I’m not the first and CERTAINLY won’t be the last to state an overly simplistic and often ignored fact. Publishing a book is hard. Like super hard. CRAZY super hard. Unlike the glamorous vision of a weathered word artist pining away over his ancient typewriter in some cabin in the woods, writers these days are typically hard working regular-joe’s who utilize their laptops during nights and weekends and lunch hours to just bang out a few words a day. If they are lucky their work doesn’t suck. If they are luckier still they can manage a successful blog or maybe even submission into a few column pieces and hey, who knows, MAYBE they got paid a few pennies for their time. They can have a GENUINE online following and small but dedicated fan-base and STILL – PUBLISHING A BOOK IS HARD! But before I go into what all it takes to GET published, allow me to side-step a minute and talk about all the ways you need to NOT get published. The pot-holes to avoid, the roadblocks to steer clear of. Many of these are, sadly, common place but several have been hard learned lessons by good friends I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during my OWN publication experience. Without further ado….
7 Ways to NOT get Published
PAY TO PLAY: Rule number one in the publishing industry is that writers should get paid to write. Pure and simple. If a legitimate publisher wishes to publish your book, THEY – THE PUBLISHER – will assume the risk involved. If a company comes to you, claiming to be a traditional publisher, but then gives you a list of fees for editing, illustration, marketing, etc. BEWARE! They are NOT a legitimate publisher and they ARE in fact a total Vanity Press Scam artist. This is NOT how you get published. In fact you could SELF publish for cheaper.
WEIRD CONTRACT DEMANDS: remember rule number one. Writers get paid to write. If you keep that in mind, then it makes more sense why a publisher ‘forcing’ a writer to buy their own books seems a bit ridiculous. Take the story I wrote about my buddy Bill Haile, Sr. A published author from the now GLORIOUSLY imploded Tate Publishing. Bill was required to purchase a certain number of his own books. Now WHY ON EARTH would a legitimate publisher FORCE an author to BUY BACK their own work?!? Well frankly cause their business model depends on AUTHOR money, not book sells. It’s ludicrous, and you wonder how anyone would fall for it. But don’t be so quick to judge. These companies are experts at using the flowery language to justify all their fees as necessary and normal. Just always remember….a Writer should get PAID to write. This is NOT how you get published.
ODD DELAYS IN PRODUCTION: Publishing houses these days should run for the most part like finely tuned machines. They know enough not to make promises on timelines they can’t deliver but moreover they set realistic expectations to begin with. So if a publisher takes money up front (see item 1) but then immediately TELLS You that your deliverables will be delayed….yikes! Run…. FLEE….from that publisher. They are a scam artist and to hand them your money would be just as effective as flushing it down the toilet. Need another story demonstrating that…. check out this one here with my author friend Bob Richley who ALSO got caught up in the Tate Publishing Scam. A writer should be getting PAID to write…. not being ASKED to pay for marketing materials or deliverables in promotion. If your publisher asks YOU to pay for stationary and business cards, there is a VERY good chance they have sunk ZERO money into promoting your work. Do not pass go, do NOT collect $200 dollars. Head STRAIGHT for a refund from your credit card or bank fraud department and move along. This is NOT how you get published.
SITE UNSEEN PUBLISHING: Nearly all legitimate publishing houses refuse to accept
manuscripts direct from authors anymore. They are genuinely inundated so much by the sheer abundance of writers in the world that they won’t take a manuscript unless it’s from a Literary Agent and agents typically dig thru piles of slush before they find one they wish to champion and even then, the process takes time. More on that later. But the short version is; if you submit your manuscript to a publisher and they responded LITERALLY within days offering you a publication contract – HOLD YOUR HORSES !!!!!! Writers get paid to write…. but Publishers, real publishers, won’t take on work they can’t market and sell. They’d be ludicrous to try. If a publisher offers you a contract on your work site unseen or in such quick fashion that they couldn’t POSSIBLY have read it enough to research the market for it, then you have likely just been hit up by a smooth-talking SCAM ARTIST who is about to bait and switch you and introduce you to their list of services – for a fee. And, you guessed it, I have another Tate author story to share showcasing my point. Poor Wesley Caldwell fell into this trap and ended up losing his work and his money. BE CAUTIOUS folks and don’t let a smooth talker win you over. This is NOT how you get published.
IGNORANT PUBLISHING: *sigh* this one is a lesson I had to learn myself the hard way.
Yes, bring me your looks of shame....heap them upon me. I fell prey to the very tactics wherein I seek to help YOU avoid. My total humiliating loss is YOUR incredible gain. I'm so glad I can be your cautionary tale. truly. I confess, Tate Publishing got me. They waived contracts with gold seals and big words in front of me and I fell hook, line, and sinker into their trap. But as gloriously as my time with them started in publishing my book, there was a moment when a GIANT red flag went up for me and I ignored it.
