Write It Sideways

10 Publishing Myths Exposed

Many aspiring writers go through life blissfully ignorant of the realities of the publishing industry.

The truth is, book publishing is extremely competitive.

While the media exploits those one-in-a-million examples of debut authors striking it rich (think Harry Potter or Twilight), we have to be more discerning about how we think of publishing.

How good are you at separating fact from fiction?

Can you identify why the following 10 statements are misleading?

  1. The average author releasing a debut novel will receive an advance of  $10,000 to $50,000.
  2. Editors of children’s literature don’t like stories written in rhyme.
  3. Finding an agent for your manuscript is the best way to get your work accepted by a publisher.
  4. As long as your plot, characterization and market-appeal are excellent, editors will usually overlook spelling, grammar and other technical issues in your manuscript.
  5. Joining a community writing group at the local college or university is the best way to get constructive criticism on your manuscript.
  6. Writing a children’s picture book is the easiest way to break into the publishing market.
  7. You’ll have to wait about a year from the time a manuscript is accepted to when you’ll see it in print.
  8. Submitting poetry to anthologies is a good way to break into the mainstream market.
  9. Writing a story in the present tense is riskier than sticking to past tense.
  10. When detailing your writing experience in a cover letter, include work that has been published online and your blog.

Think you have all the answers?  Read on to see if you’re correct.

  1. The average debut author might receive an advance anywhere from $1000 to $10 000, which must be earned back through book sales before royalties can be collected.
  2. Editors don’t like poorly written rhyming stories, and most people aren’t skilled enough to do very well in this area.
  3. Finding an agent to represent an unpublished writer may be just as difficult as getting an unsolicited manuscript accepted.  When submitting to independent publishing houses, you probably won’t need an agent.
  4. Editors aren’t likely to give your manuscript a second glance if it isn’t well polished.  Why would they want to work with someone who is too lazy to edit?  If you’re terrible with spelling and grammar, hire a professional freelance editor to work through your manuscript before you submit.
  5. The best way to get criticism is through an accredited manuscript assessment agency that provides you with a detailed evaluation.  Some publishing houses may even accept such an assessment letter as a sort of testimonial to the quality of your manuscript.  Writers’ groups can be helpful in many ways, but only if they attract the right type of clientele.
  6. Picture books are expensive to print and people generally buy books by well-known authors.  Often, picture books are commissioned from already published authors instead of being accepted through the slushpile.
  7. The publishing process is more likely to take anywhere from 1-3 years, although it could be longer or shorter depending on many factors.
  8. Most mainstream publishers don’t even publish poetry unless it’s an anthology of classics. Some small, independent publishers may do poetry, but you aren’t likely to get much recognition for your fiction writing this way.
  9. Present tense writing has been overused in recent years.  But, if your story demands it and is better told in present tense, you’re better off sticking with it than trying to force it into past tense just for the sake of it.
  10. It’s far easier to be published online than in print.  For this reason, the only times it may be acceptable to list online writing credits are:  (a) You are submitting to other online publications or, in some cases, magazines; (b) You edit or write for a very well-known website and are paid a salary for your services.

If you find yourself surprised by any of these misconceptions, you will want to spend some time researching the publishing process and visiting publishers’ websites.  Improving your knowledge in this area will benefit the way you see your own writing and how you submit manuscripts.

Above all else, remember publishing is a business like any other.  In the end, it all comes down to money.