How to get published probably is one of today's hottest issues. Talented or not, a desire for self-expression and stature as a 'published author' has become the Holy Grail.
Until a few years ago, if you had talent, an agent quickly could be found, and publication was assured. A few years before that, an agent was not even required. If you are a professional in some area, this situation continues. The publishers will find you, or are most willing to listen to what you have to offer. No agent is required.
If you have something new to offer in gardening, cooking, weight loss, or a host of other 'how to' books, a publisher often will listen, and if not, an agent quickly will become available, and again publication is likely.
If you fit neither of these categories, the problem is huge and unfortunate. Many talented writers cannot even find someone who will read their material. The answers, of course, include finding a publisher the hard way, co-publishing with a subsidy publisher, or self-publishing.
Reams of material have been written about how to use the last two. No one says much about getting published the hard way - because it really is just that. There are merely a handful of publishers of any size today who will read what you have to offer, if an agent doesn't present it. Of the larger houses, only Dorchester and Avalon seem to remain.
If you wish to go the agent route, and this is the one most often recommended, the task is made somewhat easier, in that there are many lists, such as "Predators & Editors, that provide good analyses of the legitimacy of their offerings. Then, it is a matter, albeit most time-consuming, of searching until a 'fit' is found. A most discouraging part of this trial and error method is the rudeness of many who will not even answer. Unfortunate, because no matter how busy they may be, a simple electronic reply could be programmed to provide an answer as to receipt of material.
The other route is to proceed directly to the publisher category. Again many lists are available, and the same tedious task of attempting to find a match is required. The only difference is that much of the time that would have been wasted on attempting to find an agent, you can put into finding the publisher. The same lack of acknowledgment may be encountered, but you are, at least, dealing with your goal, and not an intermediary.
The main disadvantage of going directly for a publisher, is that, with very few exceptions, you will be dealing with smaller publishers. If your ego requires the large publisher, don't even consider it. If your goal is to get published by a 'legitimate' publisher, this can be the preferred method. You have skipped hours of perusing lists of agents, and countless hours of writing queries, many of which will not even be acknowledged. You may spend the same number of hours in this endeavor, but you are at your goal audience, the publisher.
Small publishers are not to be overlooked. You may have to read the contract more carefully, but maybe not. Some of the larger publishers are placing binding clauses in their contracts, not previously included. The small house also cannot match the large publishers' budgets for marketing. But you have no assurance that the large publisher will spend the larger amount marketing your book. He has the Robert Parkers, Danielle Steels, Larry McMurtrys and other sure sellers. There is the advantage of your book being included in his list of publications. But that is your only assurance.
Small publishers are very diligent in their marketing endeavors. They have to be to stay in business. Many have arrangements with Baker & Taylor, Ingram and other large distributors; Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other large outlets; and often specialize in arrangements with the small independent booksellers; and they constantly bring awareness of their publications to the library associations. You may be required to more actively participate in the marketing endeavors, but even that is not assured. They all want active participation. It's a tough world out there today.
To summarize, if you want to get published, don't overlook the small presses.
John H. Manhold is the author of a historically based, fiction novel. El Tigre, a fast moving story that chronicles the life of Johann Heinrich von Manfred from his youth as a student in a Prussian military academy through his many exciting and dangerous adventures, is based on extensive research and personal family history with the Franco-Prussian War. For more information on this exciting topic and book, visit: http://www.JohnHManhold.com
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