1. Alessandro
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    Alessandro New Member

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    Inept Would-Be Author Wondering About Publishing

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Alessandro, Feb 29, 2012.

    Hello, I am both new to these forums as well as the writing industry.

    I am an aspiring author with little to no experience, and I've got a few general questions when it comes to publishing which I'd be happy if anyone took the time to answer. I've got more or less a novel manuscript ready but I am not sure how to approach publishers etc.

    Is there anything I should really think about when submitting my manuscript, such as some form of letter of introduction or some way of presenting the manuscript? Are there some basic mistakes that I should avoid? What is the more common method of submitting a manuscript, electronically (like sending them the text file) or just sending them the actual physical printed manuscript? And no matter which method, is there actually any chance of fraud (providing my novel was good enough to risk that) and a risk of someone actually stealing it?

    If there is something additional information you need to know outside of what's been written, just say, because I'm kind of inept when it comes to these kinds of subjects and any help given would be truly appreciated.

    Thanks.
     
  2. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    I am no expert myself, but I have learned a ton from internet searches. Agents have websites that detail what they are currently looking to represent (so you'll know if your manuscript is right for their particular needs) and they include exactly how they want it to be submitted. (I've been looking at Young Adult Fiction agents, and the majority of them have gone green and prefer an email with a query letter in the body of the email.) Search under "query letters" because it is extremely important to get that right. I literally just read a book on the topic, and the thing is about a page long! You might want to purchase a current Writer's Market for answers to your questions.

    Good luck!

    Georgia
     
  3. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    For submitting a manuscript to a literary agent, you'll want to write a really good query letter. This takes a lot of time and effort as this letter is going to represent your work and should be your best example of your writing abilities. There are many books about how to write query letters. You can also find guidelines online. Tailor each letter to the agent to whom you are querying, letting them know why you chose them to potentially represent your book.

    Basic, beginner's mistakes are often described in how-to books. Some of them I remember: Don't say how your book will be the next best seller. Don't talk about how much your friends and family enjoyed the book. Be professional, not gimmicky.

    Check the agent's preferred form of submission. Most times a written letter with a SASE is best, but some do prefer email.

    Reputable literary agents are not in the business of stealing people's work. That's why it is important to send your work to a reputable agent. There's a site for checking on that, and I've seen it mentioned on here a ton -- duotrope.com.

    Also, before you send your work out, make sure it has been edited to make it the best it can be. Make sure it's absolutely complete.

    Best of luck & feel free to ask any additional questions.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You probably don't need to worry about your story being stolen by a fraudulent publisher. The risk to the thief is too great (a near certainty of being reported by an irate author), and the potential payoff too small.

    Worry more about being ripped off for "reading fees", offers of editing services "at a discounted price", etc. You should never pay anything, or sign for any minimum charge if your work does not bring in that amount of income. Money should flow from the publisher to you, never the other way around.

    There are plenty of fraudulent agents and publishers who will attempt to steal what they can of your cold hard cash.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm wondering what you're referring to here, cog...
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm talking about a small-print clause that if a book does not earn a certain threshhold amount in sales, the author is required to pay the deficit to the publisher.

    I've heard of this scam, although I've not seen if myself. The "publisher" knows there will not be sales to cover that amount, and doesn't expend any effort or funds to promote the book. Whatever hard copies actually produced will be cheaply made, and it's easy profit for the scammer, straight out of the author's pocket.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    got it... thanks...
     
  8. Alessandro
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    Alessandro New Member

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    Thanks alot for the help! I'm pretty overwhelmed by the responses given to you guys and I have not heard of query letters before, and neither of duotrope. I wonder though is it possible to get published without the aid of an agent, to approach the publishers by oneself? I know larger publishing companies in particular do not accept manuscripts from anything but an agent, but I am still curious about the subject, as I've heard different things about it.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it depends on what it is you have to offer... for non-fiction, it's often okay and even sometimes better to query publishers directly... especially if you're an acknowledged expert on the subject you're writing about and have a professional base to provide a ready-made market...

    for fiction, if you have a genre novel that's a good fit for a 'niche' market, such as horror, gay, chick lit, et al, then going directly to the smaller presses may be your best bet, if you can't snag an agent...

    since you said 'more or less a novel ms' i have to wonder if you really have anything 'ready' that will interest any agent or publisher... what is it that you do have and how 'ready' is it?... if it's not been edited to perfection [or as close to it as possible], then you're not ready to start querying, as no one will bother even reading a ms that is not polished and practically flaw-free...
     
  10. Dubya
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    Dubya Member

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    Regarding your concern about your novel being 'stolen', it's very unlikely to happen, but there is an old trick you can use. Print out a copy, post it to yourself in a well sealed, recorded delivery package, and keep it unopened. Not foolproof, but might set your mind at rest!
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's all it will do. It's called the "poor man's copyright", and it has no legal standing (in the United States) whatsoever. You'll even find an explicit statement to that effect in copyright.gov.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!... that's true...

    however, i believe it does have some legal value in the uk, where that poster lives, cog...
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I did qualify my statement to the USA. I don't know whether there is a real legal standing to it in the UK, or whether that too is mere mythology. Keeping all your drafts that led to the current version is stronger evidence.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    definitely!
     
  15. blyish
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    blyish New Member

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    Even if you skip agents and go directly to publishers, you still need a query letter. The best thing you can do is start learning about how to write a good one!
     
  16. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    queryshark.com is a pretty good resource about the do's and don't of writing a query letter.
    Also it sounds like you need to find a critique partner to trade pages with. The feedback will help you start to polish your MS.
     
  17. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nope, it has no standing in the UK either. Other than it being relatively easy to prove it's your own work in court (even just the planning files and folders will testify to that, but linguistic expert will also easily tell if it's yours, as long as you have other examples of your writing) the only sure way is to pay not a very large amount (like £30 or so) and register it with a copyright agency. I bought 10 mb worth of space 5 years ago, and all my finished stuff goes in there, just to be safe. In an unlikely situation that I get ripped off, they have independent evidence of the text belonging to me and being registered by me before anyone else tried to lay a claim to it. It's a bit unnecessary, but I feel safer with it in place.
     

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