Since becoming a published writer I’ve had friends, family, and acquaintances ask me about how to go about getting published. While my story isn’t very common, I’ve learned a few things along the way that might be helpful if you’re just starting out.
I do not yet consider myself a writer. My debut Samurai Awakening is out, the sequel is set for later this year, I self published a short story, run three websites, and do an hour radio show, but writing hasn’t become a method of supporting myself yet. If you want to get published to make a lot of money, realize time and numbers are against you.
Do you have something to Publish?
If you don’t have something that could be sold, stop reading this and go write.
What do you want to Publish?
There might be a market for just about any kind of story, but every type of writing has a specific place in the industry. There are ways to publish articles, short stories, novels, epics, and tomes of historical fact, but if you try to sell an epic to a magazine they’ll stop at your subject line. Figure out what you’ve written and where it might work. You have to understand your own work and be able to talk (or at least write) about it if you want someone else to take a look at it. There is so much competition out there that people in the industry need a reason to even take a look at a sample of work, otherwise they’d never get through the slush pile of mail that makes it past the barriers they put up.
There are essentially three ways to get published:
Traditional – You submit a query letter to an editor at a publishing house (book, mag, etc) OR to an agent. Publishing houses and agents have different requirements for submission and many will not accept manuscripts without representation (thus you have to get an agent if you want to sub to one of the big publishers). Most traditional publishers will not publish a short story collection, though you can check their websites or one of the many resources out there (such as “Writer’s Market”) for what they publish. This is where understanding your work and the market come into play.
The benefit to traditional publishing is that they pay you. You should never have to pay out-of-pocket, even small presses. They usually pay some combination of an advance and/or royalty. The downside is it is hard to get an agent or editor’s attention and there is a LOT of competition. You won’t make much per book but you may get some publicity help though it’s not guaranteed.
Vanity Press – You pay to have a book created. You pay for distribution, shipping, editing, etc. This is a dying category but there are still plenty of companies and people willing to scam you. Be careful.
Self Publishing – Similar to Vanity except its becoming more accepted in the digital market. You write a story, pick a company to work with and they help you put the book together. Amazon’s Createspace.com lets you do everything for free, but then you have to edit and do the cover and interior design on your own. They offer paid services as well with different pricing tiers. Essentially you pay for things a traditional publisher would do, but then you get more of a royalty rate when you publish. You can pay for marketing support but unless you have a large social media following you aren’t going to sell many books.
Overall don’t expect to get rich quick. If you just want to share some stories with family and friends, Create Space or a similar company should work for you. They focus on print-on-demand paperback books and you can pay for a transition to kindle. They’ll take care of distribution and selling though it all depends on the options you choose and how much you can do yourself.
One option for short stories is magazines. You’ll need to research the industry to find out what magazines might suit your stories, then find out if they accept submissions that match what you’ve written.
No matter what you choose, getting published will take time. It took me 3 years from idea to bookshelf and that is Extremely Rare.
This has nothing to do with writing. Cherries from Sakura Trees on Kume Island in Japan. Good Luck!