The more I learned about how to get published, the more I realized I would need more than one plan for getting there. I’d started researching how other people got their books out in the world years before I was close to having a manuscript I felt able to submit. I discovered I needed a document professionally edited and formatted in a certain way. Plus an elevator pitch, synopsis, and query letter, all of them perfect.
This would guarantee I’d find an agent who would take my novel and sell it to one of the Big Five publishers. They would, of course, fight over my book, pay me a huge advance, buy the movie rights, and sign me up for a two-book contract. Experts agreed this was the only way to do it.
And then the real publishing world, which seemed to be changing from day to day, intervened.
At that point, I only had one plan—the one above, which I subsequently called Plan A. I queried lots of agents and finally found one with the help of a friend, which is often the way. She did her damnedest to sell the book. I got a revise-and-resubmit, but by the time the new manuscript was ready, the editor who’d asked for it had moved to another publisher and only wanted cozy mysteries. My agent wondered if I could rewrite it as a mystery. I thought not.
I needed a Plan B. I would submit it myself to small independent traditional publishers. I’d researched and tried some of them before, with my memoir, only to be rejected or ignored. I thought my novel might do better.
Using my handy elevator pitch, synopsis, and query letter, I submitted. This time it was easier because most small publishers prefer you to do so via Submittable. Six months later, I was ready to admit that this wasn’t going to work either. The only publisher who came back to me loved the novel, but wouldn’t be able to schedule publication until three years hence, and since I’m approaching the shady side of seventy, I didn’t want to wait.
Plans C and D were all that remained. Plan D was to self-publish—the least expensive way to go. But that would mean a huge learning curve and a great deal of subcontracting. Cover design, formatting, ISBN numbers, proofreading, distribution…the list went on and on.
So, I turned to my Plan C, hybrid publishing, and here’s why. A good hybrid publisher offers all of the things I mentioned above: design, editing, proofing, and even marketing. They require more research than traditional indie publishers, because the quality of their work, and their prices, vary enormously.
As part of my due diligence, I bought a book from each of the presses I was considering, to check the quality. Some had awful covers, bad cover copy, or typos, and I discarded them immediately. Some kept the rights to your work for several years, and I heard some horror stories about trying to get them back. They were out too.
I was left with a short list, and contacted some of the authors they’d published, to ask them about their experience. Only two candidates remained, and they both wanted my novel. I decided to go with the one that allowed me to approve every step of the production process, could publish within nine months, and let me keep most of the royalties.
It had taken me three years to figure it all out. Here’s hoping this article will help you get there quicker.
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