Questions for a publishing pro?

Hi there!

This seems better suited in #industry-insider so I’ll go ahead and move it over there. :smile:

Thanks for understanding,
Fray - Community Ambassador :awfrasier:

Okay, thanks. I wasn’t sure where to put it since they moved everything around in the few years I’ve been gone from the forums. :slight_smile:

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This might be a good resource for you then. I know a few of these agents, and they do work in both Canada and the U.S., but they mostly work on English-language books.

It looks like this org has a book specifically about Canadian publishing contracts that might be helpful.

Good luck!

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I got frustrated trying to find a literary agent to represent a YA novel I wrote after 3 or 4 queries. I know that’s crazy, but I didn’t have the patience for how the industry works. So I self-published the novel.

Unfortunately, I didn’t market it and have no intention of marketing it so it’s been languishing in a sea of other novels that no one ever sees. The question is, can I still query the novel the traditional way? Or since it was self-published, is that one dead and I have to move on to a new novel? And if I can query it, what do I need to mention in the query letter about it being self-published?


I had a publisher’s editor request that I change the heroine from a wife to a fiancee because she committed adultery (fully justified, but adultery nonetheless). I explained why she had to be married and the editor agreed but said she couldn’t publish it because adultery was a no-no in the Romance genre.

Unfortunately, no. Unless a self-published novel sells 50 Shades of Grey types of numbers, most agents and publishers won’t touch it. I would recommend querying your next book and letting this one sit to the side for now. If your second book becomes really popular a publisher might look at republishing something that was previously self-published, but it’s rare.

The thing to remember with self-published titles is that if it is sold online with an ISBN (international standard book number), publishers can track that book’s sales through BookScan. It’s a flawed system, though, and only accounts for about 80% of book sales, and mostly through traditional stores (I’ve had nonfiction books published that look like they sold terribly because most of the sales were done in gift or retail stores rather than bookstores). But publishers will look at the sales numbers, and unless it’s sold extraordinarily well, they’re not interested.

I would definitely mention it was self-published if you do decide to query it, because it feels a little deceptive to not mention that. By that I mean that the agent will likely find out it was self-published at some point, and so they’ll be upset that you weren’t upfront and honest about it. In either case, they won’t be able to do anything with it, though, because the publisher can search the author’s name to see what the sales were like.

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That is very specific to the romance genre and one of the quirks of the romance industry. You might be able to get it published as women’s fiction, but romance as a genre has some particular tropes and types that it doesn’t break, adultery being a big one. But one nice thing about romance is that self-published writers can do extremely well compared with every other genre. It’s the one area of publishing where a writer can make a lot of money without going the traditional route.

But to the original question of what happens if you don’t make changes an editor requests, it probably depends on whether the story has already been acquired by an editor, or whether an editor is considering acquiring it. If an editor says a change must be made or they won’t purchase it, that’s basically all there is to it. It sucks, but if it’s not what the editor wants, they won’t acquire it. At that point you have to decide whether you agree with their requested changes, or are at least okay with making the changes, or if you’d rather turn down the offer and look for an editor who will be interested in the book as it is written.

Turning down an offer sucks, but sometimes it’s the better option if you really think that the editor’s requested changes will be bad for the book. In the end it’s your name on the cover, so you have to decide what is best for you and your work.

Aside from what Melissa already mentioned. I’d also watch out for clauses that tie you into purchasing a certain number of your own books, and/or pay up front fees out of your own pocket.

Also make sure that the contract mentions that your rights will revert back to you at the end of it or continue on a month to month basis until after you send them written word of your intention to cancel. You’ll want to make sure you have a date mentioned as to how long it goes for. Watch for the mention of your ebook in this one because if not careful, you may give them your ebook for life.

You might also want to make sure that you at least have some control over what edits they can make in your story, and maybe even what cover they choose. Some are pretty good and allow you to work with the cover artist, but others don’t.

