simply researching and writing promotional material.
If you want to publish, you are not an author. You are a business.
Why Do You Write?
I ask this question of new writers. You need to know why you’re writing, so you’ll know what’s worth your time and what isn’t. I wasted years of productivity because I wasn’t clear.
I’m a storyteller and myth maker. I have hundreds of ideas, characters, stories to tell. I love to craft the story, as well as its world and characters. I love to rewrite and illustrate. Anything that interferes with that gets put aside if I’m hot on a new story.
I want to share my creations and to make money. But both those goals are secondary, and become a low priority when I add in the need to make a living and to raise my family.
The worst part of publishing is the sheer amount of time it takes just to get in the game.
If you write novel-length about a woman protagonist, have a relationship focus on a wealthy man (erotic or romantic), provide a happy ending, and especially if you can put that into a series, you are gold. Gold! Forget everything I’ve written here and just submit your story to every romance press you can. Even if your writing sucks, you will have your pick of publishers.
I don’t mean to sound cynical. Publishing is about marketability not art. If you want more chances for sales, you have to go for numbers. The numbers say women are the bulk of readers and they prefer straight novel-length romances. Although Male-Male erotic romance is extremely popular with women readers, too.
If you write anything else, anything a bit niche or literary, you will be more limited where you can submit and you should expect to make only extra money from your work, not money to live on.
First, you must research the markets–digital and print. That means finding all the publishers that will consider your book’s genre, word length, and general style–which includes things like point of view, tone, and ending.
I’ve been rejected several times because my story didn’t fit a press’s view of itself or its readers. For example, some presses want only happy endings or expect 3rd person omniscient with the point of view shifting at different points in the story.
I find most of my submissions limited by length. I write mostly novella and shorter (less than 20K words), and even digital presses are starting to expect only novel length for standalone pieces.
Once you find a few markets that fit your story, you need to study those markets. Study them! Read some of their books and search for information online from other authors. This is an important step that should never be skipped.
Why do I say that? Because I skipped it.
I’ve had three presses go out of business after they accepted me. Each went under for a different reason, but if I had researched them better, I would have steered clear.
- Some presses are not well-capitalized but remain a side business of one person and wholly dependent on their time and health.
- Some presses develop a poor reputation for paying authors or for limited marketing or for contracts that are unreasonable.
- Some presses are not run by skilled editors or publishers but are really a front for an author who publishes their own works.
Presses can hide these things, so be sure to check the message boards. Places like Absolute Write Forums and Predators and Editors and ERWA Author Resources .
3. Sell Yourself
Next, you craft a cover letter and determine the specific submission guidelines for the presses. They are similar but seldom the same. I usually spend several hours putting a sub together for each press.
And all the above takes place AFTER you have completed your story, edited it, written a 1-2 page synopsis, composed a 25-word tagline, and written a 200 word bio.
Hence, my backstock of stories and novels that I plan to submit. Sometime.
Alternatively, you can publish your own stories and books through various online sites. I chose to do this with my Darklaw series. There are pros and cons, and I’ve mentioned some in this post.
I may go more this way, because presses are not important in the way they once were.
I have a bit of a creative recovery period right now and am trying to get work published, like In the Dark With Whiskey (Darklaw) and Stilicho’s Son, as well as the recent Echo of Darkness: Chicago.
So I can’t say what you’ll see next from me. But you know I’ll be having fun doing it, and I hope you’ll have fun reading it.