My bad. Life happened and I told myself I was wrong and….whatever….but DON’T IGNORE THOSE RED FLAGS people. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD trust those instincts! When my book made it to the point of marketing and selling….Tate didn’t know my market. They sent me a HUGE form to fill out asking me to detail out every niche of my demographic and marketability. I must have submitted 15 pages of marketing info back to them only to be told my work was “too personal and I’d be better off trying to market myself.” Uuuummmmmm didn’t you KNOW what my market was before we began publishing? More importantly, shouldn’t there have been a marketing conversation between the author and the publisher prior to contract signing….um YEA. Whomp Whomp. If a publisher offers you a contract without a person to person discussion on the marketability of your work – BEWARE! Writers get paid to write, publisher gets paid WHEN THEY SELL! If they can’t sell THEY DON’T GET PAID. Thereby your works sell-ability should be PARAMOUNT to a publisher. They can like your smile all day long folks but if you can’t write something worth paying for, then a legitimate publisher won’t give you the time of day much less a CONTRACT! Learn it from me folks……don’t get into bed with a publisher who dives in blindly! This is NOT how you get published.
PUBLISHERS APPROACHING WRITERS: I’m gonna be real honest here and confess it is FLATTERING AS ALL GET OUT when someone approaches me and says “I love your work I want to publish you”.
I mean come ON... what better validation as a writer than to hear someone tell you how awesome YOU are and they want to publish YOU and make YOU famous and before you know it YOU’LL be the next King or Rowling!
But let’s step back from the crazy for a second and be real. Legitimate publishers do NOT go seeking out writers, folks. They are literally drowning in slush piles of manuscripts and have no NEED to go actively seeking new work. Unless you have a viral online following of MILLIONS, chances are a legitimate publisher doesn’t know or care who you are. If a publisher approaches YOU and wants to offer you a publishing contract on the spot, writer…. BEWARE! Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing who comes with flowery words and sweet promises. Open your eyes and be WISE. If your work is good, publication good, REALLY good, then get an agent and let that agent negotiate on your behalf. If an agent won't take you and you truly believe you are worth the printed page then LEGIT self-publish using any of the SCAM free POD (Print on Demand) services offered and start marketing yourself! Otherwise if you ARE approached by a publisher and it seems too good to be true. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! I have a few tips on that in another article for you but for now just remember. Writers get paid to write, Publishers won’t publish what they can’t SELL. If they come at you out of the blue with a contract in hand and you haven’t sent them a manuscript – SCAM. SCAM ALERT! Back away, turn away, RUN AWAY! This is NOT how you get published.
EMOTIONAL FLUFF: Whew this one is tough. Let’s be bluntly honest with one another that in the grand scheme of things all writers would love to make it famous. Like New York Times Best Seller turned Hollywood Blockbuster and FAN MANIA famous! WOULDN’T WE ALL. WE have a love of writing and BIG BIG BIG dreams and goals! Those are good. Hold onto those dreams and let them FUEL your creativity. But beware the publisher who uses emotionally charged language in those early phases. Phrases like, “helping you achieve your dreams” or “Reaching the stars together”. Sadly, as was the story of Tate Publishing, “Christian Publication to help spread the Good News with GOOD writers like you”. It’s easy to fall prey to a publisher waiving a pretty contract in front of your face and talking about the joy of seeing your work on the Barnes & Noble shelves. It’s easy and it feels good and it’s so so very wrong. Take a beat…. take a breath…. take a moment. Writers get paid to write…. publishers make money IF they sell. This person standing in front of you waving that contract, is it Pay to play? What is the business model? How does THEIR business stay afloat….by YOUR book sales or by your personal investment funds into their crappy efforts of ‘lack-o-marketing’? Emotional drive will catapult your writing into new realms…. but when it comes to publishing you need to set that emotion aside and put on your grown-up pants. Let’s do some REAL talk about REAL things like product marketability and publicity and deadlines and expectations. Let’s ADULT this thing for a hot minute! This is NOT how you get published.
These cautionary tales can be hard to read but remember how much truth there is that writing is a labor of love.If you LOVE what you do, you’ll do it for personal satisfaction no matter the outcome. If you do it WELL the success will come….in time.Don’t let the scammers and con artists bring you down.Trust your instincts if something doesn’t feel quite right to you.Rise above that knee-jerk desire for a short-cut path to 15 minutes of glory.Write.Hone your craft.Practice your work.Pursue the written word with fervor and in time, if your good, good things will come.But no matter what, JUST KEEP WRITING!