Oklahoma writers share tips on getting published

Members of the Oklahoma Writers Forum give advice on getting your book published.
BY SANDI DAVIS Published: August 19, 2012
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“Dear Sir or Madam,

“Will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look?”

According to the Oklahoma Writers Forum, these words in the Beatles' song “Paperback Writer” represent what not to do in trying to get a book published.

The group held a recent panel discussion at the Individual Artists of Oklahoma Gallery about how writers can get published.

Panelists David Farris, Jen Nipps and Kent Frates, along with moderator Charles Martin, talked about all sides of publishing, from self-publishing to E-publishing to major publishing houses and all things in between.

With today's technology, self-publishing can be done by any aspiring writer. Write your book, print a copy on your personal printer, hire an editor, hire an artist to create a cover, hire a printer to print and bind the book, then market it on social media or at conventions full of people interested in your subject.

Also, pick up some kind of publisher's guide, so if you do send a manuscript to a publisher (never a good idea because it will get thrown straight away according to the panel), at least put a person's name on it, not simply, “To Whom It May Concern.”

Sounds easy, right?

Not so fast.

Each writer has his own way to create. Some use an outline to help with plot lines, some don't. Nipps said a character in one of her fiction books showed up in her brain and talked to her for some time before the character gave herself a name.

“It's simple to write a flat character,” Martin said. “You need little details that aren't obvious to fill them out.”

So, first have a completed product.

Next, they need to have an editor — someone who can read their work, make corrections and give feedback to improve the whole project.

All agreed that the truth hurts.

“If you hire an editor who doesn't hurt your feelings, you've wasted your money,” Farris said. “You want an editor who can raise your game.”

And, those editors aren't cheap. The low end price thrown around by the panel was $3 per printed page. If the book has 300 pages, that's $900 out of the author's pocket, before it's ever seen by any kind of a publisher.

Next, have a clean, edited book, ready for the next step, and that's where the choices multiply.

For do-it-yourselfers, call several printers for estimates, choose one, pay to print what you can afford and get an artist to design the cover art.

Book in hand, it's time to start marketing your project, finding places where it can be sold, trying to find places where you can talk about your book, perhaps a book signing, or best of all, finding a group of people who are fans of your type of book. Go to a few conventions and start building a fan base.

By doing so much of the work, the author gets bigger profits because there are no middlemen. But, no money comes in until the books start selling.

If a writer has a lot of money and either doesn't want to do his or her own marketing and distribution or doesn't know how, a vanity house is an option.

A vanity house will do everything but write the book for its client. Some will tailor their services to mesh with the author's talents so all details are handled by someone, but there's a catch. Vanity press services are paid in advance by the author and fees vary by the amount of work the house does. The upshot of this is the writer's percentage of sales is lower because of the amount of work the company did.