Actually, for those who haven't investigated the publishing industry, it's a very curious beast. There are different approaches to getting a work published:
- Self-publishing - Do it yourself. There are several ways to self-publish--everything from going straight to a printer to hiring a middle-man organization to do some of the work for you. You also pay all the costs, of which there are many.
- POD - Publish on demand. There are companies that will help you essentially self-publish, but offer a variety of associated services (editorial, artwork, retaining printer, obtaining ISBN number, etc.). As the name implies, copies of the book are only run off as they are needed/ordered.
- Subsidy Publishers - These folks charge the author a fee, usually for a package of services similar to POD (indeed, some are POD outfits). A close relative to subsidy publishers are the "vanity publishers" (so close are they that some in the industry don't really distinguish between the two). They charge you for services and then it's up to you to do all the marketing and selling.
- Traditional - This, as the name implies, is the way most writers prefer to get their works on the street. You contact a mainline publishing company (query, proposal, partial manuscript, full manuscript--don't get me started; there's a bunch of ways to try to get a foot in the door) and hope you hit the timing just right for the genre to interest someone who reads dozens and dozens and dozens of contacts every week. Many publishers don't accept "unsolicited" manuscripts--only those from established authors, referrals, from contacts at writers' conferences, or via literary agents. This last avenue is the one I'm probing at the moment. Trouble is, many of the literary agencies are just as swamped as the publishers they ultimately approach on the writer's behalf, and so to attract an agent can be as tough as attracting an editor at a publishing house.
And there are several shades in between each of these. Like any other private industry, the publishing houses are motivated by profit. What sells, what doesn't sell. The manuscript might be flawless, but if the various editorial and marketing committees it must meet don't think they'll make a profit--or at least get their investment back out of it--it goes into the rejection pile.
The bad part is that there are a lot of nefarious folks who take advantage of new authors who are either naive or overly anxious to get their book published--or both. The writer gets sucked into a really bad deal and is often left with a garage full of poorly produced books to try to get rid of. And they're broke. There are several Web sites dedicated to exposing the bad guys--e.g., Predators and Editors--but ya still gotta do the homework.
Ben Amittai was published by a subsidy publisher. That's okay--there are pros and cons of each of the above approaches, as long as the outfit you end up with is reputable. It depends upon your goals and the level to which you're able (or want) to immerse yourself in the industry. Do you want to eventually go full-time, or will it remain an avocation? How much marketing do you want to do? Is yours a niche book you really only want to get out to a few friends and family, or does it have broad appeal? You know, stuff like that.
As you may have surmised, I'm currently working the traditional route. I've been encouraged to do so by good knowledgeable folks who have read the manuscript and think it has merit. I've approached three agents thus far (one in person at a conference and two via electronic means). The first simply wasn't interested in the genre, and the second two--although complimentary about the project--couldn't take it on at this time. If you've ever read or heard stories of successful authors' experiences, they usually include a sizable stack of rejections before ever getting their first bite. My stack is growing, but there are still dues to pay.
So, this has been a Publishing for Dummies, entry (Hey! There's an idea! Naw, I'm sure there's already one out there). No insult to you reading this, by the way. The dummy is more likely the one writing it. As you may well imagine, there's so much more to the industry than the brief sketch I just tapped out, but I'll stop here. I'll keep you posted on how things go with further contacts, but there will be a time limit. I don't want A Prophet's Tale to come out ten years after Ben Amittai. Jonah can't run forever!