7.31.2010

Stop Waiting For A Rescue.

Prince Charming isn't going to show up on horseback. Alyssa Jones isn't going to accept your quirky side, then save you from your hangups. Edward isn't going to save you from the rest of your life (and hunky warewolf boys).

Save yourself. After all, if you don't feel you're worthy of loving yourself, why shouldn't everyone else just take your word for it?

7.28.2010

No, I'm Not Coming Out of the Closet.

Yesterday, I went full-on whiny bitch mode about not getting my laptop when I wanted it. I recognize I was being a whiny bitch. I was just venting.

Jeremy added to the post that I was just being whiny because I was coming out of the closet to my parents, and am feeling emotional. This made it out to the RSS feeds.

For clarity: no, I'm not coming out of the closet to my parents. If I were, I'd actually be in a great mood, because it'd piss them off, and ever since I was 10 years old, pissing off my parents has been my #1 goal in life. And it'd be all like "Mission Accomplished" and shit. And second, Jeremy's had his admin privleges revoked on the blog, so now I can call him a motherfucker anytime I want and not have to worry about his getting butthurt to the point of editing my blog entries.

Also, I think Jeremy's very handsome and I also suck cocks and no, Jeremy did not edit this portion I wrote it myself.

7.27.2010

"It Could Be Worse..."

No other four-word phrase produces the amount of ire in me that "It could be worse..." does.

Case in point: I am expecting a box containing a new Macbook Pro today. I need this Macbook Pro today because I will be away from home the next few days, and the shipment requires a signature. Apparently, FedEx are a bunch of clowns who can't actually deliver items on the day that they say they will, and the shipment has been delayed for delivery until tomorrow.

This comes on the heels of several different people in several different positions of authority giving me hearty boot up the ass for several different things -- all of which are not directly my fault and should have been handled with a lot more tact, except that the persons involved are feeling pain so they're passing it down to me.

So I share my lament with my friend Jeremy, who then lets me know that, while my very exciting (and necessary) Macbook Pro delivery being delayed is certainly an "assache", especially combined with the rest of today's bullshit, "it could be worse."

OF COURSE IT COULD BE WORSE. It could have fallen out of the airplane and hit a little boy, killing the kid and voiding my warranty on the new computer. It could have been misdelivered to a house where a terrorist cell member covertly lives, where the computer would then be used to mastermind the next 9-11. Lots and lots of things could have happened that could be worse.

This does not make me feel better. It makes me feel like taking out all of my frustrations on your face. The point is not that this situation is as bad as it could possibly get. The point is that I'm already frustrated, and this just causes more frustration. Knowing how much worse it could be does not alleviate the pain and frustration I'm feeling right now. Actually getting the fucking thing would do that.

So my retort to all of you ridiculous not-experiencing-pain-right-now optimists when you tell me it could be worse? Yes, but it could be better - I could have my computer right now, AND I could be punching you. Best possible situation in my book.

*** Edit ***

Just now, I let Jeremy know I wrote this, and told him "You know I don't mean this personally." He replied "Oh I don't give a shit, it was just something trying to get you to realize you're just having a bad day and the world isn't out to get you."

I'd prefer the world was out to get me. Then, I could fight back and be in the right. As it stands, anyone I kill right now would just be an innocent person in an unfortunate situation. I don't feel better, I feel even worse. So yeah, yet another point against Jeremy.


7.24.2010

"Should I Quit My Day Job?"

Great timing on this one. Lifehacker links to a post on Get Rich Slowly that posits the question of whether or not you should quit your day job to pursue a passion.

Well, I've just finished a huge how-to on writing, publishing and selling your book. One of my huge points: don't quit your day job. But what if you want to? What if you ARE so gung-ho that you're ready to take on the world with your talents? Well, here's what Get Rich Slowly suggests you ask yourself first:
Chasing a dream isn't for everyone. There are plenty of people who prefer the stability and security of a job. Many creative, interesting, passionate people like the advantages of a steady paycheck, good benefits, and the ability to leave work behind at the end of the day.
Before you consider quitting your day job to follow your passions, ask yourself:
  • How comfortable am I taking a risk with my livelihood?
  • Am I willing to maintain a business?
  • How will I handle the business management aspects of my new career?
  • Do I want to do this all day, every workday, or will that strip the joy from it?
  • Will my family and friends support this move?

Those are all well and good. And general. And pretty much useless. This flowery hand-holdy "God, we need to fill space and sell ads" bullshit blogging crap gets on my nerves. Those are NOT the questions you ask. They're the beautifully generic overarching theme of what you should actually ask yourself, which is this:

How the hell will I feed myself, keep the lights on, keep the roof over my (or our) head, and still be a writer (or whatever other creative field you want to pursue)?

Here's the answer: You will work almost twice as hard as you did at your day job, over and above the actual work of whatever it is you want to leave that job to do.

You want to be a writer? You will put in your hours writing, and then twice the number of hours of your old job promoting that writing, selling that writing, managing the checks that (might) come from that writing. This is, of course, after you've established some sort of revenue source from that writing.

If you're single:

The essentials are food, water, shelter, air and something soft to sleep on. Additional necessities will include electricity, internet and garbage service. Air is free, and hopefully you already have a bed, so those two are handled. Everything else has a bill attached. Add those up. This is a figure we will call X.

Mind you, "food" does not mean eating out. Period. No eating out. This is not the place to figure out eating out expenses. This is the place to figure out the base caloric intake your body needs to survive. The same goes with water: fuck Pelligrino. You're drinking out of the tap.

As far as shelter goes, you have to figure out if you're okay with downsizing, or if you're going to attempt to keep the mortgage / rent paid on where you're at now. Don't be afraid to take on a roommate, or move to a cheaper place.

Everything else -- EVERYTHING -- is expendable. Yes, including your car (especially if you have a bike). From this point forward, you've got to make enough money to be able to afford everything else. This means cable, satellite, strip clubs - EVERYTHING.

If you're married / living with someone:

Everything I just said above, plus "Is he/she okay with that?" If they make enough money to support you both, are you ready to accept the fact that taking a year or two years to write your book had better be met with some measure of success? Because I don't give a shit how much they love you and care about you and tickle your ass with the feather of support, two years of paying for your food, shelter, water, and everything else? That's going to require that at some point you come back strong and make up for your lack of keeping up with your end of the bargain. Period. Because if you don't, there WILL be resentment.

No no, you're right, I DON'T know him or her. I don't know how much they love you, and support you, and wants you to be happy... But I do know people. And people don't like being fucked. And you taking two years and doing something that does not pay off end in the end? That's fucking them.

Note that paying off doesn't necessarily mean a huge financial windfall. Maybe your book / art project / whatever leads to new contacts and opportunities. Maybe you write something that leads you to discover that you're amazing at research, and you end up taking that on as a career. Who knows. Just make sure it pays off.

