Most writers will happily acknowledge that there’s never been a better time to be an author. Opportunities to become published are rife, with new ePublishers opening almost daily. We’re spoiled for choice, and if we’re still not satisfied with what publishers are offering, we can self-publish, which is a viable option for niche-market books or even mainstream fiction if you’ve got the time and know-how to self promote.
For those who prefer the distribution might of a big publishing house behind them, (not to mention the editorial and art departments) plus the lure of an advance on sales, traditional publishing is still a good choice. And despite the finger-pointing from successful self-published authors, the big publishing houses are catching up with the fact that we want decent eBook royalties and eBook pricing, along with our editing and great covers. There are still a few anomalies: I recently noted that a big Australian publishing house was charging $15 for an eBook by a debut young adult author and that’s just not sustainable, not in the current market, and particularly not when the paperback edition was cheaper: priced at $12 at BigW. This book’s opposition The Hunger Games was only $4.76 in eBook format, so which book do you think a young adult reader is going to buy?
As an author you have to be savvy and do your research before you choose a publisher to submit to, checking the quality of their editing and covers, and the pricing of their books (both in print and digital formats), as well as scouting around to get feedback on what their advances and royalties might be. Brenda Hiatt’s Show Me The Money website is a good place to start. But realistically, you also have to have a good quality book to submit, because big publishers are highly discerning.
So how can you achieve that? Well if you’re in Australia, belonging to your local writers association like the Queensland Writers Centre, NSW Writers Centre etc will help you find workshops and seminars to build your writing skills and your industry knowledge. Joining a professional writers’ organisation like Romance Writers of Australia is also of enormous benefit. If your books have even a sniff of a love story in them you’ll be welcomed into the fold, and RWA’s competitions and conferences have helped many Aussie authors across the line to contracts with Avon, Berkley, Harlequin, Random House, Pan Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and more.
Having a critique partner (or CP) is also a great start, but as I found early in my writing career, the critique group you’re in is only as helpful as the skill levels of its participants. When I started working with a published author who was also a writing teacher, I went from having short stories published to having novels published. Now as a writing teacher, mentor and manuscript assessor myself, I offer that service to other writers, so if you think your work could benefit from a professional assessment, do have a look at my Manuscript Development webpage for an overview of how manuscript assessment works.
I’ve helped four clients become published, and many more to wins and shortlists in competitions. Other tutors as well as myself also conduct teaching retreats with writing groups which can incorporate manuscript assessment and individual mentoring or writing workshops as required. A quick look in the Australian Writers Marketplace will offer you a variety of other qualified tutors/manuscript developers as well. So don’t wait for the magic to drop into your lap, go out and find it.
If you’ve been writing for years and not getting published, this might be a good time to consider that old saying “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” Resolve to make the changes necessary to ensure 2012 is the year your writing dreams turn into your writing career!