“Throw gloom over your shoulder.” – Wendy Robertson
All right, we’re in the home stretch of my Manuscript Manicure miniseries! On to approach publication in the absence of gloom…
Okay, then. Next topic for convo at the Room to Write workshop dealt with researching publishers and agents. Again, no one-size-fits-all remedy, they merely directed us toward the Writers and Artists Yearbook (I guess Writer’s Market would be the U.S. equivalent). As you peruse these comprehensive listings, read carefully for the genres preferred by each representative to get a feel for who would be most receptive to your story. Newer agents are typically listed last. Regardless how you slice and dice this abundance of information, make sure you isolate a specific name to whom you address your query. My impression was that the facilitating authors didn’t seem keen on using an agent, but they acknowledged the obvious benefit of their industry contacts as well the validation your work is good. They favor big agencies over small, finding the latter to be unreliable or at least more likely to be. They also recommend doing a punt with the publishers (well, those accepting unsolicited submissions, that is), as their slush piles are probably smaller than agents’ these days.
As for those publishers…the workshop highlighted independent publishers. These are the ones most likely to accept unsolicited submissions, and in some cases you can send your entire manuscript straight away. The cons with this avenue are: 1) the odds – small publishers might purchase only a handful of books a year, and 2) promotion – the bulk of this burden may still fall on you; indeed some independent publishers require a proposal of your self-marketing plan concurrent with your submission.
And there’s the alternative route becoming ever more prevalent: self-publishing, or, as Wendy prefers to call it, “Private Editions.” I love that :). Pros to this are: 1) getting to see your book in print and finally share what you’ve been up to all this time with others, and 2) greater control over your editing, cover design, etc. Cons are obviously: 1) cost, 2) rigorous self-editing, and 3) rigorous self-promotion. This last aspect is not something all writers are comfortable with, so one of our fellow attendees, Jackie McKenzie, offered the following media tips from her journalism experience:
[These 10 steps are all directly quoted; I’d use the quote box, but it’s too awkward.]
1. Seek out the media – they won’t find you. Be brave and proactive, not pushy, just quietly methodical.[…]
2. Research which media to contact – […] Start with local papers and radio plus titles relevant to the book. Try titles relevant to new writers and ones that publish book reviews.
3. Think online as well as offline – there are more opportunities for coverage in online publications than traditional printed ones. […]
4. Prepare the pitch – write two opening sentences suitable for a quick introductory phone call. Start with “I have a news release that you may be interested in…” then sell yourself and the book, one sentence for each!
5. Get named contacts – use the two-sentence pitch to phone news desks directly and ask who you should send the press release to. Named emails are more effective than generic ones. […]
6. Prepare a news release – keep to one side of [the page]. Use the same two lines from the pitch and include a bit about the storyline (blurb) plus some background on you. Highlight any topical issues or local landmarks etc. that may be of interest. Include any links to any relevant websites, blogs or social media that may help to sell the story. Include your contact number and details of where the book is being sold. (“It’s not all about the book; build a story around you!”)
7. Send out the release as an attachment – include a jpeg photo of you holding the published book or a visual of the front. […] Keep the message in the body of the email very short. If you have spoken to the journalist beforehand refer back to the conversation.
8. Follow up emails with a quick call – after two days contact each journalist [to ask] if it is of interest and offer to send them a copy of the book. If they are not interested end the call quickly.
9. Send out email invites to the launch – use the same media contacts. Most will decline but it adds credibility. […] If they can’t attend ask if they are interested in a post-launch news release. If so, it may be worth paying a freelance press photographer to come along to the launch. […]
10. Prepare a post-launch release – re-cap on the details from the first release but refresh the story with an opening paragraph about the success of the launch, numbers attended, etc. If anyone of local interest is there […] borrow them for the photograph and ask them for a quote to add to the release. If a reputable press photographer has been used mention them by name on your email message (anything to persuade them to consider the picture).
A good book launch is a must. And after the launch, keep going! Consider scheduling monthly events.
As of this workshop, three writers in attendance were on the verge of launching their own first novels. All three for their own reasons chose self-publication—I mean, private editions—and two of which published through their local HPM Group, a Durham-based printer that I have to say produced two of the highest quality self-publications I’ve yet to see. Their books look like any to be found on a major retailer’s shelf, and one author had the creative license to use her own painting as the cover image, so I was very impressed with the creative and physical production possibilities given the right printer and the right amount of coin—you get what you pay for, after all. In any case, to give a quick shout-out to these ladies in congratulations:
Wendy Robertson also just launched her memoir, The Romancer: On Being a Writer.
To close with more of her pearls of wisdom as we embark down this rocky road to publication:
“Every book and every short story you write is part of your apprenticeship.”
“There are good kinds of rejection. Don’t pore over the nasty ones; piece together the best bits of the good ones.”