|By Antonio Litterio
It used to be almost impossible to get published. Hardly any publishers would look at unsolicited manuscripts. Unless you had an agent, you couldn't get anywhere. Agents had such a huge pool of talent to fish in, they could pick and choose whether or not they even answered your enquiry. If you were desperate to see your work in print, the only other option was vanity publishers, who wanted a lot of money from you, then delivered very little.
The explosion of self-publishing and the huge presence of Amazon has changed all that. Getting your name on the cover of a book is practically obligatory these days, and to upload your work in the hope your blog (or ebook) goes viral costs nothing. Or does it?
I'm not talking about the cost of stationery, computers, writing courses, and subscriptions to group such as The Society Of Authors, The Romantic Novelists' Association, or the Romance Writers of America. All these are vital, practical, tax-deductible, and in the case of stationery and local group meetings, recreational. (I'm a kid in a sweetshop when it comes to browsing round anywhere like Staples.)
It's the little extras that add up to big deductions. The 2014 Digital Book World and Writer's Digest Author Survey discovered that over three-quarters of writers earn less than £600/$1,000. If you can bear to see the painful facts, read more here. When you consider that even big publishers expect you to spend money (or at least plenty of time, which comes to the same thing in the end) on publicising your book, you'll see it's important to spend carefully.
If you go the route of conventional publishing, all the editing, production and artistic costs should be covered by the firm. Some tiny independents may ask for a sub. This doesn't necessarily mean they're a vanity outfit—they may just be keen to get some help with costs, which will secure your devotion to their cause. Get your contract checked by The Society ofAuthors or a literary attorney, to make sure.
If you decide to self-publish, join a group such as The Alliance Of Independent Authors, and do plenty of research. Spend money on getting your work professionally edited, and in hiring a good cover artist but beyond that, think carefully about whether you really need all the dozens of other lovely services on offer. Always remember, the definition of an expert is only a person who knows 3% more than you do! Keep your eyes and ears open: word of mouth is as good a way to find reliable editors and artists as it is to find good books.
And don't think that once your book is out in the public domain all you have to do is wait for your £600 to come rolling in. Not only are there sharks circling before you publish, the virtual high seas are full of pirates. Philip Pullman put it perfectly when he said "Stealing music and books online is like picking pockets". You can read more of what he said here. It's not a happy article but as they say on the true crime programmes, "don't have nightmares". Writing's the best job there is. Look on anything you earn as a bonus (but make sure you hang onto as much of the money you get as you can!).