Got all that covered? Know where the next three months worth of bills are coming from already? You're ready to quit your job. Not because you've secured the money, but because doing enough of the work to know the answers to everything above puts you in a certain mindset to either accept how hard it's going to be or quit.

Go for it.

7.21.2010

The Flame Which Fuels, Consumes

Colonel Tanner: All that hate's gonna burn you up, kid.
Robert: It keeps me warm.
-- Red Dawn, 1984

I loved this quote. I loved it from the second I heard it, when I was 7 years old and we saw Red Dawn in the theater. I loved it as a teenager, young adult, and adult. And only recently -- two days ago, in fact -- did the full gravity of that statement finally hit me.

I posted about my lack of discipline the other day. Shortly after I posted it, I was talking to a friend about the situation, and it finally dawned on me... My fire's gone out. And it's not a bad thing.

For many, many years, I had this deep desire to prove everyone wrong. 33 years, in fact. Everyone in my life who ever told me I couldn't do anything I wanted to do. That I had no talent. That I had no chance in life. That I should just quit dreaming and go get a job at the Home Depot. That I couldn't draw - not technically, but physically was not allowed to.

Family members. "Friends." People that were supposed to help me and support me... I spent a lot of years living in fear -- seriously, fear -- of my own creativity and need to do things like write and draw, because I knew I'd hear shit about it and get relentlessly mocked and derided.

I hated them. Hated. It's a strong word, and I just used it. I hated my birth father for abandoning me. I hated my older brother for tormenting me. I hated every kid in every school I went to who refused to just let me be a normal kid. I hated my family for having a particular viewpoint of me, which was ultimately wrong -- because they always assumed, since I was related to them, that they knew me by default. I hated and hated and hated.

And I don't hate anymore.


I mean, yeah, I still hate hipsters and wannabes and fashion geeks Glenn Beck and the usual cast of people who pull our collective conscious down into the gutter and make us lesser as a society. But that's just hate for the sake of calling people out on their bullshit. I don't want to actually punch and hurt and maim these people, I just want them to stop with their nonsense.

...Okay, maybe I do want to punch Glenn Beck. And maim and hurt him. But the others... You get what I'm talking about.


After my breakdown last winter, I had to face a lot of things that were very, very difficult - not just things in my immediate periphery, like what was going on with my book or my life, but deep-seated, root issues that caused this panic and fear that I felt I was always forced to overcome every time I sat down to do ANYTHING. Draw. Design. Write. The ghosts of a hundred horrible people whispered in my ear each and every time, and I had to force my way past them and put pen to paper and push as hard as I could to get it to move.

I felt it in everything I ever did. I had to force myself to put these mental walls up every time I sought out to do anything I wanted to do that even remotely involved creativity. After all, I was supposed to be working at the Home Depot all this time - which is not a bad career, I love my local Home Depot guys. Those guys know what the hell they're talking about, and have helped me fix more than one thing around my home. But that's not me, and the context in which I was told that was not "go help people fix their homes," it was "you will never - EVER - make it as a web developer, designer, writer, or artist. You need to find a comfortable job with a basic skillset and do that."

Teachers. "Friends." Family, you guys - the one group you're supposed to be able to rely on no matter what... They were awful. My birth father would get drunk when I was a kid and smash up everything. He'd break my pencils just to be an asshole. My older brother would melt my crayons with a torch. It was ridiculous.

And they can't get at me anymore. No one can. I realized the night I wrote the discipline post that my fire's extinguished... And I'm the one who put it out, and it's a great, great thing. I'm no longer motivated by "Fuck YOU, I sure as hell can write, or draw, or bench press a ton of plates, or play pro football, or whatever the hell I want! You can't stop me!" It's now "Man, this would be so cool to do. I think I'll go do it."

I'm not afraid of myself anymore. I'm not afraid of BEING myself. And that's part of why I finally wrote the "How to write, publish and sell your book" thing. I'm okay admitting to myself now that I AM a writer. I have succeeded. I get to create things for a living, and I don't have to hide from anyone or justify it to anyone or explain why I did it. I do okay at this here writing thing. And I can help people do okay at it as well, if I can just get over the shyness of saying out loud the various things I do and do well.

I'm not scared anymore. There's no more hate in me. I'm not letting anyone's "No you can't" make me prove I can. I'm just happy doing what I like doing... For the first time in my life. That flame which I thought was fueling me was consuming me.

You can't let anyone - ANYONE - own that much of you. Ever. Hate is a leash. You buck and you growl and you snarl, and still they're the ones keeping you tethered to them. You can hate them, or you can get the ultimate revenge... You can let them go forever and make them watch as you forget they even exist.

7.20.2010

The Absolute No-Bulls**t Guide To Writing, Publishing And Selling A Book, Chapter 5: Selling

The Absolute No-Bulls**t Guide To Writing, Publishing And Selling A Book

Introduction and Chapter 1: 90% Of What You Need To Know, In One Chapter
Chapter 2: Writing Your Book
Chapter 5: Selling Your Book

*        *        *

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams... And all that stands between you and your lifetime of fame is getting a copy of this book into every pair of hands in America (or Canada, or the UK, or wherever it is you wish to be famous).

When you figure that part out, let me know. I'm still working on it myself. Although, I have found one sure-fire method: be famous first. It helps a LOT. The rest of us... We're left hocking the thing the best we can to whomever will buy it. And based on the method of publishing you chose, you actually have two very different customers: the publisher and the reader.

This is where I, once again, trumpet the choice of self-publishing, because it allows you to actually sell to both readers and publishers. You can make a few bucks (if you're lucky) by selling it to readers who might recommend it to their friends, all the while trying to sell it to a publisher for a bigger distribution base. Or, just stick with selling it to readers if it's doing well enough (or you don't want to be a part of the big corporate machine... Which you will be if you sell to a publisher, whether you like it or not). And the other thing is that no matter which choice you make, you're selling to the readers. Selling to a publisher does not absolve you from the responsibility of selling your book to the readers. It just takes all the logistics off your shoulders.

Let's Say You Get A Book Deal...

You've gotten an agent... Or maybe you haven't. Maybe your cousin's best friend is on the intramural lacrosse team with an editor at a publisher. Or maybe you just threw the book proposal we discussed earlier into the mailbox, it went into the slush pile, and somehow it was selected, read, and liked. Whatever happened, you've now got the attention of a buying editor at a publisher. 

First thing to know: There's no "standard" book deal. How much you get as an advance, how much you get in royalties, how many books you'll be asked to deliver... Who knows. It all depends on how good your material is, how good your agent is (even if you are your own agent), and who the publisher is. What I can tell you are a few things you can expect. 

First, the advance... The big number with a bunch of zeroes that makes headlines when some breakout new author sells a future Hollywood movie featuring tons and TONS of pathos and stars Rachel McAdams book. Otherwise known as the fuel for every single wannabe author's dreams of never, ever working again due to their amazing imagination being validated by society at large. 

How much do you ask for in your advance? Shoot, go for a million bucks. It'll make the editor laugh, and starting with a joke always makes the process go easier. 

But really, the process is pretty basic. One of you starts with a number, and the other party either says "Hey, that's fair" and accepts or says "No, how about this" and counters. What number one of you starts with depends entirely on the potential market, the size of the publisher, and the strength of your material. I was courted by three publishing houses when I decided to sell to Gotham / Penguin. I received offers of $7,500, $27,500 and $50,000. Penguin was the middle offer. 

I chose them because I really liked the editor. He gets me. She understood what the book was trying to be: not another Tucker Max self-loveathon catered toward fratboys with gross misconceptions about how women work. The lowest offer came from a small publishing house that apparently specializes in blog-to-book properties, who got the process but didn't really offer much in the way of helping me grow. The highest came from another big-six publisher whose buying editor did not understand in the slightest what I was actually trying to achieve with my writing. 

$27,500 might sound like a lot of money. It's not. And it doesn't come all at once - it comes in three payments: one when you sign, one when you turn in the manuscript, and one when the book is published. Taking into account that the process takes about a year no matter who you are, it's hardly a big payday. 

It's called an "advance" for a reason. It's an advance against future royalties. This is not a big fat book check on top of all those millions of book sales you're going to make, it's a down payment. And until you sell enough books to make enough royalties to cover the advance payment, you won't be getting royalty checks. My royalty is 7.5% of cover price, which is $14.95 -- meaning I get $1.12 a book. This means I had to sell roughly 24,533 copies of my book to break even with the publisher's advance and begin receiving royalty checks. 

It's hard work selling enough copies to cover an advance. The publisher will want you to spend most of that advance on marketing and promotion efforts. Suggestions include hiring a web developer to build the book's website (they don't do this in-house - at least, mine doesn't), print / radio / web ads, Facebook app development, etcetera. The publisher does not pay for these things out of pocket unless there is a VERY good pitch placed in front of them. The pitch will require figures: anticipated sales that are generated by x demographic for y money. And you won't get it. Just letting you know. 

When I sold Mentally Incontinent to Gotham, the publishing industry still wasn't ready for internet-to-book properties for the sake of doing internet-to-book properties (which they apparently got over, because these days, anyone with a Tumblr account and a unique hook to collect photos of strange things will get a book deal. If you're looking for a shortcut to a book deal, this is the only one I have for you. Go figure out something clever to collect photographs of, slap captions on them, and profit). 

I got offers on my book from publishers because I was able to demonstrate a history of sales and an established audience. I had people I could sell my book to already lined up and ready to get my next book. This was vital, because my book never would have made it on the strength of its merits alone. I self-published first, stumbled upon success, and the publisher noticed. 

Had I not self-published, I would have had to convince a publisher that 1) a book full of short stories 2) written on the internet 3) by a non-famous person 4) about his life in suburban Georgia 5) that were selected by the readers was worth publishing. 

Right. Exactly. Now you see why I advocate self-publishing first. It doesn't matter how hard I tried to convince them that it was funny, touching, interesting or whatever. But when I can show them sales figures of people who bought it, there's no need to convince them. The readers who bought my book did that for me.


Selling it to Readers

The major thing that you need to know is that there is no magic sales fairy who will make your book sell, no matter whether you decide to self-publish or go through a traditional publisher. The publisher certainly has a motivation to promote you and help you sell your book... But they're also not stupid. They put the vast majority of their money and time into promoting books from celebrities and in categories they know they can make massive profits on.














Unless you fall into one of those two categories, it's going to be up to you. And if you self-publish, it's definitely up to you. The publisher may help promote your book. They may do some print or digital marketing - but as a first time author, chances will be slim. They will help you get some PR and book you on radio shows - but who listens to radio? Unless it's a politically-themed book and you get airtime on the yapping frothing fevered-ego talk shows (or, you're zany AND VERY VERY LUCKY and get a shot on Howard Stern), you're talking into the air and no one's listening. 


But at the end of the day, they're going to tell you what they told me, and what every single author I know heard with their first (and usually second and third and fourth) books. The publisher expects you to spend your advance on marketing and PR. They say (and they're right) that the more you spend promoting your book, the more you'll make up on the back end in royalties.

You can do a few things:

Buying print / tv ads. If you're a millionaire, and you just really want the world to know about your book as fast as possible, you can do this. It's expensive, and no one gives a crap about ads, especially for books. But you can do it.

Book reviews / mentions on blogs. Building relationships with people with a voice. The thing is, everyone wants a piece of these people, and blindly sending them your book meets with slightly less resistance than sending it to a publisher sight-unseen. And then, they may hate it. But it's an avenue.

Buy your way into the New York Times Bestseller List. Yes, you certainly can do this. The NYT Bestseller list is NOT a chart of best-selling books. It's editorialized. And if you hire the right number of old ladies in the right cities to buy your book on launch day from the right bookstores, you can end up there as an unknown author selling a billion copies. You're not actually selling a billion - more like a thousand. But because those stores are set up with BookScan (like Neilson ratings for tv), they register as a boatload of books. This service is very expensive, but hey... NYT Bestseller.

Hire a PR rep / publicist. Just like an agent is to the publisher, a PR rep is a shortcut between you and everyone in the industry with a voice who can chirp about your book. Unlike an agent, these guys get paid up front. They have to, because it's how their job works. There's no commission with publicity. With PR / publicity, the work gets done, and the performance of your book actually rests on your ability to a) communicate what it's about, and b) convince people they want it. You can get ten interviews in ten days on the top ten talk shows in the nation, and if your book is crap or you're unable to convince people quickly what it's about, there will be no sales. A good publicist will tell you how to handle this. For the record, I don't have a publicist, outside of the one Gotham assigned to me (and in-house publicists are not people you can command the time of too often, especially as a first-timer). I can't afford it, and I just don't see it as necessary.

Other things that cost a lot of money. Skywrite your book's title in the sky over every NASCAR event. Sponsor a NASCAR car. Buy an NFL team and take them to the Super Bowl, and stitch your book's title on the jersey of every player. You get my point.

Marketing is expensive. But one thing you can do that is relatively inexpensive if you do it right:

Tour. Tour like a motherfucker. Arrange signings in stores. If you're with a publisher, or if you hired a publicist yourself, you can have your publicist arrange signings, but there's no reason on earth why you can't do that yourself. It's as simple as calling the store of your choice, asking for the community relations person (or asking the person who answers the phone who you speak to if you want to arrange a signing), and you're off. If you've self-published, being in Ingram (the big catalog every store orders from) helps a LOT, because it shows the person making the decision that you're taking it seriously. But if you're not, it's not game over - they'll just ask you to sell them copies and ship them so they can prepare your signing. If you can bring 20 people to the store, they'll consider your day a success. Even if you can't, you can sell lots of books by being interesting. Be a carnival barker - don't be afraid to stop people walking by and ask them if they'd be interested in hearing what your book is about.

And touring gets a LOT easier if you...

Build an audience first. This is what I did, albeit by accident. I didn't actually intend to build a huge audience who would eventually help push my book along, I just thought it was a very cool thing to write a book, and a very cool thing to let readers tell me what they wanted in the book. When I released my first book, I had a base of people I could ask to show up to my signings and bring friends, and a network of couches I could crash on as I toured around to keep costs down.

The internet makes things so easy these days - you stick your stuff out there and you tell people about it, and if it's not shit, you can build an audience. I fully believe that EVERY SINGLE BOOK ever written has an audience somewhere. There are people out there who build bat boxes, people. These are boxes that bats live in. People build these. And trust me, before they built one, they bought a book about building a bat box. You get my point?

And by sticking stuff out on the net, you open the door for people to discover you and, much much much more importantly, share you with someone they know. How you do this can be discovered in detail on other marketing, web development and social networking blogs - and yes, I'll write a guide on how to do this part as a supplement to this guide eventually. For now, it's important to know that in 2010, this is not only a great way to market and promote your book, it's pretty much essential.

Because I had an audience first, I could put my book on pre-sale before I printed copies so I could gauge how many to print in the initial run. When it came to promoting it, I found college campuses the best place on earth to get the word out - if I could reach one motivated reader in college, before I knew it, I had 100+ fans from that school, and they appreciated greatly the fact that they could read what I wrote without having to buy it first. It actually encouraged them to buy the book as a souvenir.

I got to a point where, if I could sell 20 or so books per signing, I could break even. And I did, a lot. I targeted independent bookstores who had mailing lists of committed, happy customers who came to events, and found those to be the best signings. The bigger stores were cool, too -- just harder. We had parties at night, and I kept my food expenses low by stopping at grocery stores and buying bread, peanut butter and jelly and eating that nearly 3 meals a day.

And now that Kindle and iPad / iPhones are making books just a click away from being read, the market is completely reinvigorated - it's a huge wide-open market. Now, I personally read paper books. I HATE reading e-books. I just can't stand them. I don't know what it is... Maybe I'm just a crusty old curmudgeon. But there are millions of ebooks sold a year via Amazon and Apple's iBook store, so that means there's a gigantic market full of people who DO like reading digitally.

Having a solid internet presence makes it easy as hell to make your book one simple click away from purchase and delivery. And if you self-publish, this is doubly exciting, because the actual return on investment is huge - there's no physical product to produce or ship. Profit goes up. You have more money to promote your book. Rinse, repeat, success.

And how do you know when you're successful? It's a question I get constantly when I do talks and whatnot. And my only answer: when you've reached your goals. If your goal is to write a book, you're a success the moment you type "The End." If your goal is to sell a million copies, well, you have a LOT of work ahead of you. My goal was to sell 100 copies of my first book. I beat that goal in the first hour of pre-orders. I had no idea what sort of community I was sitting on. I hope the same happens for you - I hope you set a low goal that would make you happy beyond your wildest dreams, and you beat it into oblivion. And there's the cautionary tale - set manageable goals. Or, to get all Buddah, be happy with less, because you'll be way happier with more if it comes. It'll be a great ride. No need to set yourself up for disappointment.

But whatever you do, and I cannot stress this enough: Don't quit your day job.

Summing Up

I hope this guide has done two things: 1) discouraged the people who think it's all writing jackets and pipes and being a "writer", and 2) encouraged the rest of you. You CAN do it. You just have to understand that it's a lot of hard work.

That doesn't mean it's a job, however. I consider jobs things you do in return for money when you'd rather be doing something else. To date, I have not found anything else in the world I'd rather be doing than writing, producing and sharing my books with you guys. Every single ounce of the process is amazing for me, even when it's painful and my brain's being stubborn and bookstores are being difficult and radio hosts try to make you the butt of the joke. It's a fantastic experience to watch someone who started off ready to make you sorry you ever showed up change into someone who believes in what you're up to.

And if you believe in it - really, seriously, honestly believe in it, enough to do the work and push through the hard times and make this happen - you can convert them. All you have to do is make them feel what you feel... And that's what you do, isn't it? You're a writer, after all.

So go write.








7.19.2010

Lack of Discipline

I completely lack discipline right now.

There was a point in time, oh, about six months ago when I was super disciplined. I was at the gym twice a day. I wrote something new every single day. I ate right.

I had a bag of chips and a pint of orange sherbet for dinner, people. And that was at 5:30PM, when I was supposed to be at the gym.

I've been trying the past few weeks to get it back, you know? Trying to establish regimen and set goals and push myself. I've done pretty well - I wrote four out of five parts of a series I've been sitting on for about a year (The writing / publishing thing, which will be done tomorrow). I went to the gym 4 days last week. I ate okay.

It's not enough. The antithesis of discipline is not failure, it's "okay." Sometimes doing what you said you'd do. Lax standards, but just enough work to make yourself feel like you're getting somewhere. I need that back.

I don't have an answer or a plan, save for confession. For some reason, every time I confess things like this to you guys, I go get my shit together. I'm hoping this is the case here. I hope that tomorrow I'll wake up terrified that you guys are going to start hammering me on why I didn't go to the gym or post that last peice of the thing I said would be done last week or finally announce the new book project.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.

7.16.2010

The Absolute No-Bulls**t Guide To Writing, Publishing And Selling A Book, Chapter 4: Self-Publishing

The Absolute No-Bulls**t Guide To Writing, Publishing And Selling A Book

Introduction and Chapter 1: 90% Of What You Need To Know, In One Chapter
Chapter 2: Writing Your Book
Chapter 4: Publishing Your Book, Part 2: Self Publishing (you are here)
Chapter 5: Selling Your Book

*        *        *

Chapter 4: Publishing Your Book (Self-Publishing)

The one thing you need to realize right here, right now: It's all on you. 

It can be overwhelming. And yeah, when you start thinking about the fact that you are now responsible for editing, layout, cover design, printing, proofing, distribution and warehousing, you're probably going to feel a bit nervous. But that's why we're here, and why I am writing this. With just a little bit of homework, you can actually handle all of this yourself, or cut costs on having others handle it for you. 

You don't have to do this alone. But it does ultimately fall on you. You're making all the decisions. It's really quite liberating. And at the end of it, you're guaranteed to have a book in your hands. A trophy to celebrate all your hard work. How much it sparkles and shines, though, depends on how much effort and attention to detail you put into the process. 

One good thing - you don't have to format a formal manuscript like when you submit to a publisher / agent, unless you want to for your editor. Good thing too, cause that format is ugly. 


First Thing's First: Your Intentions

Are you planning on making a go of this as a business, or are you just doing a few copies (or a few hundred copies) as gifts for friends? 

If you're doing the gift thing, use Lulu.com - it's the easiest, quickest most direct way to put a book out at minimal cost to yourself. The books come out looking pretty good when you use the "professional" quality setting, and you'll save yourself a ton of effort on logistics (warehousing, shipping, getting an ISBN, etc). You upload a word document or pdf, choose a simple layout and design, put a picture on the cover and automagically, it becomes a book. Done. Glad I could help. Same goes if you want an e-book, but have no idea how to create a .mobi or other ebook format.

If you're planning on taking this further - building a customer base, marketing and selling your books, distribution to stores and through Amazon... There's a lot to talk about. I'm going to start with the "Everything else" first, because believe it or not, it's shorter.

Everything Else That Isn't Actually Publishing (Or, "Cover your ass")

I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. 

That said, I highly recommend you start a business. You don't have to, but consider it. The process is remarkably simple - you file some paperwork in your local municipality, and you're done. You can be a sole proprietorship, a corporation or an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation). I chose LLC because, to make a long story short, you get all of the separation of liability benefits you get with a corporation, without any of the paperwork overhead (no meetings, no officers, etc). When you pay your taxes at the end of the year, it's "tax-through" - you do it on your personal taxes. It's simple. 

The IRS has a great checklist for their side of the business. READ IT. Know it. You're responsible for your own taxes. Do the paperwork right. Use LegalZoom - they're more expensive than doing it yourself, but it's no-muss, no-fuss. Don't get cute - file the paperwork in the state you live in, unless you plan on growing the corporation to a multi-million dollar a year industry. If you don't want to use LegalZoom, your state's Department of Revenue website will have filing instructions. I did mine myself, and it cost me $60 in the state of Georgia to start my LLC. I wish I'd used LegalZoom, though, as my initial articles of incorporation were wrong. The extra $150 would have saved me a bunch of time and money. 

Name your company whatever you want - YourNameIndustries, LLC is just fine. Then, file a DBA (Doing Business As). You can then legally do business under any names you file - including your personal name. Keeps things simple. My company is This Is Not Art! Productions, and I have a DBA for This Is Not Art! - that way I can be all vain and call it that if I want. 

Next, file your EIN - this is like a Social Security Number, but for your business. You may never use it, but if you open a line of credit or a credit card, you'll want to use this number instead of your EIN for separation of purchase crap. 

Next, open a checking account for the business. KEEP ALL BUSINESS MONEY SEPARATE. At worst, if you're a corporation or LLC, a judge can rule that you didn't keep things separate enough and you're on the hook if anyone sues you or your corporation. Basically, your house will be on the line if you fuck up as your corporation. Don't let that happen. 

Now, since you're about to publish your own book, you're about to incur expenses -- the editor, the printing costs, shipping, any services you hire to help you out, packing materials, pens, envelopes, gas when driving to book signings. Keep tabs on every ounce of this, and write it all off on your taxes.

Next, figure out a place where you can do the work of packaging and shipping books (if you're only doing an e-book, this won't be an issue). If you plan to order copies in bulk and store them, you need a place to do that. Just make sure you heed my warning in the introduction about properly sealing garage doors. 

Uline.com offers packing materials in bulk for decent prices. This is who you'll want to use to box, tape, label and marker your book packaging if you ship them yourself. 


Okay, Now The Publishing

There are literally hundreds of ways you can go about publishing your own book. If you do Google "Self Publishing," you're going to be inundated with hundreds of companies who all promise to guide you along the path of putting your book out. 

My job is to cut through the shit and tell you what to do, right? So the first thing is that most of the companies out there offering print on demand aren't actually "print on demand" companies, they're vanity press companies who do their printing on demand. They will sell you high-priced packages, mark up the cost of an ISBN and charge you for being listed in Ingram, and ultimately cost you way too much to be worth it - regardless of whether you choose to do this for yourself and friends, or build a business of it. 

For physical paper books, there's really only three options: Bulk, Full-Service Print-on-Demand, and Partial-Service Print-on-Demand. 

For each of these options, I'll use an example book that is paperback  perfect bound, 240 pages, 5.5" x 8.5" (Digest size), color cover with black and white interior on bright white (professional) paper... A professional quality book that doesn't look like shit. Don't worry if you don't know what some of these terms are or what your various options are - we'll go over that in a bit. Just know that what I've described above is the "standard" paperback book that isn't pocket edition. It looks like this:




Bulk Printing: Hire a book printer who will print copies of your book in quantity and ship them to you. When you run out, place another order. 

Pros: High-quality copies (provided you did your research and picked a good printer). It's what the publishers do. The cheapest of the options per copy. If you're certain you can sell inventory and you're concern is the bottom line, do this. It's what the major publishers do. Our example book would cost about $2.20 a copy starting at 1000 copies, and price breaks go into effect as you go up in quantity. If you already know you can sell 10k copies of your book, do this. The savings will be VERY worth it, as you can save between $2.50 and $5.00 per book, depending on the other services you might have used, and $12,500 - $50,000 is a LOT of money. But unless you have a pre-order sheet with paid sales in those figures, you probably still want to investigate print on demand.

Cons: You have to manage inventory and distribution, minimum orders are pretty large quantities that require a substantial investment up front (usually 1000 copies, so $2250ish), shipping is expensive, you're responsible for shipping EVERY SINGLE BOOK for every single order, regardless of source. You'll have to produce a separate e-book if you want one.

Notes: This is the most hands-on, but also most profitable of the solutions. It's not what I did, because I didn't anticipate selling a lot of copies. If I had to do it over again, I might consider this more due to the number of copies I actually did sell... But ultimately would still use Lightning Source. Plus I really didn't want to be responsible for Amazon / bookstore orders. You'll have to create an imprint yourself if you plan on getting an ISBN. Remember also that every minute you spend doing one thing is a minute you can't spend doing something else - if you're shipping books all day, you can't market them. If you hire someone to ship the books, will you pay them as much as if you just went print-on-demand?


Full Service + Print on Demand: These services are much less hands-on - they tend to market the fact that they're fire and forget. Send a document to them, wait a few days, proof your book, and boom - you have a book. 

There's only one option I personally recommend, and it's Lulu.com. Lulu is the simplest, but also most fully-featured, of the full-service print-on-demand options out there. Others that i've heard not terrible things about are iUniverse.com and Trafford.com - I can't personally recommend either, and in researching them, they seem awfully expensive and "package oriented". So I say stick with lulu. 

Lulu not only does all of the heavy lifting when converting your document (be it word, text or fully-laid-out PDF), but they also have a digital marketplace where your book will be sold. They also make it available in Amazon.com (if you want it). It's Print-on-Demand, meaning when an order comes in, they print it at the point of sale. They also handle shipping it to the buyer, and they deposit the profit into an account for you.  They also make ebook formats and put you in both the Kindle Marketplace and Apple iBook store.

Pros: No out-of-pocket costs (unless you buy a proof copy), so low barrier to entry. VERY simple to get the book from document to print / e-book. Print on demand, so there's no warehousing on your end. Drop-ships to buyers, so you don't have to ship every order. Offers full service packages if you need help or want professional services, like layout, design, editing. Offers an ISBN service, so your book can be registered and found by people. Pretty much a one-stop shop for both paper and e-book. Puts you in Amazon if you buy the ISBN package.  If you don't want to buy the ISBN, you can just sell in the Lulu Marketplace. Offers Kindle and iBook (Apple) publishing options.

Cons: VERY EXPENSIVE OVERALL - even though you're not fronting any money, the per-copy price is by far the most expensive option on this list, at $6.70 a copy for our example book (you can cut costs down by choosing "standard" paper, but the book will look like shit). Every copy will be "published" by Lulu Press, not your fancy imprint name. On Amazon, it'll be listed as published by lulu. Like it or not, "Lulu Press" is synonymous with "crap." I hate this, but it's true. ISBN is marked up like crazy. Editing service is a bit too closed off, the editor isn't someone you can meet and trust (as they're outsourced). Book isn't listed in Ingram by default (the catalog most every bookstore orders from). Distribution is not set with bookstores, so if you want to sell to them, you have to manage that. Even on the "professional" paper option, the covers still look a little sub-par. Bulk discounts for large orders don't apply on "professional" paper option. 

Notes: Lulu is pretty much the easiest option on the list if you can overcome the stigma of having Lulu Press on your book and marketing material. Very expensive per copy, but that's because they literally do everything for you. Even though you can just upload a word doc to them and have it turn into a book, I still highly recommend you lay it out so it looks professional (and you can put your own personal touches on it). This is the option if you seriously feel like everything else is just too much to handle, but know that you'll never create a sustainable business out of it - you'll eventually need to move to Lightning Source or bulk printing. 


Partial Service Print on Demand: Lightning Source. These guys are who I use, and there's a huge reason why. Even though I had to do all the pre-printing stuff myself, the books come out looking 100% top notch professional. They list you in Ingram, who is the major catalog for book sellers in the US and UK. They handle shipping to resellers, and you can order in bulk to cut the cost. They require that you set up an imprint, which is going to require that you set up a business (you need a Tax ID). They output both physical and e-books. The price is middle-of-the-road for all options, at about $4.40 per copy of our sample book. There is a set-up fee, but it's only $50 (whereas Lulu.com is free). But again, because it's print-on-demand, you're not paying up front to produce books (unless you have pre-orders, and bulk order prices do apply, cutting costs a bit).

Pros: Ingram, plain and simple. You're now in every bookstore in the nation (but not on the shelves - more on this in Selling). Drop-ship for orders placed by every retailer, meaning you don't have to ship books to most bookstore yourself, they can just order it. Available in US, UK and Canada. Manuscripts are published in both physical and e-book format, and made available to retailers. Price is decent for print-on-demand / drop ship. Covers are bright and vibrant, books are very professional quality. Bulk discounts for quantity (roughly $3.60 for 1000 copies of our sample book). 

Cons: You have to manage all pre-press yourself. Layout, editing, ISBN, cover, etc. I personally wanted to do all of that myself. Very hands-off. You must have a tax ID to set up an imprint. No marketplace to offer the book if you don't have an ISBN (unlike Lulu). No automatic Kindle / iBook store integration (but it's easy enough to do yourself). There is a setup fee per book of $50, and proof copies are $50 each. But at $100 bucks, it's a super cheap trade to get into Ingram and not deal with logistics.


*    *    *   

Once you've picked your method of printing, there's a process to go through. If you chose Lulu.com, you're pretty much good to go (except I still recommend highly that you format the book in a layout program instead of just uploading a word document, but that's a style thing). 


Getting an ISBN + Barcode

If you want to be found in libraries, Amazon, or at all, you need an ISBN. The International Standardized Book Number is how everyone who isn't a friend of yours will locate your book. Simply having an ISBN doesn't guarantee that your book can be ordered through Amazon or other retailers -- you have to set up distribution with buyers so they know how to actually get your book. That's why Lulu and Lightning Source are so useful - they are the distribution for your book, and they list you with retailers (Lulu with Amazon, Lightning Source with everyone who buys through Ingram including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million, etc). 

There's only one place you can get an ISBN, and that's through Bowker. You can buy just one, and it'll cost you $125, or you can buy them in quantity starting at ten for $250 - I went with ten, because hell, I know a bargain when I see one.

When you register your ISBN, you'll have to set up the book's metadata. This is the title, publisher / imprint, category, description, long description, etc. This is the stuff that shows up on your book's Amazon / store listing page, so write it well and choose carefully. 

You'll also get the barcode that you'll put on your book. I'm sure this part is self-explanitory.


Laying out the book

If you want the book to look professional on the inside, you'll want to use something like Adobe InDesign or Quark Express to lay it out. These programs have huge learning curves and aren't free - so unless you're the intrepid digital explorer I am, you may want to hire this part out. But I sincerely hope you'll do this step, instead of just uploading a word document to lulu. Trust me -- it does make a huge difference in how the book comes out.

I found the process of laying out a book very, very rewarding. But also very frustrating. I made some big mistakes when I put out the first Mentally Incontinent -- I chose a terrible font (verdana), but my intention was to bring some of the "websitey" aspect of the writing to the book. I also started some chapters on the left page - never do that. Chapters start on the right side. Everything else is going to be your own personal aesthetic. Look in books you like and see how they're laid out.


Designing the cover

You can just slap black text on a blue background and have it be your cover, but it'll look every bit as bad as it sounds. Seriously, design a nice cover. Hire a designer. Everyone says you can't judge a book by it's cover, and while this is true about the quality, you sure as hell can determine a book is ugly by its color. Attractive things may not necessarily instantly sell, but ugly things definitely take more convincing. Who needs the hassle? Your job is hard enough.  The big thing is the barcode for the back cover. You need to have that there, along with the ISBN and price of your book. 


The Proof

Once you've gotten the pdfs of the book and the cover to the printer, you will have the option of buying a proof copy. DO IT. It's $50 for a proof copy at Lightning Source, and it'll save you a TON in recalls or reprints if you find mistakes (or rather, when you find mistakes). The most important thing you do when you get your proof copy is pop open a bottle of champaign, because lo and behold - you have a book. 


Submitting a revision

Most everyplace you have your book printed will have a process for revisions. It's as simple as uploading a corrected copy of your book document and / or cover. It'll cost you to print a new proof copy, and Lightning Source will charge you another setup fee. 


And now it exists. Your book is a real life no kidding thing.  Time to sell the sucker. 

7.15.2010

A Slight Delay In The Writing / Publishing thingy...

Sorry guys, today got away from me. I'm working on Part 4 right now - it's LONG. LONG LONG LONG. It likely won't be up before midnight. But I'll try to get it up tomorrow, as well as Selling (Part 5).

I apologize.

7.14.2010

The Absolute No-Bulls**t Guide To Writing, Publishing And Selling A Book, Chapter 3: Publishing Part 1

The Absolute No-Bulls**t Guide To Writing, Publishing And Selling A Book

Introduction and Chapter 1: 90% Of What You Need To Know, In One Chapter
Chapter 2: Writing Your Book
Chapter 3: Publishing Your Book, Part 1: Traditional Publishing (you are here)
Chapter 5: Selling Your Book

*        *        *

Chapter 3: Publishing Your Book (Traditional Publishing)

I want to be as clear as I possibly can, right away: I want you to self-publish your first book. The reasons are myriad, but the most important of them is that, in 2010, you do not need anyone's permission or seal of approval to do what you've always dreamed of.

There is one incredibly undeniable fact in the world of publishing: Your chances of having a book published by a traditional publisher increase exponentially when you can prove success in the writing market. The book market isn't dead, but thanks to the internet and the whole of the earth finally deciding gaming is cool, it's nowhere near what it was ten or even five years ago. Every single editor at every single publisher in the world has to put food on the table by making decisions on what to buy and what not to buy.

To a publisher, you are a business decision. You will cost [x] amount of money to retain, they will print [n] copies of your book which will cost [y] amount, then they have to spend [z] to market and promote and ship your book. They have to pay the salaries of the sales guys they employ to sell your book to bookstores, who see you as a whole new set of business decisions. In total, you will cost them [x] + ([y] * [n]) + [z], and if your book proposal doesn't immediately convey that you can cover that expenditure, you get a nice form letter saying thanks but no thanks. If you're lucky, they'll even sign it by hand and put your name at the top.

If they even read it, that is. Because without an agent or a contact, your book proposal comes through the mail room along with hundreds (at a small publisher) to thousands (at a large publisher) of others. A week. It's called a slush pile, and it's a God-awful mess of a thing to see in person. Here's a fantastic article about Tor, the legendary Sci-Fi publisher, that features a few great pics of their slush pile. To keep you from having to click It looks like this:



That's their morning slush pile. One day's worth.

And don't think that decorating it in clever stickers or mailing it in a metal coffin or any other slick packaging is going to get you read. Unless it's REALLY clever (and by this, I mean so clever, you're better off putting that effort into your own marketing efforts on your own book so you make money on your book), it actually stands less of a chance of being read. And sending it registered mail with signature required will get you the signature of the already annoyed mailroom guy who has to deal with misconceptions on how this shit really works every single day.

I'm not saying this to discourage you. This is reality. I've seen it with my own eyes. I've watched an editorial assistant dump a box of submissions into the canvas wheelie trash bin unopened, at three separate publishing houses. They weren't making a show if it, it's daily life.

Let me be as direct as I possibly can: I really, really, really, really hope you'll self-publish your first book. Really. And that's not because I want you to pay any sort of dues and experience the hard work and cut your teeth on the experience or any of that. It's because I want you to have your book. It's the whole point of writing this guide. It's an incredible and powerful feeling; the moment you open the box containing your proof copy. You have a book in your hands with your name on the cover, and your stuff in the middle, and holy shit, you just did it. It'll motivate you beyond belief.

The chances of that happening with your first book if you choose the traditional publishing route are drastically reduced by several orders of magnitude. And here's the really great thing - when you self-publish, you own all the rights and the copyright, so if you ever do get tired of selling it out of the back of your truck, you can just package that sucker right up and send it to every publisher you were going to send the manuscript to, only now you'll have sales figures and a history of executing under your belt. Yep, that exact same book can still be published by the publisher. It's still your manuscript, it's just in book form, and has earned you a few bucks along the way.

I'll be discussing the financial aspects of selling your book to a publisher vs. self-publishing it and selling it to your readers directly in Chapter 5. For now, just know that the second money starts getting exchanged for things - even art - it's business. And thanks to the internet and print-on-demand technology, it's now easier than ever to just skip the middleman and, in the process, actually create this thing you've worked so hard making.

Now, on to the process.


The Manuscript

Remember all that stuff I told you not to worry about while writing the book in Chapter 2? Well, now it's time to worry about it.

You can submit your manuscript any way you want. There's no rule that says the Post Office will refuse to deliver your package if your manuscript isn't set up just so. But if you want the editor to take it seriously, you'll want to do a few things. These rules apply whether you're submitting it to a publisher directly, or sending it to a potential agent.

1) Set up the manuscript. You'll need a cover page. In the top right corner, list the category of the book, followed by the word count. Middle aligned, in the middle of the page, put the title of the book (in bold), then "by", then your name. Put your copyright notice if you want, your name, address and contact info at the bottom. It should look like this:




The document should be double-spaced, with 1" margins all around. All paragraphs begin with an indent, not an extra hard return (don't double-double space). 12 or 14 point font, in a readable standard font. I like Georgia or Times New Roman for a serif font (recommended). Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma, Verdana for sans-serif.  Some guides recommend monotype (that font you see on movie scripts). Whatever you do, don't use some cutesie or fancy or scripty font. And I swear to God, if you use Comic Sans or Papyrus, I'll hunt you down and slap you myself. Running headers on every single page, in the format of LastName / BookTitle / PageNumber (e.g. Peacock / Mentally Incontinent / 4). It should look like this:




Chapter heading pages should list the chapter number and chapter title (if there is one) at the top, and the manuscript copy should begin in the middle of the page, like so:




If you're wondering why the format is the way it is, read this incredible article by Annie Mini, who has a fair deal of expertise in these matters. Personally, I think the format looks stupid, but apparently people who edit books and read manuscripts all day like this way of doing it.

So do it.

If you want to, you can actually write your book in manuscript format to save a step. I can't stand it myself, so I write first, then format later.

It's not time to print it yet. First you have to:

2) Edit. Hire that editor I talked to you about. I don't care how much you edited it yourself, which of your aunts who got straight A's in English in college looked it over, or how many times you ran spellcheck. Hire a professional editor. There'll be several of them at any of the colleges near you. They work in the English department, and they'd relish the opportunity to work on your manuscript for a few hundred dollars. If you don't live near a college, or the one near you has a particularly horrible reputation, there are likely proofreading services near you.


