Guest post by Marc Leverton.
Personally, I have found the experience of dealing with publishers to be fairly straight-forward.
I think one of the keys to this is that both of my books have been published by independent publishers. Things tend to be easier with them. They are smaller, easier to get through to and hopefully get fewer approaches from hopeful writers than the big publishing houses. My first book [How to work as a Freelance Journalist] was published by How To Books after I got chatting to them at the London Book Fair. I sent them a synopsis afterwards and was given the green light.
There are other advantages too: a small independent publisher is often hungrier and needs your book to do well. I have read countless authors complaining that their books have become ‘lost’ and have barely been promoted. ‘Indies’ have fewer overheads, so can spend more time focusing on you and your book. That is not to say that it is down to the publisher to promote your book; I think the author has to take more of the onus on now for promoting their books. Some authors are better at this than others.
There are similar rules for approaching any sized publisher: have a good synopsis and show them that you have researched the potential market for your book. One thing that I will say is not to rely on your advance for making a living; the six figure sums you see in The Bookseller are only for the lucky few. I heard recently that most authors make around £5,000 per year from their books. So it is probably wise to keep that other job on for a little while yet until the writing career really takes off.
Having sung the praises of independents, I am now in the lucky situation of having an agent who is doing all the donkey work of finding a publisher for my third book. I am hoping they will find me a bigger deal, with a bigger advance and find me a Publisher with more marketing clout. The theory is that they get you a better deal than you would get for yourself, which pays for their 10%. Plus they have more contacts in publishing, increasing the chances of success. Having done the work for myself in the past, I appreciate someone else’s faith in my work. I just hope that it pays off.
Marc Leverton is a freelance writer, who lives and works in and around Bristol. Aside from lecturing for Bath Spa University, he has written for The Guardian, Venue, Bristol Review of Books, and many more as a freelance journalist. He also worked as Publisher on The Big Issue for six years.
Since going freelance in 2006, Marc has written two books, and is currently working on his third (after a stint as a ghostwriter). How to work as a freelance journalist is an essential, comprehensive guide to the industry, while Banksy: Myths and Legends looks at the mysteries surrounding the influential graffiti artist, packed with fun facts and fantastic photos. He was also a contributor and co-editor of the 2011 update of The Naked Guide to Bristol. You can follow him on Twitter, or visit his blog.