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Writing and Publishing Tips and Links
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Welcome to the Writing and Publishing Tips and Links sticky! This sticky aims to be a basic guide for all things related to writing and publishing, answering your most-asked questions. To keep things organized, this sticky is divided into two sections. All the posts on this page are about publishing and all the posts on the first page have to do with writing. Please use this sticky for all basic questions about either, to avoid cluttering up the main forum with repeat questions. However, if your question requires more than just a short, quick answer, feel free to make a thread to discuss it!

As always, please read and obey the rules of and guidelines of this forum. Spam posts will be deleted and the poster warned. And while we like to know you've found this sticky useful, please don't post just to say "thanks!" Go out and put this information to use instead!

Publishing Tips and Links

Have questions about getting published? Want to know the difference between self-publishing and vanity presses, or how to format a manuscript? What's all this about agents, anyway? If you've got questions, we've got answers to all the above, and more. Feel free to post if you have any questions that aren't answered here or if you want to discuss the information presented -- or if you have anything to add!


Writing Tips and Links:
Why Publish?

Everybody has their own answer to this question. Maybe you want to share your story with the world. Maybe you want to inspire people to write in the way that reading books made you want to start writing. Maybe you want to write the next bestseller and make millions. I'm not going to say the last reason is a bad reason, because there is no wrong answer to the question, but if that's the only reason you're writing you may want to rethink your career plans. Getting published is a long and hard road with no guarantee of profit or fame.

For some of us, however, it's the only road, and if you're determined then nothing can stop you. If you can't manage to get published by traditional means you can always self-publish, but only you can decide which is the right route for you to take. Hopefully this guide will help you with your decision.

Useful Links
Perseverance, Publishing, and the Urge to Write
Top Ten Reasons Not To Be A Writer
Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is just that: the "traditional" way to get published.

The bigger the publishing house, the more they will do for you, and the better your book will probably sell. Smaller publishing houses may require you to do your own advertising and PR, but they should still help a bit with that and the distribution. With regards to the book itself, you the author hold the copyright.

Most big publishing houses offer an advance against royalties. This is a lump sum that they pay you before they publish your book. As your book sells, you earn a percentage of the book's price for each book sold; this is your royalty percentage. If your book makes enough royalties to cover your advance, you will start receiving that royalty percentage directly, usually once or twice a year.

Smaller publishers may not offer an advance, only royalties once it sells, or simply pay you one flat fee. If your book doesn't do well, the advance or a few small checks may be all you get. The one big thing you may notice about all these options is that the publishing company pays you, not the other way around! This is what separates traditional publishing with vanity or subsidy presses and print on demand publishers, which will be talked about in the Self-Publishing section below.

The smaller the publishing house, the more wary you should be. Always do your research! Smaller presses are more likely to go out of business suddenly, leaving you high and dry. While it may be tempting to go with a press that's just starting out and trying to get authors, it's not always the best choice.

You may have heard that it's impossible to get published traditionally without connections in the industry. This is not true, but it's a claim that is often made by vanity press companies (more on that in the Vanity Presses & Scams post below). It's difficult to break in, but traditional publishing is the way to go if you want to make actual money on your book and see it in stores and libraries.

Agents vs. Direct Submissions
Many of the bigger publishing houses are closed to submissions from writers without an agent. If you think your book is right for one of those houses, you'll want to submit to agents first. See the All About Agents post for more details about agents.

If you plan to look for an agent, it's best not to submit directly to publishers. Don't submit to agents and publishers at the same time. If you get an agent, they won't be too thrilled if you've submitted to every publishing house you could think of already.

Unsolicited Submissions vs. Unsolicited Manuscripts
You may see these phrases on the submission guidelines pages of publishing houses, but though they sound similar, they mean two very different things. If a house states they are not accepting unsolicited submissions or unsolicited queries, it means they are a closed house and will not read your submission. However, if they say they will not accept unsolicited manuscripts, this means they will accept query letters. If they are interested, they will request either several chapters or your full manuscript.

Finding the Submission Guidelines
Sometimes publishers purposely bury this information on their website to make it more difficult for writers to shoot off a query or manuscript. This is to cut down on the volume of submissions they receive (especially from people who haven't done their research). Sometimes it helps to use Google to search their site. For example, you may find their guidelines more easily if you do a Google search for:
site:bignamepublisher.com Submissions OR Guidelines
Replace the "bignamepublisher.com" with the actual URL of the site you want to search. This will allow you to search just within their site.

Receiving Rejections
You will get a lot of these, and that's normal. Even famous and well-known authors got rejected when they were starting out. See the Dealing with Rejections post further down for more information on how to take rejections. It's not the end of the road -- keep sending them out, and keep trying to improve! The difference between published authors and unpublished ones is that the published authors kept sending out queries and manuscripts, while the unpublished ones gave up.

Useful Links
Understanding Traditional Book Publishing
Publishing Your Book
Jim C. Hines' Novel Advance Survey
Tobias Buckell's Novel Advance Survey

Self-publishing is quite a bit different from traditional publishing. With self-publishing, you the author do everything -- all the writing, the editing, finding a printer, advertising, promotion, distribution. From start to finish it is your project, and yours alone. To some people, this may be much more satisfying that going the traditional route; others may see it as just an option for people who aren't "good enough" for traditional publishers. However you view it, there is no denying that self-publishing has grown quite a bit in popularity.

There are several ways to self-publish, and we'll break it down into sections to make it easier.

eBooks have also been gaining steadily in popularity, and are also the cheapest way to self-publish your work. All it takes is a copy of something like Adobe Acrobat and a website. There are also a plethora of internet-based eBook publishing houses, which blur the line between traditional and self-publishing. With eBooks, you also have the option to offer your work free of charge -- something not possible with other self-publishing options unless you're willing to lose money to get your work out there. Of course, if you want to make a little bit of cash, you can also charge a small fee for the download or ask for donations if they liked your book.

Print On Demand
Print On Demand (POD) publishing is another popular way to self-publish. The most well-known POD publisher is Lulu; another is Amazon's CreateSpace. This option is a lot less stressful than going out to your local copy shop and trying to get something printed there. You put together your book according to their standards and submit it for free, and they list it on their website. If a copy sells, they print one copy, and you get back a percentage of the list price. If you only want a few hard copies of your book to hand out to friends and family, then this is an excellent option: however many copies you want is exactly what you pay for, and nothing else. Likewise, you can do the same sort of online advertising you would for an eBook, and people can order a copy off the website, meaning that you don't have to buy a bunch of copies yourself to try and sell (unless you want to, of course)!

Vanity/Subsidy Presses
These are the ones you want to watch out for; not all of them are bad, but many try to disguise themselves as traditional presses. POD publishers can also be considered vanity presses, but for the sake of clarification we'll treat them as seperate things. With vanity/subsidy presses, you are basically paying all or part of the cost of publication. Like traditional publishers they may offer royalties, and they may offer to send samples to book stores and libraries, but it's extremely unlikely you'll see your book on the shelf of a chain like Barnes & Noble or Borders. They may do some advertising (and they may ask you to pay for that, too), but you will probably have to do most of it yourself if you want to sell many copies. Most sane people will tell you that vanity/subsidy presses are to be avoided at all costs; see the next section, Vanity Presses & Scams, to find out why.

Useful Links
Self Publishing 2.0
Publishing Explained
Publishing Your Book
How Self-Publishing Works
Internet Authors Network
Subsidy Publishing vs. Self-Publishing: What's the Difference?
A Newbie's Guide to Publishing
Vanity Presses & Scams

First, let me distinguish between the two, because the difference between them only depends on your perception. "Vanity presses" are commercial publishers who make you pay to get published. "Real" publishers will pay you, not the other way around. Some forms of vanity presses, like print on demand publishers, are widely accepted ways to self-publish your books. However, they are not accepted by the industry as true publication outlets. If you go around saying "OMG I GOT PUBLISHED BY (insert vanity/subsidy press here)", the publishing industry is going to laugh in your face and say "okay, now go try to publish a real book." This isn't to say that they're all bad, but there are plenty of dubious "publishers" out there who only care about the profits.

The biggest name you will hear in connection with "vanity press" and "scam" is PublishAmerica. Poetry.com used to be brought up a lot as well, but Lulu has since bought the domain and the International Library of Poetry, which ran the site before, seems to have given up and disappeared.

PublishAmerica claims to be a "traditional" publisher, when in fact it is viewed by pretty much everyone in the publishing industry as a vanity press and not a very honest one at that. The whole scam aspect of the company can be summed up in the "Atlanta Nights" experiment. In a nutshell, a bunch of professional writers got together to test PublishAmerica's claim that "We review not only the quality but also the genre of their work.... Like all serious book publishing companies we have to be picky as we can only accept the works that meet our requirements in both areas" by writing the most awful book they could possibly come up with.

PublishAmerica accepted it for publication.

After the authors revealed the hoax, PublishAmerica got pissed and retracted its offer, and people the world over laughed their asses off. You can read all about the entire thing on Travis Tea - the official website. The book has since been self-published on Lulu, but you can read it for free by clicking the Wikipedia link in the paragraph above and going down to the External Links section.

Generally, vanity/subsidy presses are the only things you need to watch out for, but you should always research a publisher thoroughly if you are trying to publish by yourself, and make sure that they are providing you with what you need. Most vanity presses make you do your own promoting and advertising, and won't deliver your books to stores, so make sure you understand everything in your contract!

The Vanity and Subsidy Publishers page on Writer Beware is an excellent guide, and here is their list of what to look out for when considering this type of publisher:

  • A setup fee or deposit. Publishers that require a setup fee will tell you that you’re not paying to publish, just contributing to the cost of preparing your book for printing, or making a “good faith investment” in your own success. Some publishers promise to refund the fee under certain circumstances (usually carefully crafted so they’ll almost never be fulfilled). The setup fee often isn’t large by vanity standards -- a few hundred dollars -- but since such publishers typically use print-on-demand technology to produce their books, it more than covers their expenses.

  • A fee for some aspect of the publication process other than printing/binding. Some publishers ask you to pay for editing, or for your book cover art, or for liablity insurance, or for a publicity campaign (commercial publishers provide these as a routine part of the publication process, at their own expense). Services may cost thousands of dollars, and are often minimal and not of professional quality.

  • A claim that the fee you’re being asked to pay is only part of the cost, the rest being paid by the publisher. The publisher may tell you that it will spend as much or more on your book than you’re being charged, or that the services it provides -- warehousing, distribution, publicity -- are worth far more than your “investment.” Since most vanity publishers these days use digital technology (thus eliminating the expense of print runs and warehousing), provide minimal editing and marketing, and utilize the same distribution channels used by POD self-publishing services, their production and distribution costs are minimal. Most of the time, your fee pays the whole freight and then some.

  • A pre-purchase requirement. Some publishers include a clause in their contracts requiring you to buy a set quantity of finished books -- as many as a thousand copies, often at a minimal discount. This can be more expensive than straightforward vanity publishing.

  • A pre-sale requirement. A similar contract clause may require you to pre-sell a certain number of books prior to publication, or to “guarantee” a minimum number of sales (usually, exactly as much as is needed to enable the publisher to recoup its investment and make a profit). You don’t have to buy them yourself -- but if you don’t deliver the sales, the publishing deal is off. This is an especially tricky variation on the pay-to-publish scheme, because it allows the publisher to claim that it’s not asking you for cash. But it’s not an author’s job to be a salesman for his own books -- that’s what the publisher is supposed to do.

  • A requirement that you find "investors" to finance your book, or organizations to agree to buy it. Again, you don’t have to front the money yourself, but if you don’t deliver the financial backing, you won’t be published.

  • Pressure to buy your book yourself. The publisher may not contractually require you to purchase your own book -- indeed, it may make a big deal of telling you that you don’t have to buy anything. Even so, it will put you under heavy buying pressure -- for instance, providing an Author Guide that extols the financial benefit of buying your own book for resale, or offering special incentives designed to spur author purchases, such as extra discounts or contests for the month’s top seller. These are all signs of a publisher that relies on its authors as its main customer base. Unfortunately, if the publisher employs such tactics, you usually don’t find out about them until you’ve already signed the contract.

  • A variety of other sneaky tactics. Some examples from Writer Beware’s complaint files: requiring authors to pay for publisher-sponsored conferences or lectures or “publicity opportunities”. Requiring authors to sell ads that are bound into the company’s books. Selling stock in the company, despite the lack of an appropriate license. Requiring authors to hire the publisher’s staff to perform various services. The permutations are endless.

    Useful Links
    Writer Beware
    "Excuse Me, How Much Did It Cost You?"
Racheling's avatar

Moonlight Sailor

Copyright Information

How do I copyright my work?
As soon as you write something, it's copyrighted. There is no need to officially register your work until you're published, because you're automatically protected under the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty.

If you're in the U.S., you need to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office if you want to bring a lawsuit against a person infringing on your copyright. If you're not from the U.S., you should check your country's copyright laws for differences. However, since this is a very unlikely scenario for an unpublished work, it's not really necessary.

Keep in mind that the Poor Man's Copyright (where you mail a copy of your work to yourself) is not recognized by the U.S. Copyright Office or the courts, and is simply a waste of postage.

What about posting my work online? What if someone steals it?
This does happen, but rarely. If you plan to publish a story it's best not to post it online, though this has more to do with first publication rights than having it plagiarized.

But what if I want to post it online for criticism?
In general, posting excerpts is fine. Posting large portions that will be significantly rewritten should also be fine. Emailing/PMing it to people or setting up a members-only critique group is even better. There are lots of ways to get help on your work that won't affect your publication rights.

Someone stole my idea!
Ideas cannot be copyrighted. If you post an idea for a story and someone takes that idea and writes a story using it, they are not infringing on copyright. If you post an idea online, be aware that someone else may use it. But, since no two people will write the same story from a single idea, it's not really worth worrying about!

What about titles?
Like ideas, titles cannot be copyrighted. However, if you submit a vampire story or novel and are calling it "Twilight" (for example), the editor will make you change your title.

Titles can sometimes be trademarked, particularly when a company puts out a line of books that have strong brand recognition, like the "For Dummies" books. You'll see a trademark symbol after the title if it's covered.

Useful Links
Warnings and Cautions for Writers--Copyright
U.S Copyright Office - Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright
Creative Commons
Uncle Orson's Writing Class - Copyrights
Racheling's avatar

Moonlight Sailor

Before You Submit

Before you send off that email or put your manuscript in the mail, make sure you've:

  • Revised your manuscript and are sending your best work.
  • Put your story or novel in standard manuscript format.
  • Targeted your submission to a markets or agencies suited for your work.
  • Done research on the market or agent to make sure they're legitimate.
  • Spelled the agent or editor's name correctly.
  • Included contact information.

If submitting by mail: Make sure you're using correct postage and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) for a response. Also be sure to include your address, phone number, and email address on the cover letter and on the first page of the manuscript. If you want your manuscript returned, make sure to include a large enough envelope and correct postage on your SASE. It's usually easier and cheaper to just print out a new copy, though.

If submitting by email: Make sure you're using a professional-sounding email (for example, janesmith@email.com rather than cutiegrl33@email.com). Include your address, phone number, and email address at the bottom of the email and on the first page of the manuscript if it's attached. Never send attachments over email unless specifically requested to do so. This can get your email deleted unread.

Useful Links

Is It Normal When Publishers Take Several Months To Consider My Manuscript?
How do I go about submitting short stories?
Writer Beware
Preditors and Editors
Racheling's avatar

Moonlight Sailor

Manuscript Formatting

While different agents and publishers have their own guidelines for what a submitted manuscript should look like, there is a standard format which most follow. You should always check submission guidelines to see if they request any special formatting, and to follow what that particular editor or agent asks for. If they don't tell you differently, use these standards:

  • One inch margins on all sides
  • 12pt font, either Times New Roman or Courier New (many people prefer TNR to Courier these days, and since it is a smaller font, it will save you paper if you're submitting a hard copy)
  • Double spaced
  • Your name and contact info (address, phone number, and email) in the top left on the first page
  • Your word count in the top right
  • A header on every page with your name, title, and page number in the top right. (Some people say don't include the header on the first page, but it doesn't matter either way.)
  • Your title and byline centered and placed halfway down on the first page.

What about italics or bold text?
If the market you're submitting to is a stickler for traditional manuscript format, you should underline any text that you want italicized; this makes it easier for the typesetters to locate the formatting in the finished document. However, many editors are moving away from the old-fashioned Courier New typewriter look, and are starting to prefer Times New Roman. They also won't reject you for using italics instead of underlining.

One space or two after periods?
Though some people insist that it should be one way or another, it doesn't matter, though one space is becoming the standard. It's easy to change from two spaces to one with the "Find and Replace" function if you decide to go that route.

What if I'm submitting by email and they don't want attachments?
Sometimes you'll be asked to submit a story or sample pages in the body of an email, and not in an attached document. In that case, keep formatting as simple as possible. Don't worry about double spacing, but do add an extra line between paragraphs. Don't try to use special formatting like italics. (You can put underscores around the italicized section like _this_ if you need to.) Before pasting it into the email, save it as a text file, which will help you avoid having funny symbols appear in your text. You can also email it to yourself or a friend first to make sure it looks right.

Useful Links
A Quick Guide to Manuscript Format
Manuscript Format
Racheling's avatar

Moonlight Sailor

Writing a Query Letter

Query letters can be tough. Basically, your query letter should be written in business letter format. It should include your information at the top: name, address, phone number, email address. It should be addressed, politely, to a specific agent/editor whenever possible, (Dear Ms. Jones, for example, not To Whom It May Concern), and always make sure to get their gender right. Do your research, don't guess based on their name alone.

For novels, including the first five pages with your query is acceptable. No chapters or full manuscripts unless it's specifically requested. Some agents will request a few chapters with your query, but it varies so be sure to read their submission guidelines.

