Why “Making your Dreams Come True” should raise red flags

Let’s say you’ve just finished your book. And I mean finished. You’ve gone through multiple drafts, had it looked over by alpha and beta readers then sorted through their feedback, edited, redrafted, almost turned to drink, and come out the other side with something wonderful.

What to do next? This thing has been your focus for maybe years. Let’s face it, out books are like our children. We raise them up, shaping them into something we can be proud of. We want what’s best for our books. And there are lots of options. You can go the route of seeking an agent to represent you, get your books to publishers that you couldn’t reach on your own. Or you can take on everything yourself and self-publish – hard work and lots of heavy learning, gives more control over your creation. There are even companies that you can pay to publish your work for you – they’ll do the editing, cover design, maybe even some marketing.

All options have pros and cons. What works for one author might not work for another. You have to judge them on what’s right for you and your book. Whatever you do, you have to go in with your eyes open and know what to expect. Because not everyone is honest and young, naive, or rejected writers are blood in the waters to these sharks.

Look out for anyone who says they are there to make dreams come true, or take a chance on new writers. Publishers aren’t there for dreams. Publishers are there to sell books. A publisher’s market is readers, and that’s who they should be directing their marketing towards. If they’re too busy seeking out new authors to take a chance on, how will they find the time to sell those books? Beware for anyone who says first time writers have to pay. This is not true. There may be times when a writer wants to pay, and that’s fine as long as they make the decision and thoroughly research the options, just as you would when buying any other product.

How do you tell a shark?  Speaking to authors on their list can be one way, but if they don’t realise that they don’t necessarily have to pay, if they’ve been conned into thinking you can’t be serious about your book if you don’t want invest in it, they might give a glowing report. All writers invest massively in their books – that’s the time spent writing, editing, head-banging the desk, buying more and more tea etc. Publishing should be about the pay-off on that time.

There are several good places to check out:

Preditors and Editors has a wealth of information for writers. They have a directory of publishers, with notes about who to avoid.

Writer Beware is similarly extensive and the blog has useful news to keep up to date. Also has thumbs down lists of agents and publishers to avoid.

The Absolute Write forums is a good place to go if you’ve come across a publisher and want to know more about them,

Any other good resources, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them.

I Wrote a Book. What Next?

I came across someone asking this question on Figment, and its a good question. Where do you go once you’ve typed The End? This was my response, hopefully it will help others as well.

Firstly, make sure you’re really ready to be published. Finishing a book is great and you should be very proud, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready to be published. Lots of first novels feel great when we write them, but when we look back in a few years, we can see the gaps in our skills. It took three books before I was ready to publish. Remember, you are going to expect people to pay money for it. Is it something you would be happy to pay for, if you found it in a book shop?

Lets assume it is. Okay. The next step is to decide how you want to publish it. You have two options, really. Self publish or traditional. I’d recommend self-publishing if you either have a lot of experience with marketing and self-promotion, or you don’t really care about writing as a career or making sure as many people read it as you can. That’s fine. Not everyone wants to be an author as a career. That’s why I self-published my first.

If you want to go down the traditional route, your best bet is to try and get an agent. The first thing I’d do is look for agents on twitter, and follow hastags like #500queries, #tenqueries etc. These are where agents tweet about their queries and whether they wanted more or not. It gives you a good idea of the basic mistakes people make, like querying agents who don’t rep their genre, not following submission rules, or sending in queries that don’t sell the book.

Once you have a handle on that sort of thing, start researching the right agents for you. Then build up your query letter. It should be three parts – a hook or log line (single line that sells your book); short synopsis that again makes your book sound interesting; and a bio that includes any publishing credits you have and tries to explain why you are the right author for the book. Always include word count, genre, and the age group you are aiming the book at (MG, YA, NA, Adult). Try and

Then you send it off. Most agents work on email these days. Make sure:
– they are the right agent. They rep your book and they have a good record of sales
– that you email them in a professional manner, but you use their name
– that you spell their name right
– that you read their submission guide and send them what they want. Some people want just a query, some want chapters. Some want those chapters as an attachment, some in the body of the email
– that you put your contact details on the query. Name, address, phone number, email etc.

Then you wait, and you expect to get rejections. Trust me, no matter how good you are, you will get rejections. Build yourself up for them, because they hurt, but you have to accept them in good grace. Never reply to a rejection in a negative manner. Agents talk and they will talk about you if they do. At most, send them a polite thank you for your consideration message.

Hopefully someone will pick you up. Be prepared to send dozens of queries though. Let say, sadly, no one does. Don’t give up on the book yet. Now, look at publishers. Big publishers generally won’t accept unagented authors, but many smaller ones will. And if you sell to a smaller publisher, it gives you credits to go to an agent with for the next book. Again, research, research, research! Submit only to ones who might be interested. If they are a romance imprint, don’t send a sci-fi novel and vice versa.

Watch out for scammers. Avoid any publisher who charges (you’re better off going self-published); any that says you have to make a number of sales or buy the books yourself (again, can get very expensive); anyone who says they are in the business of making dreams come true (publishers are in the business of selling books); anyone who advertises direct to authors (publishers customers are readers); anyone who markets themselves as looking for young authors (publishers are in the business of making money. They won’t do that on just young authors.)

And if all that fails? (Again, be prepared. Hope for the best, plan for the worst). Write another book. Keep writing and writing and believing in yourself and you will get there. Publication isn’t a race; there’s not right age to publish by. Just love your words and people will love them back.