#013 - Tell me … who is going to publish your book?


After you have passed through the purgatorial process of writing your very first novel you have one big question to answer ... and that is: 'Who, in all reality, is going to not only publish your book, but hopefully give you some money for the privilege?' This is not an easy question to answer in an industry worth around $35 Billion US Dollars a year in just the USA and UK alone; an industry producing statistics that vary wildly from one source to another. We can only guess at the reality but taking the most sober figures we can find, the 'Traditional Publishing' houses appear to move around 1.2 million units and the 'Self-Publishing' operators floating near to a figure of about 2.4 million. So, who are the main players?

Traditional Publishing Houses - the BIG five.

Number 1: Penguin Random House.

Number 2: Harper Collins.

Number 3: Simon & Schuster.

Number 4: Hachette.

Number 5: Macmillan.

Between them and their sub-companies, along with their subsidiaries and production businesses, they more or less control the English language publishing business worldwide. To get a deal with one of them it will be helpful if you can bring any of the following to the table.

1 - Be famous or very famous worldwide.

2 - Have carried out some strikingly brave deed and survived to tell the tale.

3 - Have won some obscure writing prize with an even more obscure written offering.

4 - Have already become a successful author with a solid sales history behind you.

5 - Become an Internet or Social Media sensation with millions of followers.

6 - Own an active and current e-mail asset listing hundreds of thousands of 'friends'.

7 - A 'B-List' actor who says he writes books for children.

8 - Any direct member of the British Royal family.

9 - An ex-member of some murky secret military organisation in the USA or UK.

10 - A senior politician who wants to 'tell all' in his latest approved biography.

Oh, but wait a minute, we are forgetting the absolute, guaranteed asset you must have in place no matter what your ambitions ... and that is an 'Agent'. The Big Five will only talk to you through an 'Agent'. They will want to pay you through an 'Agent' and provide a contract to you through the office of your 'Agent'! Without an 'Agent' your pleadings for a review of your work will go unanswered.

Traditional Publishing Houses - all the rest.

So, not qualifying to become a favoured author with any of the Big Five, you are left with all the rest. By that we mean all the 'real' publishing houses operating on a substantially different scale but still offering the new author a contract and a financial advance of some sort. If you are a writer of Romance, then you have the inimitable Mills & Boon to submit to, a publisher who claims to sell a paperback in a UK bookshop every 6.6 seconds.

For the rest of us, we have close to 1,000 to consider in the UK and about twice that amount in the USA. This does not include the 'vanity' companies and those professing to sell you their publishing 'services'. As much as it is difficult to obtain sensible figures from the industry relating to the numbers of publishers actively 'publishing' books, it is nearly impossible to estimate the size of the Vanity Press market and those 'side saddle' operators offering the new author their 'publishing services', the meaning of which can vary dramatically depending upon who you may be talking to.

The big issue with these remaining traditional or 'boutique' publishing businesses is actually making them aware of your existence. The most irritating part of the process is that when you do make contact, by email for example, with your meticulously prepared solicitation, you know as you press the 'send' key that 97% of all approaches will receive no reply whatsoever, or some nebulous statement to hide behind such as 'we are very busy and will take several months to answer you'.

Unfortunately, the only way to kick-start the system is to employ a good Agent and so here we go again! There are thought to be over 1,000 active professional Literary Agents in the USA and a little over 400 in the UK. The odds on you becoming signed up with a reputable Literary Agent either in the UK or the USA range from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 6,000. Now you can probably see why the publishing market is wide open to tricksters and criminals who all want to steal, yes 'steal' your money from you. This may be a strong word to use in this instance, but when you see some of the extraordinary figures being quoted to eager, and in most cases 'clueless' young, first time authors, then that particular market place takes on an odour of its own.

Where does the writer looking to have his or her work published go then? Well, if you thought a great deal of patience was required to write it, you will need an awful lot more to get to the point where you have published it. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at some methodology and possible pointers to help you along the way. However, in the meantime, no matter what state of depression you may find yourself in ... please, please make sure you follow the golden rule: No-one should have to pay a publisher to publish the work of an author, new or experienced. All costs are down to the publisher ... not you!