Just like any other career, in becoming an author there is a starting point. And just like every starting point, it can be maddening to know if you are making all the right moves. Nobody enjoys going into something blind, and one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who enjoys looking like a fool on the first day of a new job. While the hours aren’t measured in quite the same way as your average nine-to-five, there is still this “new job” fear when approaching publishers with your work (be it novel, short story, or anything). To help ease your fear, here are five things to be aware of when beginning your work with any publisher.
They’re the Boss
Every publisher has a certain way they like things done. Some prefer paper submissions, while others will only take e-mail. Some like one font, while others think that Times New Roman or Courier New is blasphemy. Some want double-spaced, some want a certain word count (especially true of short stories). And in all this, there is one thing that the author must be aware of: publishing, like writing, is still a business, and the publishers are the boss. Take the time to read (really read) what each publisher is looking for in a submission. And if you have any questions, do not be afraid to ask for clarification (but do make sure you are polite about it). Some publishers will allow certain wiggle-rooms, while others are rigid about what they want and don’t want. As a salesperson trying to sell a product, be aware of your buyer.
They Might Not Get It
… And that’s okay. Especially if this follows an acceptance. Maybe you referenced an old movie, or shared some clever wordplay in your work, and your publisher is trying to correct it. They are only human, so try explaining it. If they understand and still want a change, then do not be afraid to consider this. And especially if you’ve explained and they still don’t get it. The problem then might lie with you. And if they’re “not getting it” follows a rejection, don’t despair! Simply try your work with another publisher. A rejection is not the end of the world.
Most Don’t Care about Experience
If this is truly your first time publishing a work-or attempting to publish one, you may be fretting over the lack of credits to your name. Again, like being aware of what a publisher wants in a submission, be aware of what a publisher wants in an author. Most really don’t care whether you’ve been published before or not. Just remember, logically, how would anyone ever be published if nobody ever accepted new authors?
Read Your Contract
So you’ve been accepted, congratulations! What follows is editing and, excitingly, your contract. Unlike the Terms of Agreement on some software you purchased, you might want to take a moment and actually read over what you’re agreeing to. This is your work, and these rights that you’re giving over are legally binding once your contract is signed. Be aware of what you’re doing in this phase. Some things to look for: payment, rights given, how long the publisher will hold the copyright, whether that copyright holds rights over the characters or just that single work, and what the publisher is saying they can do to alter or sell your work, and whether the publisher has the right to make edits or changes without your permission.
Above All Else, It’s Still Your Work
Being flexible about edits is definitely important, but with that flexibility should come the knowledge that if they want too much changed, you still have the right to say “no.” Or to offer a different solution rather than one they might be suggesting. Explain why you don’t want a certain change, or ask why the editor feels this change should be made. A compromise is best, but it is perfectly acceptable to be as involved as possible with your work and its changes.