Writing Life: Getting Published

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been asked about publishing options by a few different writers, and the first thing I’ve said to both is “don’t pay for publication”, followed quickly by “don’t give away your rights”, and “be careful of agents”. And it strikes me that writers are vulnerable to predation, and there are a lot of predators out there.

The problem is that the predators are often legitimate goals of the writers, or mimic them: agents, publishers, and competitions for example. These people prey on an author’s desire to be published and make a living from their work—and an author’s own insecurities, especially the one that haunts us all: am I good enough?, or the fear that saying our work is good enough will have us accused of being arrogant.

Now, while I will always recommend going independent and publishing your own work – and I’ll talk about why, next week – this isn’t the path some writers want, and I can’t offer a lot of help, there. I’ve been published by four different publishers, and I still have one book with one of them. Another publisher went under, one returned the rights of my book when it didn’t sell in sufficient numbers, and I asked for a return of the rights of the books I had with the fourth when I began to suspect creative accounting with my royalty statements.

So, if you’re considering publication these rules are a good baseline to work from:

NEVER pay for publication

Publishers make their money off selling books, but you knew that, right? This means they choose books that they think will make THEM money. This means they should pay the source of those books an agreed rate. There are plenty of publishers who pay their authors. You do not need to pay someone to publish your work. If you feel that is the only option you have left, then you have nothing to lose by publishing independently. Having a publisher you paid for does not carry an assurance your work is good enough; it merely means the publisher is making money from you, instead of relying on the books it selects for publication. It doesn’t have to worry about if they’re good enough; it only has to worry about whether or not the writer is desperate and foolish enough to pay to have a publisher’s name on their book. With this set up, the publisher does not even have to distribute your work, and you will probably never get paid. At this point, if you truly want to make a living from your writing, you are better off looking for another publisher – one who will pay you -  or publishing your work independently.

Don’t give away your rights

This includes selling your rights (any or all of them) to the publisher for the life of the copyright. I could go on about more preferable options to this clause, but not in this post. If you’re curious, check out what established and successful author, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has to say (http://kriswrites.com/2016/07/06/business-musings-long-term-thinking-rights-reversions-contractsdealbreakers/) – and then go read the rest of what she has learned, and shared, of the publishing industry.

It’s important to note that this purchase of rights for the lifetime of the copyright (which can be from the time of publication up to 50 or 75 years after the author’s death, but could vary further depending on the country of publication) is pretty standard in modern publishing contracts, and that most publishers have the attitude that there are plenty more authors in the sea, and you’ll sign if you really want to be published.

However, if you do sign, you lose all right to complain when your book falls out of print, or isn’t made into an e-book, or becomes unavailable to your readers for whatever reason. You also lose your ability to do anything about it, or to earn a living from that title. And regaining your rights after losing them, is no longer a simple matter of asking, since most publishers are reluctant to give up the rights to their assets, and say no, leaving you with limited options for recovery of your work.


Agents are like publishers; they make money off the books they sell the rights to. While there are some very good agents out there, reports of these are outweighed by reports from authors who left everything with their agent, and who were later surprised to find their agent had not been honest in their dealings with them, or hadn’t taken advantage of an offer the author would have jumped at. Agents remove you one step away from the publisher, and one more step away from being in control of your work.

Independent Publishing

Independent publishing gives you control of, and responsibility for, your work. You decide when it’s released, where it’s distributed, how much it sells for, what the cover looks like, and how much promotion occurs. These are some of the reasons I prefer this method. It’s a bit more work than writing, sending, and editing as requested before someone else takes over the entire publishing process, but your book never goes out of print, can be updated if necessary, and can have its distribution expanded as new opportunities come along.

So, those are my initial thoughts. I’ll talk more on this, next week, but I have to warn you: most of my posts will be about what I have learned about independent publishing, as that is my chosen path.

Which brings me to my last point:

There is no right, or wrong, way of being published.

I’ll say it again.


Choose the way that suits you best. Do your research before leaping in. And, most of all,



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