Liveblog: How to Get a Book Published and Then, What?

Liveblog of this event in the Charleston County Public Library’s Take a Step In the Write Direction series.
Introduction: Michel Hammes, Librarian at CCPL
Speaker: Lee German
6:15 – yes, a little late.  We had a little diversion known as a fire alarm. 🙁
  • Two different issues: how to get a manuscript accepted and what to do once you are published
  • Sylvan Dell Publishing – Mt Pleasant SC They do children’s books; 10 books a year; 55 book catalog
  • Idea: use literature to have teaching moments for science, math, geography
  • Do not call publishers
  • Do not shotgun stuff out
  • Go to their submissions page & do it like each publisher wants
  • Two PDFs on their submission pages 
Story : about at a publisher conference when Nicholas Sparks was the keynote.  Sparks was talking about having a hard time getting an agent and publisher for The Notebook.  His agent was a lady who’d never ever got a book published.  Ever!  6 months went by & he was freaking out.  Disney was their first offer: $1 million.  First manuscript he ever wrote.  Holy moly!  This is NOT NOT typical.  Do NOT leave your other job. 🙂  Of Sylvan Dell’s 75 authors, about 60% are getting a check.  Average? $200/quarter.  Some get $800-900 a quarter, but that’s not enough to live on.
His wife wrote the very first bread machine cookbook.  She took a 3 day course in how to get a book published.  She did exactly what she was taught: got to about 20 rejections, the 21st?  Nitty Gritty Cookbooks published it.  She sold 3 million in a series of 7 books.  They made TERRIBLE money.  She was even on the Today show.  She made 5% on net.  Nicholas Sparks type stuff can happen, but it’s like a lotto win in a way.
(Notes are at at the top right side of the page)
  • edit, edit, edit!
  • Take your time.  Revise if you need it
  • For kids books, be aware of proper vocab for age range
  • His company gets 30 mss a day and publish 10 books year.
  • If you don’t follow the guidelines, it goes into the trash unopened.
  • Be a member of local writer’s guilds; here? has a Carolinas chapter
  • Self publishing is an option on occasion.
  • Jenny Gale works at CreateSpace (once upon a time, Booksurge)
  • But the world is filled with garages 1/2 filled with boxes
  • It’s a lot of work, with slim margins
  • Publishing companies have synergies & economies of scale individuals don’t have
Know the Competition
  • Before you approach publisher, know what your competing books are
  • “Here’s why this mss is better than these 3 published books”
  • Be able to elucidate why there’s a market for your book
Know Your Publishers
  • Don’t submit if they don’t publish your genre
  • Look at their books.  If you’re not happy with their books, don’t submit to them!
  • “This is a marriage”
Submission Guidelines
  • Agents: get a lawyer to go over contracts.  Lawyers & agents thrive on finding errors in a contract.  It might just cost you a sale sometimes, so don’t ask for the moon.  Be reasonable with requested changes
  • OK to put an ending date on submission
  • A few simultaneous submissions are ok
  • Keep good records
  • Include a SASE
  • Cover letter – make the 1st sentence shine here, just like in the manuscript.  Know who your publisher is targeting.
  • Marketing Plan – some authors are detailed in these plans.  That’s awesome! You’ve put in the effort.
Submission Criteria
  • Study your publisher’s carefully
  • Ex: they strongly prefer you don’t give them your own art.  They will find professional illustrators.
  • If it’s been self published, it’s pretty much over.  They just won’t take it
  • Don’t take it personally
  • Don’t call & ask why
  • Don’t ask for a critique
  • Be ready as soon as it comes it to send another one out
  • Completely clean copy
  • Legible fonts
Other Thoughts
  • Your manuscript.  Their book
  • Relationship: find out who does what at the publisher & go to the right person for right topics.
  • Join PMA if you are self publishing
  • Google Alerts to learn your market
  • Take initiative in your promotion. Don’t give up/rely on the publisher
To addee = action addee
CC addee = FYI only
Production Side
  • 1-2 years to get a book from acceptance to bookstore shelf
  • Mary Alice Monroe: heard the comment that a big publisher contract = gravy.  Uhh, nope.  You’re expected to get your own PR people & push the book yourself.  Don’t rely on their PR people to do a lot of pushing for you.
