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From the Email Bag - How to Become a Published Author
By Christine Durst & Michael Haaren
Nov. 1, 2012
Dear Rat Race Rebellion:
I’ve wanted to write a romance novel for a long time, and now
I’m almost done. My company offered me early retirement a few
months ago, and I took it, so I finally had the time I
It’s a very steamy romance, and when my husband read it he got
pretty embarrassed. But all my friends like it. Anyway, now I need to
get it published. What’s the best way to do that? Do I need an
agent? – Carrie in Topeka, Kan.
Dear Carrie: Not
necessarily. The publishing world has seen a lot of turmoil lately, and
the answer is more complex than it would have been a few years ago.
Some background will help you figure out what to do next. Here’s
In the old days, you sent your manuscript to a group of agents, and if
one of them liked it, they signed you as a client. If the manuscript
needed more work, they would help you whip it into shape. Then they
sent the manuscript to publishers. If one wanted to buy it, they
negotiated the contract for you – including an
“advance” on your future royalties – and sent you a
check, minus their commission, usually 15 per cent.
Then agents began to require a “book proposal” from
authors. This included such things as a synopsis of the book, a survey
of competing titles, and the author’s proposed marketing plan. If
the book was fiction, they wanted to see the full manuscript. For
nonfiction, a few chapters would do. The writing had to be
market-ready, with little or no editing needed. This would all be sent
on to the publishers, to see if one would bite.
Now, agents and publishers both are squeezed by the collapse of
bookstores and libraries, the rise of cheap ebooks and Amazon (which is
now a publisher as well as a bookstore), and the surge in
self-publishing. They have to be pickier, and as a rule they want
first-time authors to have both a quality manuscript and a
“platform” – an existing fan base (from a blog, for
example, or Facebook, Twitter, etc.) – or recognition from
writing contests, established authors, faculty in creative writing
Since the burden of marketing books long ago shifted from publishers to
authors, many authors say, “Why should I jump through all these
hoops and share my revenues with agents and publishers if I’m
doing all the work?” So they publish their books themselves and
sell them on Amazon and other sites.
So, you have to weigh your options. Romance novels are in steady
demand, though the blockbuster success of “Fifty Shades of
Grey” created a glut in steamy manuscripts. This means that
agents and publishers may be an even tougher sell than before. (You
haven’t mentioned a “platform,” so we’ll assume
you don’t have one yet.)
All told, you may want to self-publish this first book. For tips on
self-publishing – including how to get a compelling cover design
for your book, a top priority – see the article by David Carnoy
at http://tinyurl.com/7r6ftx2 and check the resources at
Smashwords.com. At Amazon, go to Amazon.com, scroll down on the home
page and click on “Independently Publish with Us.”
For the literary agents’ perspective, check their blogs. To find
them, search using the term “literary agents blog” (without
the quotes) and similar phrases.
Romance Writers of America, an authors association, also maintains a helpful site. You’ll find them at rwa.org.
Christine Durst and Michael Haaren are leaders in the work-at-home
movement and advocates of de-rat-raced living. Their latest book
is Work at Home Now,
a guide to finding home-based jobs. They offer additional guidance on
finding home-based work at www.RatRaceRebellion.com. To read features
by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators
Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2012 BY STAFFCENTRIX, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM