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Careers: Writing/Getting Published


Hi Cathy,
It is my dream to become a published author, and I have manuscripts ready to send to publishers, and I have been accepted by a few, but they either don't like that I'm a minor or their prices are way too high. Here is my question:
Everyone I tell about my publishing endeavors are saying that I shouldn't have to pay anyone anything, they pay me. Now, I see where I should pay them (printing costs, ISBN, distribution, etc.), but I'm starting to wonder if maybe I'm really not supposed to pay them because even my pen pals from other countries are saying they had never heard of a publisher paying their editor! Could you please clear this up for me? (Because I am really starting to get confused here.)

Hi, Rhiannon!

The short answer is: Your friends are correct.

The long answer is: You are also correct . . . depending on what you want.

See, there are two different kinds of "publishers." The first batch are the ones you see on the bookshelves: Random House and Penguin, Ace, Tor, Macmillan, etc. They do exactly as your friends say. They enter into a contract with you for the privilege of putting your book on the shelf. They pay you, BEFORE publishing, an advance on the royalties you're likely to see during the time the book is on the shelf. For some books, the advance is all that will ever be earned on the book, but you've been paid. For some books, the advance is only the beginning of far greater profits down the road (what every author hopes for!)

The second batch of publishers are "self-publishing" companies. You pay them to produce your book. These are the ones you've encountered. Some of the better known (but not very well respected) ones are:  PublishAmerica, Author House, Tate, Whitmore, Strategic Book Publishing, etc. You can find out more about them, and why they aren't respected here:

Writer Beware is a terrific resource for new writers, so please do wander around the blog for other entries that will teach you about publishing.

Now, there are several self-publishers that ARE respected, because they offer a low cost and are upfront on what services they provide. Some of them are: Lulu, Smashwords and CreateSpace. But they seldom market themselves as a "publisher." They can be, and do offer that service, but  mostly they are formatters and printers. Here's a pretty good link to the various self-publishers and what services they offer:

What does all this mean for you and your book?  Well, let's go back to the part of your question where you said you were young. That's going to be a problem for pretty much everyone, because if you aren't old enough to enter into a binding business contract, they will have to sign the contracts with your parent or legal guardian. Publishers in New York are happy to work with your parents. Some of the self-publishing companies are also willing to, but some aren't as willing to do that. It's sort of a case by case thing.

Mostly, it's about what you want out of publishing. Some authors want to produce and market their own work. It takes time and dedication to hire an editor (at your expense), design cover art (or hire an artist) and get the word out about it. Other authors want a publisher to do all the work for them, at the publisher's expense, so the author can get back to writing. There are plenty of options out there, no matter what you want.

My best advice is to arm yourself with KNOWLEDGE! Spend some time at one of the best writer's websites on the 'net: AbsoluteWrite. I'm somewhat prejudiced because I spend a lot of time there and am one of the moderators. But I'm one of the moderators because it's such a good site. One of the best posts to read when you're starting is "How Real Publishing Works." It's written by a multi-published, bestselling author of celebrity memoirs and children's books. It's good stuff.

Once you've read that, you'll know a ton more about the process. Feel free to join in on the forum. There are plenty of younger writers to meet and greet with and we'll steer you right in your journey. :)

I also wrote a glossary of publishing terms that will help you understand the language of the writing world. It'll really help you as you start getting involved.

Hope this  helps a little! Good luck!

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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing articles, short stories and novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery. I can also answer questions about writing for major print magazines in the outdoor genre (hunting/fishing/boating/travel.)


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books . Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen mass market novels since 2004, and have contracts for four more books through 2011. I've also published more than two dozen feature articles in leading outdoor magazines.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America, National Association of Legal Assistants.

Magazines--Guns & Ammo, Fur-Fish-Game, Rocky Mountain Game & Fish, Deer & Deer Hunting. Many others. Novels/Anthologies--Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

Published Author. Published Freelance Writer. Certified Paralegal with specialities in intellectual property (copyright, trademark, patent) and real estate.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, Romantic Times Career Achievement Award, 2009, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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