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Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 6

Continuing our discussion of the three potential paths to publishing your novel, today we will talk about the difference between those paths, specifically focusing on contracting with one of the Big 5 publishers. See earlier posts for the similarities. Later posts will focus on contracting with independent presses, and self-publishing.

When you sign a contract with one of the Big 5 publishers:

  • The publisher contracts with you for the right to publish your work for a specific period of time.
  • You may or may not get an advance
  • The publisher assumes all costs of production of the book.
  • The Big 5 typically offers Lower royalty rates.
  • Better distribution than some independent presses.
  • Higher potential for bookstore placement.
  • Slow—can take up to two years to release.
  • They may have sales expectations. Keep in mind that there are many mid-list authors who make a good living by selling an expected number of books, and so you may be expected to meet a sales quota. This means it is possible that an author could get dropped if sales expectations are not met.

There are advantages to publishing with a major, traditional book publisher.

  • You’ll get multiple rounds —and different types —of book editing
  • You’ll get expert packaging and production
  • You probably will get a baseline amount of book marketing and book publicity
  • Your book has a better chance of getting bookstore shelf space
  • You will have a better chance of being reviewed.

But how do you submit your book to the Big 5 so you can get a contract?

Here is an example submission text at Hachette (website)

Publishers in the Hachette Book Group are not able to consider unsolicited manuscript submissions and unsolicited queries. Many major publishers have a similar policy. Unsolicited manuscripts, submissions, and queries will not be answered and the publisher will have the right to destroy any unsolicited material or mail without returning to the sender.

If you are interested in having a manuscript considered for publication, we recommend that you first enlist the services of an established literary agent.

What all this means is that you must have an agent. This means that you must submit to, and contract with an agent before you contract with one of the Big 5.

What makes a good agent?

  • Good communicators who are well-informed and organized
  • Assertive but not aggressive and advocate for the author, or the publisher
  • Maintain professional relationships with editors and publishers to get their projects read (by only shopping high-quality projects that are polished)
  • Are good negotiators who get higher royalties and advances

Realize that there are bad agents, just like there are bad independent publishers. Do your research and make sure the agent offering to represent you is who you want to represent you. You will ideally have a very long relationship with them over the entirety of your publishing career, so think about that before you sign.

Next time: Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 7

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