There are many guides on how to write query letters. At the minimum, you should include the following:

  • The title of your book
  • The word count (not page count). Round up to the nearest thousand words (ex., 80,000 rather than 80,471)
  • The genre
  • A short description of the plot, about 200-300. Be as clear and concise as possible. Don't worry about "giving things away" -- they'd rather be sure you actually have plot than worry about you spoiling the ending. You know the little teaser summaries you see on the back covers or inside jacket flaps of books? That's the sort of thing you're going for.
  • Any publishing credits (professional credits -- small press is fine, vanity press/POD will not impress them). Make sure it's related to what you're trying to publish; if you've published a children's book before and you're submitting a horror novel, it may not help you as much, but it won't hurt to include it.

Basic Query Letter Format
Your Name
Phone #
Email address

Dear Ms. Awesome Agent:

[Brief opening that includes any personalized statements about why you're submitting to that agent. A sentence that includes your title, genre, and word count.]

[Brief description of your book. Think back cover blurb rather than summary of events. You want to entice them to read sample pages.]

[Any relevant publishing credits or other important info. You don't need to have publication credits, but include them if you do have any.]

Thanks for your time,

Your Name

Below is a more detailed example of what a query might look like. This example uses The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. This is not meant to be an example of a brilliant query, but it may give you a clearer idea of what queries look like.

Detailed Query Letter Example
Jill Smith
123 Green Lane
Metropolis, NY 12345
(123) 456-7890

Dear Ms. Jones:

I'm seeking representation for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a middle grade fantasy novel complete at 40,000 words.

When a tornado whisks Dorothy Gale away from her dreary life on a Kansas farm, she finds herself in the land of Oz, a strange and magical land. The people call her a witch, because she came from the sky in a flying house, but Dorothy isn't a witch! Anyway, aren't all witches bad?

Well, one of them is. The Wicked Witch of the West is pretty angry at Dorothy for accidentally killing her sister -- it wasn't Dorothy's fault the tornado dropped her house on the Witch of the East, but that doesn't seem to matter. Dorothy's only hope is to go to the Emerald City and ask the great wizard for help. But even if she can defeat the witch, can Dorothy find her way home?

My short fiction has appeared in Fancy Magazine and Big Fat Anthology. This is my first novel.

Please note this is a simultaneous submission.

Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Jill Smith

If you're submitting to an editor rather than an agent, you'd say something like "I am submitting my novel, [title], for publication."

If you're having trouble condensing your book into a few short paragraphs, these questions might help you:
  • Who is your character and what do they want?
  • What do they do to get it?
  • What gets in the way?
  • What will happen if they fail?

Make sure your book is finished before submitting your query letter! If you get a request for more of your manuscript, you need to be ready to send it.

Useful Links
Writing a query letter
Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent: How to Write a Query Letter
Racheling's avatar

Moonlight Sailor

All About Agents

What is a literary agent?
An agent is someone who represents your book and submits it to publishers on your behalf. If you want to submit to publishing houses that don't accept unsolicited submissions, you'll need an agent. Agents also get faster response times from editors, can submit to many editors at once, negotiate your contract to get you a better deal, and handle the business side of things so you can keep writing.

Do I need an agent?
Maybe. There are some publishing houses that accept unsolicited queries or manuscripts, and many small presses accept submissions directly from authors. But if you want to build up your writing career, getting an agent is a good choice.

Agents represent novel-length works, not short stories. If you're writing short fiction, you don't need an agent.

Do you have to pay them?
Agents take a 15% commission from your advance and royalties after they sell your book. Always do your research and remember that the agent's job is to get you money and take their cut from that. Never sign with an agent who asks you to pay them up front, who charges you submission fee (even if an agent charges you for copies or postage, it comes out of your advance), or who refers you to paid editing or critique services.

How do you find an agent?
First, you need to have a completed novel. Agents want the work to be finished before they look at it, and if they request the full manuscript and you're only half done, well...you might have lost a chance. Identify what genre your book is and your target audience. Then, use sites like agentquery.com to search for agents who represent the kind of book you've written. Check their website or blog if they have one, see what other books they've represented, and try to find out as much as you can about them before deciding to query them.

You'll need to write a query letter (see the Writing a Query Letter post for how to do it). Check whether the agent wants submissions via email or snail mail, and make sure to follow all of their submission guidelines. You can query multiple agents at once, as some agents can take months to respond, but don't contact every agent you find right away. Be selective, and make sure the agent seems like a good fit for you.

Useful Links
Agent Query
Query Tracker
Hunting for a Literary Agent
Bookends LLC Blog
Guide to Literary Agents - Where & How to Find the Right Representatives for Your Work
Slush is Dead
Agents who rep Graphic Novels
Racheling's avatar

Moonlight Sailor

Markets for Fiction

If you want to submit your work for possible publication, you'll need to find markets that fit your work. There are all kinds of markets; some pay very well, some pay small amounts, and some don't pay at all.

