Traditional Publishing – Great Challenges and Great Rewards


If you’re like me, pursuing traditional publishing of your novel, then you know the process is challenging — almost as difficult as a camel going through the eye of a needle.

After finishing your novel and having it edited to the point of near-perfection, you must find a literary agent to represent you because neither of the big five publishing houses in New York will accept a manuscript directly from a writer.

Unfortunately the gate for acquiring a literary agent is a very narrow one. There are only two viable options — querying and pitching.

First, but not necessarily in order of importance is querying. To query you must craft a one-page letter, addressing it to a specific literary agent, describing your story succinctly but in a manner which entices the agent to want to see additional pages or chapters of your manuscript — or the crown jewel of requests — the entire manuscript! Though I doubt this has ever happened.

Today, the method for querying is through e-mail. It would be great if one could do an e-mail blast to 100 literary agents with a single push of the button. It could be done, but the results would be counter-productive.

Almost every literary agent’s request is different from the next. For example, one agent may request only a query letter; another a query letter and synopsis; while another may request a query letter and the first three chapters of your manuscript; still another may request a query letter and the first 10 pages of your manuscript. The reason? They want to know that you’ve taken the time to research them.

Deviating from an agent’s requirements will cause your query letter to go into file 13 quicker than you can say, “book deal”.

It generally takes literary agents a couple of weeks to as many as four to six months to respond to a query letter. Some state on their websites they will only respond to you if they are interested in seeing more of your work.

Querying is frustrating to say the least because writers receive far more rejection letters than requests to see additional work.

So what’s the other option?

The other option for acquiring a literary agent is pitching. Pitching is generally done at writers conferences. You sign up during registration to have a 10 minute session (or so) to sit in front of a literary agent and tell him or her your story in a way that entices him/her to want to see actual pages.

But before you sign up for a pitch session, make sure you practice, practice, practice to get you delivery as near perfect as possible without sounding rehearsed. Easier said than done, I know!

Most writers acquire their literary agents through pitching.

These face-to-face sessions, akin to speed dating, offer the agent a glimpse of the person behind the story and allows for an instant connection — or not.

An agent can determine whether s/he can conceivable partner with a person they meet face-to-face far better than viewing a sterile piece of paper on the computer screen in the form of a query letter. As with dating, chemistry is an important factor, and so it is in a writer/agent relationship.

So what are some rewards of traditional publishing?

1. Partnership. With a traditional publishing deal comes a built-in team. To what extent they’ll go to bat to you is largely dependent on two factors — how important your book is to the list and how much they like you.

2. Quality. Publishers stand behind the books they publish, and since that’s the case, you can bet your book will be well-edited and thoroughly proofread, and that they’ll put a best effort toward making sure you have a great cover and interior design.

3. Legitimacy. This is still big. No matter how many successfully self-published or otherwise-published books are hitting the best-seller lists, traditional publishing has a legacy. This matters to the media. It matters where contests are concerned, and where some reviews are concerned.

4. Distribution. Another biggie. Traditional distribution, a big pro for traditional publishing, continues to be, hands-down, the biggest con of DIY self-publishing. Having traditional distribution means you benefit from preorders, management of your metadata on a big scale, and having a sales force that’s getting your book out to retailers on your behalf — among other benefits.

5. Advances.
If you can still get an advance, this is a clear pro. And if you can earn it out. The truth of the advance is that it’s a mixed bag. If you get a largish advance and your book doesn’t perform well, then you could become a pariah in the industry and find it very difficult to sell future books. The best advance is a mid-range advance, and if you get one, you want to consider allocating some or all of it to fund your publicity.


So, is traditional publishing for you, or are you self-publishing your work? Why did you choose your particular method?

Hey, as always thanks for stopping.

Happy writing!


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