How To Get Published

Dec 11


Patrika Vaughn

Patrika Vaughn

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Ever wonder how a writer becomes a published author? Or how a book makes it to the top? You see the same authors over and over on Best Seller lists. They're not necessarily the best writers: their success has more to do with today's publishing realities.


Publishing is a whole new ball game today and the old rules don't apply:
*Major publishing houses are being gobbled up by international cartels
*Bookstores are giving way to superstores
*Accountants now decide who gets published
*Editors acquire,How To Get Published Articles they don't edit
*Literary agents handle authors as "properties", rarely talking to anyone unpublished

So what's an aspiring writer to do? Opportunities do exist for new writers. You just have to know how to find them.

"Publishing today is market driven," says Patrika Vaughn, the world's first Author's Advocate. "Before you write the first word, you have to know who is the audience for your work."

She ought to know. Vaughn is a published author and ghostwriter. She has been a literary agent, an editor with several national publications, and is currently president of A Cappela Publishing. She explains:
"I quit agenting because agents can't serve the true interests of new writers these days. Writers want to get published, achieve recognition and make money. The publishing market has gone through huge changes in the past decade, making it difficult for agents to do the wonderful things they used to in order to help writers get published.

"About 40% of today's agents won't read manuscripts by unpublished authors. Those that do usually charge a fee. Eighty percent of agents won't represent profesional books; 93% won't touch reference works; 99% won't handle technical books, and 98% won't handle regional books, satire, musicals, or other specialized manuscripts. Although most agents will handle novel-length fiction, only 20% are willing to take on either novelettes or short stories. Most amazing of all, only 2% have a special interest in literature or quality fiction!

"This creates a Catch-22 for writers: agents won't look at many types of manuscripts and the larger publishing houses tend to only consider works that come through agents. This results in fewer and fewer books by new writers on their lists. Most bestselling authors were already well established. An unknown author is probably wasting time and money by hiring an agent to pursue this market.

"Midsize to small publishing houses are more receptive to new writers. Most of them will read manuscripts submitted directly by authors, without agent intervention. So why bother with an agent?

"It's a new and different market out there. Th big news is niche marketing, electronic publishing and self-publishing. Writers today are finding that they have to be marketers, too, in order to successfully publish ~ and this is true regardless of the publishing option they pursue. All publishing companies are placing increased emphasis on market analysis in book proposals. More and more, authors have to be willing to do anything and everything that will help promote their books.

"Since authors have to get involved in marketing and promoting even with a publisher, many are opting for self-publishing. As long as they have to do all that work, they might as well keep up to 80% of the profits rather than settle for a 6-10% advance on royalties ~ especially since their books' shelf life in bookstores is probably going to be only three to six months if they go through a major publisher.

What if they self publish?

"Shelf life is much longer. If your book is selling, bookstores and superstores will keep it on the shelf. Strangely enough, that's bringing writers full circle. Books such as The Celestine Prophesy and The Christmas Box were originally self-published. It was only after they generated large sales that Warner and Simon & Shuster bought the rights to them. Larger publishing houses now ask their reps to scout out locally successful books. It seems they no longer know what the changing public wants, so they rely on writers with a track record, adding new writers only after they've proven successful."

So what, I asked, does all this have to do with Author Advocacy?

"Everything! Writers today are wandering around in a confusing publishing landscape. The sands keep shifting under their feet and they have no signposts to guide them out of the desert into an oasis. Agents and large publishing houses won't touch the majority of new writers. Few writers are marketers or financial analysts . . . they just don't know how to go about matching up subject matter, writing style and reading audiences. New writers don't have a reliable way of finding out if what they've written is any good and if there's a buying public for it. They don't have the publishing savvy to determine their best route toward publication. They need advise from a knowledgeable advocate who can inform them on each step, from conception to sales.

"To be a successfully published writer today, writers have to know what they want and what their audiences want. They have to know why they want to write, who they want to write for, what they want to say and what effect they want to have on those audiences. Because there are so many publishing choices today, each with predictable outcomes, writers need clearly focused goals. They also need to know a lot about their readers in order to write a book that will appeal to them.

My job as an Author's Advocate is to help writers determine what they will write and how to choose the most appropriate presentation style for their audiences; how to select the best publishing option for each work, and how to get the word out to the book-buying public. All these things are required today whether a writer self-publishes or works through a publishing house, and few writers have the background to take these steps."

So what advise do you have for hopeful writers today?

"Choose your subject, audience, and approach thoughtfully. Research before you write, even if it's fiction, to find out what people want to read today. The public is fickle and may no longer be interested in what excited them a few years ago. Then write the best book you can. Determine your publishing option based on the size and targetability of your audience. Then get news of your book out to them, in as many new and creative ways as you can."

But what about writers who don't have the time or skills to do these things?

"They'll either have to acquire these skills or hire an expert to help them. There's a lot of material available to learn from. I've tried to cover the basics in my book and audio books, and there are several other good sources available (see sidebar).

"The point is that it is possible for new writers to succeed. They just need to take a new path, and they need a new roadmap to guide them through the changing complexities of today's publishing world."