Short Stories
If you've written a short story, first you'll need to identify the genre. Is it literary? Horror? Fantasy? Then check the word count. Many short fiction magazines and anthologies have strict word count limits, and you'll want to make sure you're only submitting to markets that will accept your story. There are several websites that have compiled lists of short fiction publishers; check the Useful Links section at the bottom of this post.

It's always good to read an issue of the magazine/a past copy of the anthology before you submit, to make sure that they publish stories similar to yours and that they look professional.

Payment: Short fiction often pays by the word. So if they pay 5 cents a word and your story is 4,000 words long, you'd get paid $200. Some markets pay a flat fee.

Rights: Most short fiction publishers buy first North American rights, meaning they have the right to print your story first, for a specified time. When the rights revert back to you, you can then try to sell it as a reprint.

Submitting a novel is a little different (see the All About Agents post), but you can submit to some book publishers on your own. One way to find book publishers is to go to your local bookstore and find books like yours. Write down the publisher and imprint, and go to their website. You may find that they are open to unsolicited manuscripts or queries. Smaller presses are usually more open to submissions from previously unpublished authors.

You may also want to consider eBook publishers, but make sure they actually put work into promoting their books. With small presses and eBook publishers, always check out their website and their books. If they look professional and you could see yourself buying them, that's a good sign. If they look sloppy, badly edited, and overpriced, that's not good.

Payment: Book publishers pay in one of three ways: Advance against royalties, royalty only, or flat fee.

An advance against royalties is paid to the writer up front. You don't get any more money until your book sells enough copies for the royalties you'd have gotten to cover the advance. After that, the publisher pays a small percentage per copy (this is called a royalty percentage). If your book doesn't sell well enough to cover the advance, you don't have to pay any of it back.

Royalty-only payments differ from an advance only in that you do not get paid any money up front. Smaller presses and eBook publishers often work this way. You get a percentage of each book sold. If your book sells well, you might make a decent amount. If it sells poorly, you'll hardly get anything. This is often used when the publisher is small and doesn't have a lot of money to throw around. However, the downside is that if your book doesn't get promoted well, you're out of luck.

Flat fee payments are less common for the fiction market, and are generally used in educational and work-for-hire situations. You get paid a flat fee for your book, and no matter how many copies it sells, that's the only money you get.

You may come across contests for short stories and even novels. The quality of these contests varies widely. In general, avoid contests with entry fees. This is not to say that all contests with fees are bad, but you should weigh the prize and the actual odds of winning the contest against the fee. Is it worth the chance? Some legitimate contests do have fees, but they are usually small ($5-$10). The higher the fee, the more careful you should be.

You should also read over the contest rules very carefully. Some contests have fine print stating that they get the rights to any work submitted to them -- avoid these unless you want to lose rights to your work! And some take all rights if you win or even place. Make sure you understand what you're getting into so you're not left high and dry.

Other Resources
In addition to the markets linked below, you may find more in the latest Writer's Market, which should be available at your local library or bookstore. Keep in mind that inclusion in Writer's Market does not mean the market is a good one. They try to be careful, but remember that it's always up to you to do the extra research on a market to make sure they are right for you.

Useful Links
Writer's Market
Duotrope's Digest
Ralan's Webstravaganza
Piers Anthony's Internet Publishing
Lit Refs Market Listing
Literary Magazines and Journals
Teen Ink
Preditors & Editors
Delacorte YA and Middle Grade Novel Contest
Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing
Submitting to the Black Hole (Response times)
YA YA - imprint of Medallion looking for work by teens
Racheling's avatar

Moonlight Sailor

Markets for Poetry

Poetry can be a tough sell. A lot of poetry is published in magazines and anthologies, and it may pay little or nothing at all. It's very difficult to get a single-author poetry collection published, though possible.

If you're in college, ask about their literary journal. Also ask if your college has any information on writing or poetry contests.

If you're trying to sell poetry, think about where you read it. Do you buy poetry anthologies? Do you read most of your poetry in magazines? If you can figure that out, it can help you decide where to start sending your work.

There are some poetry contests out there. The quality of these contests varies widely. In general, avoid contests with entry fees. This is not to say that all contests with fees are bad, but you should weigh the prize and the actual odds of winning the contest against the fee. Is it worth the chance? Some legitimate contests do have fees, but they are usually small ($5-$10). The higher the fee, the more careful you should be.

You should also read over the contest rules very carefully. Some contests have fine print stating that they get the rights to any work submitted to them -- avoid these unless you want to lose rights to your work! And some take all rights if you win or even place. Make sure you understand what you're getting into so you're not left high and dry.