  • Little guys: 5-10g books in their first printing.  Hoping to move 2-3g in the first few months
  • Big guys: hardbacks 1st for libraries. paperbacks: gift shop & teacher sets.  Little publishers do them both at the same times sometimes
  • Illustrations: 6-18 months for illustrations at a small press
  • Scan it (high quality) & send CD to Hong Kong to jobbers.  Color printing isn’t just doable inside the US.  Hong Kong had the best quality at best price
  • Ozalids = first cut from the printer for placement on page & proofreading
  • “Wet proofs”
  • Advance Reviews: F&G’s (folded & gathered)
  • They do copyright in your name at their expense
Publisher Marketing
  • DB loading.  There’s a whole person at his place that does this.  They do 20 now, loading all this stuff about the book into databases…BIP, Baker & Taylor, etc.
  • They put out 800-1000 review copies in 1st year!
  • 1.2 million customer emails.  They send 32000 a day
  • Display ads
  • Press releases
  • Submit for awards = author should take an active role here.  Pubs can’t put every book in for every award
  • State reading lists = a HUGE deal.  Getting on them is an art.
  • Trade shows! OMG there are a lot
Author Marketing
  • You’re on tap & should arrange 20-30 events within 100 miles of you
  • If you go to another large MSA, do multiple events there, too.
  • B&N B&T want to know “where do they live” “how many planned events” to help with stock level planning
  • Offer to take your leftovers
  • You need free press: cluster events, pitch to media, hope they’re interested.  [Also: social media!!!]
  • The more you can do as an author, it helps the distribution chain, the PR perspective
  • Mary Alice Monroe put together her own plan for marketing her children’s books.  Hired Marjorie Wentworth for a publicist, & had a 4-5 state tour.  They got in the car with the illustrator & did a 3 week tour of a bunch of bookstores.  Shows how powerful author’s impact is on sales.
  • From MAM’s thing, they got regional speaking events at publisher’s events & she ended up with an award.  None of this will happen for you if you don’t do this yourself
What Else You Can Do?
  • Join state orgs
  • You need to be able to be a public speaker & be an expert on a subject.  The more dynamic you can be the better it is for you
  • Look a year out for speaking engagements
  • Talk to media, book stores, libraries, schools
  • Have a great bio & photo
  • Help write annotations: 150, 100, 75, 50, 25 & 10 words
  • Distrib posters & postcards
  • Know state awards, reading lists, key local reviewers
  • Get a website, blog & promote yourself online, too.
  • Go to the cons where the committees are that give awards.  Submit a proposal to speak at the con 9 months beforehand.
  • PMA is now IBPA (International Book & Publishing Association)
Questions? GO!
Q: Online critiques: Might someone steal it if you put it out for critiques? 
A: You have the copyright.  No one can really take it.
Q: Do agents have to follow the same submission guidelines you have to?
A: Big NY agents know big name NY publishers.
Q: Does your co. do childrens’ books on science related things because here was the place to make money? 
A: Well, no.  It’s really tough.  “I’m not living on Isle of Palms yet.”  🙂
Interesting: Bookstores have to return in sellable condition if bought from publisher.  Distributors don’t have to follow that rule b.c SD has to deal with them.  So what happens?  Bookstores return unsellable stock to distributors & the distributors send them back, unsellable!  [That seems crappy – A]
Schools = Follet
Library = BWI
Schools & Library sales never become returns.  They mean to use them when they buy them.
Q: Why only 10 a year?
A: My wife is the editor.  A single editor can only do 10 a year.  They have the backend to do 20, but they’d have to hire an editor.
Q: Are you trying to stay small?
A: Nope!  The backlist can help you grow.
Q: Do you ever get a query letter?
A: No, they don’t get them much.  They want to see finished work.  [Perhaps that’s a nonfic thing, notes the questioner]
Q: Do most people who write have an English degree?  Or is it average joes?
A: Their authors have a variety of backgrounds: an IT guy, etc.  Most of them have a history of teaching.  [And they all have other jobs, remember! – A]
Q: You have 3 author-illustrators?
A: Yes.  Usually they begin as illustrators & they choose to write.  It sometimes works.
Q: Do you publish Mary Alice Monroe’s novels?
A: Just her fiction for kids, with our editor written education addon in the back.  The education component is frequently not in the MSS we publish, and shouldn’t be as they want it to be interesting first, education is done at the back.
He’s showing a 40 page doc that is the teacher’s resource guides.  It’s really smart to do this.  He’s providing a bunch of stuff for adults to work book into homeschool or trad school curricula.  Oh, it’s so so smart to do this for homeschoolers, who are a growing market.
They also provide an online ebook site with autoplaying ebooks.  The pages flip on their own & are read to you in English OR Spanish!  It’s not free, but it is amazing.  They are the only US publisher that does this.  Cool!
And we’re done!

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