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Publishing Basics

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Entering the Publishing Game: Tips on How Not to Get Scammed
By Melinda Copp

Congratulations! You’ve finished writing your book. Now, it’s time to start thinking about how to get that manuscript published. The publishing industry grows every day, and authors have numerous options for getting their book into print. However, not all publishing companies are created equal.

First, there’s the big commercial publishing houses that buy manuscripts and pay authors an advance and royalties. These companies are usually bombarded with manuscript submissions, which means it’s more difficult for authors to get their attention. In most cases, the best way to sell your book to a traditional publishing house is to work with an agent.

Your other option is to self-publish or publish through a print-on-demand company. This is where publishing can be a little tricky because every company is slightly different in how they work with authors, the services they provide, the rights they retain, and how much they cost. Doing your research before making any decisions is the most important thing you can do in the self-publishing arena.

Regardless of what publishing route you decide to take, the key to navigating it is read any and all contracts you encounter throughout the process. Make sure you get to know the publishing business, and consult with a lawyer who knows it as well. You need to know and understand the following parts of the process.

1. Rights – Traditional publishers purchase rights to your book when they decide to publish it. They assume the risk, and therefore retain certain rights. Exactly what rights, and for how long they will be held should be explained in your contract negotiations with any publishing company or publishing services firm. In theory, you want to retain as many rights as possible. And if a publishing company retains rights, they should be paying you for them. If copyrights and publishing law are new to you, talk to a lawyer.

2. Editorial and Design Control – When you enter into any agreement with any publisher, someone will get editorial and design control. And that person gets final say on what goes into the book, and what goes on the book’s cover. If you have a particular cover in mind, then you’ll want design control. But more importantly, if you want complete and final say over your book contents, then a traditional publisher might not be for you—some will exert editorial control. In any self-publishing arrangement, you should get final say on all editorial and design decisions.

3. Money – If you’re selling your book to a traditional publisher, then you probably won’t get much say in how much money they offer you, although it never hurts to try a little negotiation. But if you’re going to be paying a publishing services firm to publish your book, then doing your homework and comparing prices can save you serious money. The company should give you an itemized list of everything you’re getting when you sign with them. Also talk to someone at the publishing company about what services they don’t supply.

For example, if they don’t have someone on staff that writes back-cover copy, then you’ll need to write it yourself, or hire someone do it for you. And even if a company says they have experts on staff to handle the copyediting and design work, ask for samples. You may be able to get a higher level of quality if you go with an independent freelancer. Reputable companies will be used to working with freelancers, and likewise, experienced freelancers will know how to work with other service providers. You should look at where you can get the most value for your money—and this is not necessarily the cheapest.

The publishing industry, especially the self-publishing industry, is a difficult landscape to navigate, especially if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Everyone’s heard at least one story about the self-published author that got screwed out of thousands of dollars and wound up with a second-rate product. And no one wants a negative publishing experience—your book is important. So become an educated consumer, and keep in mind that anything that sounds too good to be true, probably is.

About the Author:

Melinda Copp is a writing coach, ghostwriter, and book editor who specializes in helping aspiring authors reach their writing goals. Sign up for her free e-zine at www.FINALLYwriteabook.com, and get a free special report!

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