You may have heard of Poetry.com, or have been warned to stay away from them. Poetry.com used to be a well-known scam poetry contest. The domain has since been purchased by lulu.com and is now called Lulu Poetry. They run contests and they promote their poetry self-publishing option. There is little information on their contests so far, but they seem safe enough to submit to -- again, just read the fine print.

Be skeptical of poetry contests. If you're told you won or were a finalist, but you don't get any money, and you are asked to purchase an expensive anthology with your poem included, turn around and walk away. This is a common scheme used to get your money, and is not considered legitimate in the publishing business.

Other Resources
In addition to the markets linked below, you may find more in the latest Poetry Writer's Market, which should be available at your local library or bookstore. Keep in mind that inclusion in Writer's Market does not mean the market is a good one. They try to be careful, but remember that it's always up to you to do the extra research on a market to make sure they are right for you.

Useful Links
Duotrope's Digest
Teen Ink
WritersWrite Poetry Markets
Lit Refs Market Listing
Literary Magazines and Journals
Racheling's avatar

Moonlight Sailor

Dealing with Rejections

You've written your query letter, you've revised your manuscript, and started submitting to editors or agents. Then the rejections start coming in, impersonal form letters -- or you get no response at all. How do you handle rejections without getting bitter or depressed?

Remember that rejection is not personal. The agent or editor is rejecting your story, not you as a writer. They may have acquired something similar recently, or it doesn't fit with their taste. They may be nearly full and are being extra selective. And, of course, it could be that your writing isn't publishable yet. It can be hard to tell with your own work, so make sure to find a few people you can trust to tell it like it is and keep trying.

Don't fire off an angry reply. Sometimes you'll get a rejection that's frustrating, and you may have the urge to shoot back an angry email telling them how they just don't get it, or that they'll be sorry later when you're a big shot writer. Don't do this. What do you gain? Momentary satisfaction from being a jerk to someone just doing their job? You may even burn bridges with not only that agent or editor, but others as well. The industry can be smaller than you think, so don't give in to the urge.

Be realistic about your chances. Remember how many other hopeful writers are submitting their work. Some editors and agents get hundreds of submissions a week. They can only take on a tiny fraction of that, and it means that even good work will get passed over at times. Just keep trying and be patient.

Expect a long wait for a response. Some agents and editors will take months to get back to you. They're busy, and it's how things work -- they have other responsibilities, so sometimes submissions get pushed to the side. It's frustrating, but if you expect it to take a long time, you can be pleasantly surprised when you get a faster response. You can also check out the markets or agents on forums to gauge their average response times.

Quick responses don't mean they paid less attention to your submission. Sometimes you'll get a rejection within minutes of sending the email. Some people feel this means the agent or editor didn't even read their submission. This is not the case. They read enough to know whether it was right for them. Think about how you choose books to buy and how quickly you can know whether you're interested in reading more.

Accept advice and criticism gracefully. Did you get a rejection with some personal feedback on your manuscript? That's good! It means they saw something in your work that interested them, even though they didn't like it enough to take it on. You don't have to take their advice, but do take it into consideration. And if they want to see it again if you revise, send it back once you've made the changes -- but don't resubmit if they didn't ask to see it again. It's usually fine to send a brief thank you note if they gave you a lot of good comments, but keep in mind that some will just consider it one more email to get through.

Start working on a new project. While you're waiting to hear back on your submissions, get to work on something new. The more you write, the more you'll improve, and chances are your second work will be better than the first. It can also keep you from obsessing over your responses by distracting you. And, if you do succeed with your first manuscript, you're that much closer to having a second ready to go.

Every writer gets rejected. What do Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Meg Cabot, and John Grisham have in common, besides being huge, best-selling authors? They were all rejected, sometimes many, many times, before succeeding. But they were persistent, and they kept writing and submitting. Getting published can be a long, slow process. Persistence is important, so don't give up.

Recognize when you need to take a break. If you find yourself getting too upset and discouraged, it's fine to take a break. Stop submitting for a while, work on something else, take a break from writing altogether if you need to. It's okay to do this. Sometimes you just feel burned out, and a break can be a good way to let yourself recharge and get back your motivation and optimism.

Be persistent. Sometimes the difference between a published and unpublished writer is that the published writer didn't give up. You have to develop a thick skin and take rejections in stride. Try making it a rule to send out a new submission every time you get a rejection. Just keep working at it!

