Traditional Publishing

Recommended publishing resources:

08 Jul 2021

  • The blog archives and weekly business-for-writers blog by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is gold. This section is particularly essential: Contracts & Dealbreakers

Paths to Publication

Determined to get a book-shaped story out into the world? Here’s a rough outline of what it might look like.

As we’ll look at, traditional publishing is often slower with lots of waiting between steps, and possibly more drafts and rewrites. Agents are not essential but we all act like they are, and it’s unlikely that you can get a manuscript in front of a major publisher without one.

If you choose to independently pubish (self-publish), you don’t have to do every one of these steps, but you do need to either learn to do or learn enough to hire someone to do most of them. And in both cases, your job does not end when that book hits store shelves.

Big 4 Publishing

Most of this boils down to: it’s slow, there are no guarantees, and you’ve got to look out for yourself. The traditional publishing landscape has been getting worse for authors over the years, but do your research and make the best choice for you and your book. Things may change.

Publishing Tips

Agents (and publishers) have been known to steal from authors. That said, there are some very well intentioned people out there. As always, do your research and be intentional in your choices. Small and micro presses often offer better contract terms. They may still steal from you or go out of business. Proceed with caution, and watch out for “hybrid” publishers.

In traditional publishing, all money (should) flow to the author. If you’re paying for anything, something’s wrong. Don’t pay “reading fees” to agents or publishers, that’s a scam. If you have to pay to get the book out there, that’s independent publishing with a services company (“hybrid publisher”), not a real publisher. If that’s something you want, just be careful with the contracts and don’t sign away licenses without getting compensated.

Benefits of Traditional Publishing

Despite the evidence, it’s not all downsides! Book advances have gone down, but you at least get something, rather then spending your money to get published. There is still some prestige to “being published,” particularly by a major publisher. It can open doors. You’ll be eligible for more awards and speaking opportunities (whether you have a chance or want them is a separate question.) If you write for children (babies through to teens, in the publishing world), traditional publishers may be able to get your book out more widely—to public libraries and schools, for instance.

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