Hello! Some general beginner's questions about the different types of publishing, and what to look for in traditional publishing. I asked this a while ago, and I learned some really great stuff. Other new readers can skim through the answers below. I'm grasping more of the basics, (now that I know what i'm doing,) so here is a cleaned up version of the questions I asked. --- THINGS I DON'T GET Who to hire and why: - What's an editor? And do I need one? (Depends on the author, situation, length of the novel(s), and the expenses you're willing to pay. You can usually learn to edit your own work, and your submission may be edited by the publishing company's editors. Just don't submit your first draft, or partially finished work; be ready to edit and edit and edit. Read below for details, and whether or not you should get one before you submit your manuscript.) - What's an agent? Do I need one of those as well? And how do I get in touch with one? (From what I can understand, agents are people you can hire who send your manuscript to publishing companies. On average, they negotiate better, and some publishing companies only accept manuscripts that were submitted too them by an agent. See below for details. Some publishing companies take unsolicited submissions.) - Are there other kinds of people that I'll meet in the process of publishing my book? And that I'll have to pay, or take a cut of the book sales? What does this mean: - What's an advance? What are royalties? (An advance is an estimation of how much a book will sell, and it's paid to the author up front. This will be paid off little by little through the book sales, which are called royalties. Not all publishers give first time authors an advance.) - What's a pitch? What's a cover letter, or a query? Do I need... How do I... - Do I need a college degree in something? (Most answers below say nah. It's not necessary.) - Is there a proper way to contact a publishing company online? (All answers strongly suggest to read the publishing company's guidelines.) --- THINGS I'M WORRIED ABOUT Money Issues: - Do I need to pay a publishing company? (NO. Traditional Publishing companies do not charge authors to publish their work. Only a venue called Vanity Publishing will do that, and most seem untrustworthy, according to some of the answers below.) - Do I need to pay an agent? Or an editor, publicist, etc? (From what I can tell, these guys will get a cut of the sales from the book. Reputable agents shouldn't charge Authors up front.) - Do I have to pay income taxes? Do I need a business license? (Depends. Look below for details and ALWAYS check up with your local laws.) Legal and paperwork - Should I have other people write my cover/query letter? - What's a contract, and what can I expect from a contract? - Can I re-use my pen name even if I published with someone else? (Online, independently, etc... seems to depend, but most seem to say yes.) - How much say do I have in the contract? Misc - What are vanity publishers? Are they safe? (Answers below say no. It's usually a quick way to get published fast, but some companies can be sketchy.) - How do I tell if an agent is safe to trust? (DO RESEARCH.) - How do I tell if a publishing company is safe to trust? (DO RESEARCH.) - Any tips or pointers to keep me on the right track? (ALWAYS RESEARCH.) --- OTHER STUFF - Can I make my own cover art? (Depends, but most likely no.) - Any recommendations? - Am I supposed to find a publishing company near me, where I live? Or can I publish anywhere, as long as the company I find can handle it? (I.E, through mail or email.) (Answers below say nope. Go for nation/international wide publishers.) ----- Read through the thread to learn more! Please try to keep debates on topic and minimal to keep the confusion down. : ) ------- Notable Answers (In order of appearance) The thread conversation is very helpful and has lots of great information in it, but below are some notable (and quick) posts that really helped clear up a lot, right away. By Third Wind: http://www.writingforums.org/threads/real-publishing-beginners-questions.135475/#post-1282586 By Bayview: http://www.writingforums.org/threads/real-publishing-beginners-questions.135475/#post-1282679 http://www.writingforums.org/threads/real-publishing-beginners-questions.135475/#post-1282719 http://www.writingforums.org/threads/real-publishing-beginners-questions.135475/#post-1282872 http://www.writingforums.org/threads/real-publishing-beginners-questions.135475/#post-1283146 By ChickenFreak: http://www.writingforums.org/threads/real-publishing-beginners-questions.135475/#post-1282716 http://www.writingforums.org/threads/real-publishing-beginners-questions.135475/#post-1282966 By CuteCat on Taxes and Licensing http://www.writingforums.org/threads/real-publishing-beginners-questions.135475/#post-1283003 --- All answers, insights and conversation will be greatly appreciated. (And thankies so far for all the awesomeness.) Spoiler: November Original Hello! I'm very new to publishing actual books. I've researched the ins and outs of digital ebook/self publishing, but for 'real' book publishing, have no idea what the process is. Whether or not if I have to pay, or pay over the course of several years, whether or not if I can ask a publishing company questions with out getting charged or obligated to publish with