Useful Links
Ellen Jackson on Dealing With Rejection
30 famous authors whose works were rejected (repeatedly, and sometimes rudely) by publishers
Racheling's avatar

Moonlight Sailor

Don't Quit Your Day Job

While it's possible to make a living as a novelist eventually, don't count on it being your full time job. The average advance for a first novel is between $5,000-$10,000, and many books don't earn out their advance (meaning no royalties) -- and remember that you'll lose a chunk off the top to taxes, plus another 15% if you have an agent. It can take years and years to build up your writing career enough to live on. And keep in mind that being a novelist doesn't come with medical benefits, so unless you're married and your spouse has a good job, you'll be stuck paying a ton for private health insurance.

The bottom line is this: It's fine to dream big about being a full-time novelist one day as long as you know you'll need another full time job in the meantime. Find something else you like doing and work toward that. Some writers prefer jobs that allow for flexible scheduling, while others like laid-back jobs with a lot of down time to get writing done. Others find that they prefer fast-paced jobs that get their mind off of writing so they can be energized to work when they get home.

To make a career out of writing fiction, you need to treat it like a second job. You may have to give up other things to make the time for it. Watch less TV or get up early to get the work done if you need to.

You may find you're content to write the occasional book and slowly but steadily work toward publication, and that's great! You don't need to write full time to write novels and get published. It's best to make sure you have financial security, and to realize that you will probably need that day job for a while, even if you're published. Remember that advances are small and won't come right away, and they probably won't be enough to live on.

But if this is your dream, don't give up. Some writers work for years and eventually make it big. Rick Riordan was once asked how it felt to be an overnight success with his Percy Jackson series. But he'd been writing (and publishing books) for ten years, and his series didn't take off until the third Percy Jackson book! So remember that it can happen, but that being an overnight success can take, well, ten years!

Useful Links
Author Advance Survey
Some Hard Facts
Average First Novel Advance
A Few More Words on First Novel Advances
Talking With Rick Riordan
Careers in Writing

There are many, many more things to do with a writing-oriented career than just write stories or novels. Just take a look in a library or a book store and look at all the different sections: newspapers, magazines, how-to books, textbooks, technical books, biographies, histories, reference books, and then some! And of course, don't forget about all the jobs that go into making those materials: agents, editors, copy editors, proofreaders, PR, and the like. Don't forget about English teachers either.

Let's take a look at some of the more common writing careers.

Writing for newspapers and magazines can be hectic and taxing, and the industry (especially newspapers) has strict standards, but it's rewarding in its own right. You will get to go places and meet lots of interesting people. If you work well under pressure and like writing short, non-fiction, articles, journalism may be just what you're looking for. Most newspapers and magazines have their own staff, but many magazines will accept submissions from freelance writers if you don't feel like being tied down and want to work when it suits you.

Non-Fiction Writing
Non-fiction writing isn't just real-life stories and biographies -- it's everything that's not fiction. That means all those how-to books, textbooks, self-help books, history books, language phrase books, cookbooks, or any book that gathers information on a certain subject in one place. All those unmistakable bright yellow "For Dummies" books? Someone had to write them. That someone could be you.

Editing is a booming industry, because everything that's written needs to be proofread and edited before it can be printed or published. Many editing positions are top-level managerial positions, like chief editor of a magazine or newspaper who oversees the writers and copy editors beneath them. Editing is a very rewarding job because you are correcting errors and making better something that many people will see once it's published, which is a very important contribution to the process.

Copy Writing
Copy writers write copy. Copy is everything and anything that's description or advertising -- from the text on the back of your shampoo bottle, to the blurbs on corporate websites, to product descriptions on Amazon.com. Most of the work is small and done by freelance writers hired by the company for whatever they need, and they're paid a flat fee for the work.

Technical Writing
Manuals and reference texts don't write themselves -- someone has to do it. If you like writing precisely and informatively, technical writing might be for you. Technical writers tackle deep and complicated subjects like medicine, law, computers, engineering, and science which require highly specialized vocabularies and a well-rounded knowledge of what they're writing about.

Books written in another language always have an audience somewhere else, and it's translators who get the job done, and there's always a demand for them. If you know a second language and you love writing, you may want to look into a job in the translating business. Everything from fiction novels to food labels needs translating before it can move into a new market.

Someone has to teach all those kids how to write, and that person could be you. If you like writing, teaching, and interacting with children or adults, teaching may be for you. From middle school English teacher to university Linguistics professor, teaching probably affords the highest level of job security of any writing-related career, and it can be very rewarding knowing that you've done your part to improve the future.

There are many more writing careers than what are listed here, so make sure to do your own research into the business to find out what is the best career for you.

Useful Links
Writing and Editing Careers, Jobs, and Training Information
Glossary of Writing Careers

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