Aside from their royalty terminology, watch out for clauses that give them the right not to pay you if your book doesn’t sell a certain number of copies, etc. Some after a while will say, sorry your book didn’t perform, and won’t give you the money for the copies you know you did sell. There’s usually a clause that gives a time frame that allows the publisher to pull out, but it should never withhold your money unless you got paid an advance.


Any tips on how to get a publishing contract, what is appreciated in a book, what isn’t…?
Thank you to use your lazy time to help new and amateur writers, that’s really sweet of you! :smile:

One more question. This concerns formatting ebooks.

The standard for print formatting is: indent all but the first paragraph in chapter or scene, no blank line between paragraphs, justify (i.e., straight right margin).

The standard for webpages, blogs, basically anything using HTML is: no indenting, blank line between paragraphs, left justify.

Ebooks are basically HTML read on a screen (using an e-reader rather than a browser). Yet formatting ebooks seems to follow the print standard rather than the HTML standard. There are several problems in doing so. First, it’s hard to read on a screen. Second, the justify doesn’t work on a small screen, such as an iPhone, especially when you don’t have skilled typesetters evenly spacing words and using hyphenation.

Do you think ebook formatting will eventually evolve away from the print formatting to something more readable on a screen?

I publish my ebooks with a combination of the two. I indent like print books. I’ve been justifying the text but am thinking of going back to left justification. And I add white space for readability (a little between sentences (in Word, 1.15 instead of 1 which is single spacing) and 6pt (with a 12pt font) between paragraphs so it’s not a blank line between paragraphs but rather half the height of a blank line).

Any thoughts?

Ebook formatting is a bit more technical than I usually go, since I rely on publishers to do that formatting. Sorry I don’t have anything to add on that front.

But one thing I will say after working in publishing for 12+ years as the whole ebook landscape has evolved: publishing is always years behind the curve when it comes to ebooks and digital publishing in general. They don’t have a clue what they’re doing for the most part. Maybe it’s better now than when I worked as an editor a decade ago, but most publishers view ebooks, and especially formatting them, as an afterthought, having someone quickly throw it into a template or converting it from a Word document without putting in enough effort to create well-designed ebooks. It’s better than it used to be, but the formatting is still terrible. So I honestly don’t have much faith in publishing to do much with formatting until something forces them to (perhaps a new reading platform or format?), and I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

That is a very big topic that will depend greatly on what area of publishing you’re wondering about. Fiction or nonfiction? Adult or children’s books? Genre or mainstream? It all varies. What is popular in one genre right now might be the opposite in another. You’ll have to be a little more specific.

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I’m once again bored and have an hour to kill before bedtime (hence why I don’t want to dive head-first into writing), so I’m up for answering questions if you’ve got some…

Fiction, and particularly romance :heart_eyes::smile:

I have a REALLY odd question. I’m used to indent all paragraphs apart from the first in chapter/first in scene. Recently, I’m coming across more books where everything is indendent. Is that a new trend or are some people just lazy?
Oddly, I notice it and it throws me out. I did not buy two books because of that. Weird, huh?

Can I contact agents with a wattpad story? Like somewhere I read that you can’t pitch for an already published story online, but technically its just a handful of reads and I can take it down if they choose to publish it

Also, can an author contact agents outside of their country/locality, or is physical presence needed for a publishing contract?

You can pitch it to agents or publishers. There might be a few who won’t like it but I would not worry overly much. I got a contract for a WP story.
You can also contact agents outside your country though if you are in the US a lot of the UK agents might point you at US agents. You don’T need any physical presence.
To give you an example, I live in Germany and my publisher is in the US. We skyped, we never met in person

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I know plenty of UK authors who have US agents

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Thank you so much!

Now just need to write something publish-worthy, which would take ages…

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Not necessarily ages. Writing can go really quick - in NaNoWriMo people write 50 K novels in a month. The one I’m querying was complete at 60K in a month.
However, EDITING is a different beast entirely.
It takes as long as it takes. The important bit is to make sure the end result is as good as you (perhaps with external help) can make it.
Good luck!!!:heart::heart::heart:

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