I can't recommend Googling "Proofreaders" and using any of the services listed, because when I just now did that, I was inundated with lowest bidders. You can if you like, but I'd recommend you get to talk to and know the person who now stands between you and the impression you're about to make on the publishing house. 

Be sure the editor you choose understands what you're trying to achieve with your writing if you're deviating from standard formats. If you're writing in dialect (like Huckleberry Finn), make it clear so they don't bleed red all over your manuscript (my advice: don't write in dialect, seriously. You want  a character to sound Irish in someone's head, write "She said in her crisp Irish brogue, 'I want you to eat my soup.' Don't bother with "Aye went yew ta' eat me soooooup." It's distracting, and your reader's plenty smart enough to imagine an Irish dialect when you ask them to). 

If your editor prefers to work digitally and is using Microsoft Word or Pages for Mac (or OpenOffice), and they plan to use Track Changes, make damn sure you have a word processing program that can support it, or else all their changes will just show up and you'll wonder where the edits were made. 

Once you've gotten your edited manuscript, go through it. ALL of it. Make sure you're happy with the proposed changes. You should trust your editor on all suggestions regarding grammar and spelling, but don't be afraid to push back on content suggestions. You're paying for it, after all, and it's your book. 

That said, don't be an idiot. If it really does sound better the way they suggest it, just take the suggestion. Get rid of the ego. 

Now, you're ready to get that manuscript in front of folks. But before you do, you need to make a decision.

An Aside: To Agent Or Not To Agent

I didn't have an agent when Gotham bought the second Mentally Incontinent book. My book was passed to a buying editor via another Gotham author, and the editor contacted me directly. But without that "insider" help, it's very, very likely my book never would have made it to an editor's desk.

That's what an agent is... A good one anyway. They have contacts. They know the market. They look at your work and determine if it's something they can represent, and once they do, they go represent it. They know the market, they know the language of the industry, and they collect %15 off the top. And getting through to an agent is almost more difficult than getting through to an editor at a publisher. The editor is salaried; the agent works on commission. They don't get paid unless you get paid, and so they're extra, extra, extra picky.

That said, you don't have to have one. But unsolicited manuscripts -- those are the ones you send with no representation, sight unseen, through the mail room -- end up on the slush pile, and we already discussed how that works. If you know how to market yourself, bargain for a better advance and royalty, and know someone who knows a guy who went to college with another dude who is owed a favor by an editor, by all means, save the 15%.

Google is NOT the place to find agents for hire, it's the place to research the ones you find in The Writer's Market (the link goes to the 2010 edition). Seriously, if you're going to look for an agent, just use The Writer's Market. Googling "Literary Agent" is going to return a ton of people out there looking to charge you reading fees or build their little boutique business.

When you do look in The Writer's Market, you want to find agents who represent what you write. If you wrote an epic Sci-Fi novel, don't query a mystery agent, or a short-story agent, or any other agent besides a Sci-Fi agent. You're wasting your time and theirs. They specialize in markets for a reason. Sending your amazing poetry to a historical fiction agent is stupid. Even if they were to actually take you seriously, do you want that person trying to sell your work outside of their market?

If you do find an agent, you will sign an agreement. This agreement will likely be 15% commission, plus expenses of printing and mailing your manuscript / proposal to publishers. They won't bill you until it sells. Like I said in the intro, DO NOT PAY AN AGENT A SINGLE CENT. No agent collects up front unless they're a scam artist.

Listen to the agent. They know the market. They know the publishers. They're your mama. Do what they say. That said, they're also your employee. If you're not happy, feel free to fire them. But know that ANY book they represented when you signed the agreement, if you sell it somewhere else without them, will still be subject to that 15% fee. Is this a scam? I dunno, that's a lawyer question, and I've not experienced that yet. But I know it'll happen. So be aware.

4) Submit the Manuscript. If you choose to pursue an agent, you'll have to submit the manuscript to them. Print the sucker out on bright white, 8.5" x 11" standard letter-size paper. Don't get cute and use non-standard sized paper, colored paper, tinted paper, recycled paper with the little flecks of what used to be toilet paper showing through the fabric... Bright. White. Letter. Sized.

Place it in an envelope unfolded and unbound. The editor or agent (we'll get to that) will be flipping through it pretty fast, and on my editor's desk is a special bin especially for removed staples from submitted manuscripts. Use a binder clip if you want, but don't bind it. 

Write your name VERY CLEARLY on the envelope in the return area. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want a reply, otherwise you likely won't get one. What, you expect them to buy a stamp AND get you an advance? 

If you choose not to use an agent, all of the above applies. But you have to add more - the book proposal. This is a big package that basically explains how and why you think you're going to get this book off the book store shelves. If you use an agent, they'll do this. This is actually a great summary of a book proposal. You will include two chapters (or, enough material to get the idea of what the book is about and that you can actually write) in your proposal. Should you include the whole manuscript? Sure, why not. 

We'll discuss the advance and royalties and money bits in Chapter 5: Selling Your Book. For now, here's what to expect if a publisher takes on your book.

If your manuscript is 100% complete, you can expect about a year before the book is ready to hit shelves. If it's not, they'll set up terms for delivery of the final manuscript. If the manuscript isn't delivered in time, and they don't give you an extension (which, the book would have to either deal with timely / dated material, or you've been a rotten ass and they hate you), your deal will end and you'll have to return the advance. 

It takes about a year at a publisher for a book to get edited, go through the sales briefings, get to the printer, have the cover designed, and all the other stuff that goes into a publisher publishing your book (it took me 14 months, because I sat on the damn manuscript for too long). It's why they get paid 90% or more of your book sales. If you publish it yourself, you'll be doing all of that, which we'll cover in the next chapter... But having gone both routes, I feel all that work is worth the effort.

A few notes, based on questions I've actually been asked about this process:

Agents and publishers are not looking to steal your work. If you're worried about that, stop. They don't have the time or resources to worry with passing your work off to someone else to write for less money or whatever. It's so much easier to just let the person who came up with the good idea write the thing.

You're not getting a two hundred thousand dollar advance. Don't buy that Viper just yet.

You're not selling the copyright to the work. You always own that. You're selling the rights to publish and distribute in print, digital and possibly audio.

If things go really well and you end up with two publishers expressing interest, don't start getting all Wall Street on them. You can let each know that the other is interested, and you might see a bidding war, but more than likely they'll just say "Okay, well, we hope you pick us, but if you don't, good luck." The industry knows itself, just like you know a lot of people in your current industry. And they talk. Start pitting one against the other, and you can expect they'll just call each other and figure it out.