Thursday, 26 July 2012

DEAR CRABBIT - what should I pay for in order to become published?

I have had three emails to Dear Crabbit that all follow a theme:

"Is it ok to pay a reading fee to an agent?"
No. In the UK, the Association of Authors' Agents forbids it.

"What should it cost to be published?"
Nothing! (Other than things you might choose to do to push the book. For example, many published writers nowadays hire the services of publicists, order our own promotional materials etc.)

"Is it ok to pay to see the submission guidelines for a publisher?"
*clutches head*
I found this hard to believe. One publisher has a submission guidelines package which you are encouraged to buy, and they say it includes five of their books, "so that you can see what sort of books we publish." Apparently, buying it used to be compulsory but now isn't. However, one of the things writers are asked to say in the initial email/letter is whether they have bought it.

This feels so wrong. To be made to feel you have to pay for submission guidelines? The writer who asked me about this said he had felt that if he didn't do so he would have less chance of  being accepted.

But it would also make me suspicious about the nature of the publisher. (I didn't investigate further.) Trade publishers do not ask the author for any financial contribution towards any aspect of the process.

There are, of course, various ways of going about self-publishing, which obviously incurs costs, but that's a different thing.


Penny Dolan said...

So pleased that you are telling hopeful writers the truth about such cruel and sneaky con-agents, Nicola.

It can be so very hard to know what's the right thing to do when you are desperate to see your work in print. Thanks!

Julian Hill said...

The great thing these days is that if you are desperate to see your work in print, you can have it printed and sold, without any outlay. If your work is so marketable that thousands of people will want to buy it, you may attract the attention of an old-fashioned publisher prepared to sink 20k into promoting it at risk. Both services are great, from Lulu and CreateSpace to Harper-Collins and Transworld. But there's no room I can see for service providers in the middle. Maybe they're not all charlatans and scammers but I'd like to be convinced before touching them with surgical gloves.

Ebony McKenna. said...


Self-pubbling = you pay for everything.
They-pubbing = they pay for everything.

Anything in between rings alarm bells for me.

Cameron Writes said...

Yes, have come across people like this and sometimes they are very difficult to get rid of. One company rang me from America twice to try to persuade me to shell out cash to be published. I'm afraid I was quite rude to them in the end.
I think buying a copy of a book already published by a house is a good idea to get a sense of their requirements, style, even their particular grammar tics, but 5 books? No, that's a bit much.
Grit your teeth, carry on and don't pay up is good advice.

Nicola Morgan said...

Cameron - I agree that it' essential to read some of the book a publisher publishes, but I would hate to see a publisher looking for the same "grammar tics".

Penny - thanks. I'm trying!

Julian and Ebony - I think in theory there is room for someone who facilitates the process, whether by advising or offering some of the services. In theory, it's possible that someone could offer a package that actually would be really good. I'm just (as I think you are) inwardly sceptical that they actually do what they claim to. And I think a a clued-up author can work out what bits should go where and an unclued-up one needs to become clued up!