them, whether or not if i'm obligated to keep publishing with them forever after publishing, what I exactly I should expect in the long run, whether or not if I can still self publish digitally in different pen names while I'm publishing real books with a company, etc... There are a lot of questions that I'd like to ask, and I'll try to cover most of them here. First and foremost, though, is that I'm not 'new' to writing. I've written a lot and I know about proofreading, editing, drafts and book covers and images. I'm deciding on using three pen names (two for online self-publishing, the other for local 'real-book' publishing) and I'm a self taught artist, and I'm trying to improve my drawing and graphic editing skills. I've picked out two differently aged audiences to target, and around three or four genres to explore. (Romance/Drama for the first age group, Fantasy/Adventure for the second.) Again, I've already done plenty of research on how brand myself and build a reliable social media presence, (learned this when I was researching self publishing online,) I'm just not focusing on that at the moment. I want to get actual content done first, before I try yacking on the social media platforms or publishing digitally. If you really have any good advice on this, or any recommendations, you can add it, but I'm really looking for advice and answers to publishing books that people can touch and hold and give as holiday presents. You get the idea. ------- QUESTIONS TO THINGS I DON'T GET 1- Do I need a college degree in something? 2- Do I really need to hire an editor? Do they really just read through manuscripts and help authors proofread? Do they do anything else exciting other than this? (Like do backflips?) 3- Do I really need an agent? What do agents actually do? 4- How do I get paid? What's a royalty? What's an 'advance?' 5- Commercial Publishing or Local-Company Publishing? Does it matter? 6- What's a pitch? And what exactly do I send? Some people say a seperate few pages describing what the book is about, others say it's a letter saying why the book should be published, others say it's sending a few chapters, a letter and a bunch of other stuff. 7- Is there anything else that goes to contacting a publishing company? 8- What is the proper way to contact a publishing company through email? Can I attach a "Sample Document" and a pitch-like email in the email section? Or would it be better to attach the whole story file? Any better ideas? THINGS I'M WORRIED ABOUT 1- Do I have to pay for them to publish the book? 2- I assume that I need to stick with the same publisher to publish a series. But, am I allowed to publish a different series or title with a different publisher? 3- Follow up question; Is my pen name that I give them branded to them exclusively? Or do I have full rights to my pen name, and I'm still allowed to use it for self publishing or other publishers? 4- Can I still write other books and book series independently online, using a different pen name? Or am I obliged to write with these publishers forever once I sign up with them? 5- Do I need to write a lot of books with set-in-stone release dates? Do the publishers control what and how much I need to write, for them to publish and on what dates, or can I control that? 6- Do I have the right to say what parts of my writing can be used, and when? (Such as in blurbs or in promotional stuff?) 7- Do I need a local, independent business license as an "author," for things like taxes and such if this becomes long term? (I'm assuming I better check my local laws for that first.) 8- How do I tell if a publishing company is safe to trust? This is my biggest issue. I feel weird and uncomfortable knowing that it's less flexible in physical book publishing, and that I can't change something if I want to edit something, or change the price, switch publishers, etc. Plus, I don't want them stealing my work. OTHER STUFF 1- Can I make my own book cover? Does it depend? Do I need to pay for the artist who does the book cover, or is that covered in the book sales? 2- What should I expect in the long term? 3- Any recommendations? ------- Side Notes.... I did a little research and I found a publishing company that was founded in my state here in Alaska. They have a broad genre list and they're very professional website, and have a very forward and concise brochure for download. (Which is free.) I'll read through their brochure, and see what else I can dig up. I'm very new to this, though, and I don't know if it's a good idea to go with a local publisher, and I don't know if I can (and if it's better too) send my manuscripts (when I have them) to a more commercial, well established publishing company from a different part of the US. Here's their website: -publicationconsultants.com- Original Poster's Note: I nixed the link. This isn't what new authors are looking for. Go read below to find out why. Also, sorry if this is the wrong section to post questions like this. : ) Awesome-shmawesome People can take time with their answers, and my apologies before hand if I don't come back right away to reply. I usually stalk online forums at night. Any advice and insights are deeply appreciated. ------- - Posted November 5th (Alaskan time) at night time, 2014 - If it's been a month, assume the topic is resolved. Read the thread to find more answers!