Saturday, February 12, 2011

Getting Published?

Over the last week I became determined to get a poem published - just 50 or so lines - and found how time consuming, labor-intensive, and frustrating that can be.  I didn't give up, but decided to send my favorite poems to publishers in a systematic way and let it go - just let it be and don't worry about it.

In the meantime, I have read several blogs that I happened upon that discuss the reality of getting children's books published.  The reality is not a pretty one, but I like being realistic with my expectations.  Again, this information is based on children's books, not normal fiction, and is only based on what I read this week - links to the sources are below.

This is what I learned:

1.  It is realistic to expect it to take eight to ten years to get a single chapter book published - this is true even if your book ends up being award winning.

2.  The advance payment for a children's novel maybe could be about $5000.  If there are illustrations, you have to split the money with the illustrator.  If you get the whole amount and spend a year writing the book, that amounts to $100 a week before taxes.  Absolutely, you would make more doing anything else.

3.  To mentally cope with the potential to only make $100 a week to be paid out eight or ten years later, I prefer to think of it in terms of hourly wage.  No way do I ever spend 40 hours a week writing.  If you spend an hour or two a year working on that book for 50 weeks, that $100 a week translates into $50-$100 an hour, which makes me feel much better about it.  Note to self to write faster.

4.  The publisher picks the illustrator for you - and decides how much of the booty they get.  No need to pay for art class.

5.  If you are able to get your manuscript in to a publisher and it takes a long time to get a response, that might mean that someone liked it and passed it on before they rejected it - this is good news.  If you get a quick response, it is possible that an intern rejected it immediately.

6.  If you send in a manuscript that gets multiple rejections, put it aside and write more.  Don't make it your white whale.

7.  Let other writers read your manuscript and read theirs as well as published books in the genre you write in.  Get feedback from other writers and edit your manuscript meticulously before sending it to a publisher.

8.  While you are waiting for your first story to be published, write ten more.  Your writing skills will improve with each book.  When the tenth one is finally published, you will find it easier to publish the first nine. 

9.  Write because you love it.  Write what you love.  Take satisfaction in writing or the ten years will be a very long wait.  Tell wonderful stories and eventually someone will want to publish it.  Hopefully.  Maybe.  Nothing personal if they don't.

10.  Don't plan on becoming a millionaire writing.  If you end up getting ten books published after a ten year wait, you will potentially get paid $50,000 all at once.  Yeh, that still isn't much money.  Make sure your spouse keeps his/her good paying job and/or keep your day job and write at night.

Again, this is information I found related to only to publishing children's stories.  If you have any advice or links to share about publishing "normal" novels, please leave a comment.


  1. Thanks for putting this list together - it's helpful advice! I especially like how you translate the low $100/wk pay into a quite decent hourly wage.

    One thing you don't mention is self-publishing. With social media, it's increasingly easy to promote your own work without the support of a larger publishing house. Along that same line are digital books. EBooks outsold regular books at Barnes and Noble this past year. While part of me bemoans the death of print, it's so much cheaper and cost-effective to create ebooks. In the next few years, I think it will be standard for ereaders to be color--important for illustrated children's books.

  2. Thanks for your comment!

    I am very curious about self-publishing and electronic publishing too. In the little bit of research I did, I only found a stern warning or two about being careful with self-publishing. I guess the risk is that your work could be pirated more easily - and once it's published online, maybe a paying publisher wouldn't want to pay you for something already available on the internet.

    As a former software developer married to an IT security/networking guru, I wonder how much would be involved in self-publishing electronic, maybe PDF versions with an encryption key that works on only one device or otherwise locking it down. I don't think it would be that hard. The problem is that if I take the time to set this up, I will have less time to write.

    I am sure there are easier avenues than doing it yourself - it is definitely the wave of the future, especially if my technophobic mother has a Kindle.