Don’t Bait & Switch



Publishing in the twenty-first century has seen many changes. The advent of online publishers has given authors looking for a home for their books more choices than those publishers that have been around for decades and often require an individual to have an agent before submitting their work. Even that isn’t a guarantee your book will find a home, so many people wanting to have their books published must look to other venues.

One of the first places these people will turn to are the many online publishers who are known for offering the unpublished author a place for their book. The overriding consensus is that these publishers are easy to accept your work and manipulate.

That can’t be further from the truth.

Many online publishers have standards as high or higher than the Big 5, who have dominated the publishing world for many years. When offering your work, you must learn the rules of submission. One of the more important rules, one that can have you forever kept from having a book with this publisher’s name on it, is that you don’t submit a manuscript and after being offered a contract, turn around and say…

“Oh, I was actually looking for a traditional publisher. There are many agents interested in this work. But I can offer you two, three, or four of my other stories in exchange. After all, you liked this one, so you’ll love these. They’re more suited as ebooks.”

First thing that will run through the submission manager’s mind is “Is this person nuts? Did they not read our website and see that we are a traditional publisher? Did they ignore the fact that we do offer print books in addition to ebooks?

First, you are a supplicant to the publisher. They have seen a gem within your book and think it will be a good fit for their company. It is the book for which the contract was offered that they are interested in, not other books you’re offering as a consolation prize.

Second, why, if you wanted to be with a “traditional” publisher, as in the Big 5, did you offer this book to an online publisher in the first place? If you’ve already contacted agents who are showing an interest in your material, why are you submitting to publishers? That makes no sense.

Third, you, as the author, are not in a position to assume—some might say arrogantly—that a publisher would be interested in having anything to do with you at this point.

Why, you ask.

Because this publisher has already expended time and money in assessing your submission. They’ve read the material and decided it would fit in with the other books of that genre they’ve already contracted. They are willing to take a chance on you, as an author, and offer you the opportunity to have you join their other authors in making a success of your work.

What you have done by speaking to a publisher as if you are doing them a great favor by making this offer is prove to them that you are not really worthy of being part of their company. You have shown them that you will not be a cooperative author, but rather a diva—demanding special attention for your book, expecting everyone to bow to your alleged expertise, and giving in to your demands, because you feel you are better than they are.

Since 2010, I’ve noticed that many authors have changed how they regard publishers. This might have a lot to do with the ease of self publishing—an if no one wants my book, I’ll just publish it myself attitude. Instead of researching how to write a cover letter, how to approach a publisher, how to read the posted guidelines, authors are basically cutting off all chances of finding a publisher who will give them a chance when they have yet to brand their name.

Instead of deciding you know everything about the publishing world, do the research. Hold your hat humbly in your hand, and be grateful for a chance to have your book published if a publisher decides they want to do that. You only get a single first chance to make a good impression. Don’t waste that.


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