Good morning! Or good afternoon. I suppose it does depend, so either way I am happy that you’re here, on my website, checking out my latest blog post.
Today, I want to share my experience with traditional publishing. In the interest of full disclosure and in case you weren’t aware, I AM NOT traditionally published. I am a self-published or, otherwise know as, indie author.
That being said, I promise, I have no agenda on whether to pursue this path or not. I will not try to sway you one way or another because I have seen far too many writers do that and that is 100% your choice.
Whether you aim to self-publish or work with a publishing house, I am proud of the work you are doing, and I truly wish you the best of luck with it!
Alright get on with it Porter!
When I finally, after years of attempts, after on-again-off-again trials, after blood, sweat and tears, finished my very first novel Love Before Law (available on amazon 😊) I was dead-set on the traditional route. Hell, or high water, I was going to get a literary agent and get my very first book picked up by a major publishing house. As soon as I finished the manuscript I began my research on how to go about achieving my goal.
One great thing about the world we live in today is that information is endless and, for the most part, we can get access to any of it instantaneously. In that spirit, I began digging in. I spent hours researching on the computer and ordered a couple of books on the topic. Now, I didn’t read all the books completely, but I did go through them and mark helpful information.
One of the books that I bought included a list of known literary agents, their contact information, their website, social media, genre preferences and known clients. I strongly recommend this book if you are thinking of going this way. It is called Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, 28th Edition. This book is full of helpful info, but if for no other reason than the literary agent list, it is a worth-while investment.
Now, if you aren’t familiar with the process, here is how it goes.
You compile a list of literary agents who you would like to work with or who you think would be a good fit for your work. You then create what is called a query letter. A query letter, in short, is an introduction of who you are, a brief explanation of why you chose to reach out to them in particular, and a short summary of the book.
This will all be pasted into an email most of the time although each agent has a specific format for the query letter along with certain information that they would like to have included.
From there, you send out your query to each agent on your list. Then, you wait. Annnnnd you wait. Sometimes you hear back, but most times your don’t. Any research that you do will tell you that no response is equivalent to a rejection.
This is what you will get most of the time, unless of course your manuscript is a 10 out of 10 and then you might get a bunch of positive responses! I hope that is the case if you choose this path!
My experience was a few months of waiting. I did get several responses and while they were all encouraging and uplifting, they were all rejections. Now, this is the experience that most people have, especially their first time. Where I was different was, most people will do several rounds of querying.
If they don’t nail down an agent the first time around, they will make a new list and try again. I chose not to do a second round, but that was the way it went for me, that doesn’t have to be your story!
Once you are able to lock in representation with a literary agent, that agent will then go to battle for you. They will reach out to their contacts and their network to pitch your book. They will link up with publishers and negotiate on your behalf to sell your manuscript. What is cool about having representation from a lit agent is that they have skin in the game. They don’t get paid a single cent until your book gets picked up and you get an advance on said book.
SIDENOTE – IF AN AGENT ASKS FOR PAYMENT PRIOR TO SELLING YOUR BOOK TO A PUBLISHER…RUN!
This fact keeps them motivated to find a home for that book baby of yours. From there, there is some more waiting until the stars align and the right person gets ahold of it. There is then a negotiation between the publisher and your agent, your agent will collaborate with you, get you up to speed on all of the inner workings of a contract of this type, and assuming you agree to the terms, your agent will accept, and you have a book deal.
I can’t go too far into uncharted waters because, as I mentioned earlier, I did not get an agent or a traditional book deal. However, from countless hours of research, I can tell you that the traditional publishing route is a long one. You have to have patience. Generally, I am seeing that for most authors from the time you receive a book deal to the time that it is sitting on a shelf at Books-A-Million or Barnes and Noble is anywhere from 18-24 months.
Royalties do depend on the publisher and the contract that is negotiated, however, the majority of the time the author is paid an advance up front. This could be anywhere from $1000 to several million, but generally it is in the neighborhood of $5000-$10000.
From there, no more royalties will be paid to the author until the book earns out. What this means is that the book sells enough copies to cover the advance that the publisher paid the writer. If and when the book hits that mark, the author will begin to earn royalties per copy sold. This amount depends as well, but a pretty common number is around 15%.
Every traditionally published author has a different experience in the aftermath of publication. For some, the road ends here and when they write another book they will have to go through the process over again. For some, their publisher might offer them a multiple book deal and continue working with them.
It is a long road and it does require a good bit of patience, but it can also be a very beneficial route. Some of the most well-known authors in history have been published this way! There have also been countless high-level authors who were self-published first and then picked up by a publishing house!
Anywho, I hope you found this helpful if this is the path you are considering going down. I will do another post about self-publishing to give you the other side of the coin as well so watch out for that.
And your sweet, little piece of advice for today is be consistent.
This takes a long time to succeed in, no matter how you go about getting there. It takes time and it takes a whole lot of effort and it requires those things constantly. The moment you stop, your progress stops. On the positive, every moment that you spend moving forward and staying consistent, that is one moment closer to achieving everything you have your heart set on.
And here is a secret….it is closer than you think. It is just around the corner. A few more steps and you will be able to see the finish line. So, keep running! You are so close and if you just keep going you got this! I am rooting for you!