Your browser is outdated and this site may not display properly. 

Robert Batten

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Author

Category: Writing

Getting your manuscript published

September marks the beginning of Spring in my home state, and the arrival of the Tasmanian Writers’ Festival. This year, I was lucky enough to score a place in a masterclass on becoming published, run by Bradley Trevor Greive. If you don’t know the name, he’s the world’s best-selling humorist, with 24 books published and having sold more than 30m copies in over 115 territories. That’s a lot of books — if anyone could help me understand the publishing industry better (and how to get my books published) it’s him.
The session did not disappoint. My debut novel (Human Resources) has been picked up by a publisher, but that contract came via a writing competition, rather than the traditional submission / rejection cycle, so I had a huge amount to learn. I still have a huge amount to learn, but I know a lot more than I did before the session.
The great news is BTG is a wonderful person who gave me permission to share his most useful tips on my blog, so here we are. Absolutely all credit goes to Mr. Greive, who not only shared this content, but was generous to donate his time at the festival so the proceeds could go towards the local writing community.
Note: the following has been written by me from the notes I took during the session, it isn’t an exact reproduction of BTG’s words (nor the entire course). I feel the need to point this out so you understand: a) any genius here is all his; and b) anything that doesn’t make sense, or is plain wrong, is my error.
Further note: if you ever get the opportunity to attend a masterclass with BTG — I strongly recommend doing so.
Yet another note: this post is entirely concerned with the traditional publishing process. That’s not a judgment on other avenues to publishing (after all, my debut has taken a non-traditional path), they’re just out of scope this time.

Be a pack

“There is no such thing as a lone wolf.” I’m paraphrasing BTG here as I can’t remember the exact words, but the message is important (and mirrors my experience); making a book is a team effort. Even if you write a perfect manuscript, there are a myriad of tasks that must be done to make it a successful book. Self-published authors take on many of the activities usually handled by a publisher, but even there, the most successful usually rely on others for at least part of the process. So, if you're building a team, you need to know who the players are…
When I started this process, I had little idea how the publishing process worked, nor how publishing houses were structured. Here’s the basic departments:

  • Editorial: your editor, editor’s assistant / reader, publisher, etc. all live here.
  • Design: responsible for the visual design work. The level of exposure and author will have to this department depends on the nature of the work. A novel will typically be mainly about the cover whereas a children’s picture book will be much more involved.
  • Production: these are the people who actually print the book.
  • Distribution: gets your book to warehouses and retailers.
  • Marketing / Publicity: self-explanatory.
  • Legal: handle your contracts, ensure you stick to it, and protect it in different regions.
  • Finance: handle and pay royalties.

There are a range of publishers out there, both large and small. Don’t be surprised if smaller publishers in particular outsource some of the above.

Publishers are people, not companies

This is important, and will be mentioned again later. There are two parts to this:

  1. Terminology: a Publisher is a company that publishes books. However, a Publisher is also the title of a senior member of the editorial department.
  2. Strategy: people decide who they want to publish. You need to win over an editor and a publisher (the person) before you get near the publishing board. Every single one has their own tastes and personalities. Within a single publishing house, one editor may dislike your work whilst another loves it. Always remember you are working with people.

Know the steps

This was an eye-opener for me. The process from submission to book publishing in a traditional publisher is likely longer than you thought. Here’s what the process may look like:

  1. You send in your submission.
  2. Submission goes to a reader. This may be an assistant editor, the reception staff, or a volunteer. If the reader likes your submission, they pass it to an editor.
  3. If the editor also likes it they’ll make contact and probably ask for more.
  4. If the editor still likes it, they take the book to their publisher.
  5. If the publisher likes it, they may choose to take it to the publishing board. Note the “may” here — the publishing board is competitive, so if the publisher has multiple “good” manuscripts from their editors, they may only take the one they like the most (or think will win at the time).
  6. The publishing board is made up of the publishers (7-10), plus advisors from other departments (marketing, finance, legal). Each publisher competes against the others, arguing why their book is the one that should be published using the limited funds available in the budget.
  7. If the publishing board decides to go ahead with your book, you receive an offer which you / your agent / your lawyer negotiate and accept.
  8. Editing happens. You forget what the outside world is like, rewriting over and over again, until finally…
  9. 3-18 months later your book is published.

Timing

How long each step of the process takes can vary greatly, but here are some rough guides to set expectations:

  • Submission: 4-8 weeks.
  • Offer: Up to 12 weeks.
  • Contract Process: 2-4 months.
  • Editing / Rewrites: 3 months - 2 years.
  • Production: 3 - 9 months.
  • Publication: 9 months - 2 years. Note: there’s usually a clause in the contract which provides a window of time the publisher has to release the book before you can keep the advance and go elsewhere.

Strategy

There’s a heap to unpack here — people have written numerous books on this alone, so again, these are only the top tips I came away with. First up, your overarching strategy:

  • Understand your motivation. Know what’s important to you.
  • Understand the process (above).
  • Know who you are speaking to (the reader, the editor, the publisher, the publisher’s board). You need to keep each of those people in mind when crafting your submission.
  • Give them what they need to succeed. Understand the process and write your proposal to support each step. Make it as easy as possible for the publisher to prepare their argument for the publishing board (i.e. write it for them).
  • Don’t waste their time. Include everything they need, nothing they don’t. Your submission is one of thousands, if yours is too hard they’ll move on to the next.

Be a sniper

Sending out your manuscript to every publishing house you can find like the wild spray of a machine gun is considered unprofessional and can burn bridges. If you want to go down the traditional publishing route, you are looking to build long-term relationships. Do your research, select your target, hunt them down, one by one. No simultaneous submissions.
Remember, publishers are people, not companies. Finding the right editor / publisher is much more important than the imprint they work for, so do your research, build a hit list of editors you would love to work with, and approach them specifically — regardless of which imprint they work for, even if some work at the same publisher.
How do you identify the editors you want to work with? Research your favorite contemporary books from a relevant genre, who were the editors? Often, the author thanks them in the acknowledgements, so check there first, but the internet is a vast and beautiful resource. Build up your list, identifying the publishing house they’re currently at (for contact details, and to ensure you obey the submission guidelines). When you submit your proposal to them, don’t forget to include why you want to work with them.

Build relationships

As an author, your relationship with your editor (and agent) is the most important professional relationship you will have. Pick these people carefully and treat them with respect. Which brings us to a very important rule: “Never sign on with an agent / editor / publisher whom you wouldn’t invite home to dinner.”
That’s it for now. The session also included detailed tips and guidance on how to structure and write a proposal, but I’ll leave that topic for another time. I hope you find this helpful. Again, I want to acknowledge and thank Bradley Trevor Greive for donating his time to the Tasmanian Writers’ Festival, and for giving me permission to share my take-aways. Buy his books.
Also, check out my debut novel, the sci-fi Human Resources, coming out early 2018.

See full post

September Human Resources update

I've just sent out the September backer update for Human Resources. If you aren't following the project on Inkshares, you can nevertheless read it here.

See full post

On Old Friends and New Beginnings 

This announcement makes me incredibly happy.

See full post

Recommendation: The Falcon Flies Alone

Disclaimer: I read a free review copy of this book.
The Falcon Flies Alone is a supernatural science-fiction novel set in Switzerland and Germany during the 1950’s. It follows the fraught tale of Peppa; the recently orphaned daughter of a respected chemist who is a skilled scientist in her own right. When we join her, however, she is far from the halls of Radcliffe where she had expected to be studying. After the death of her father, she was left in the care of her Aunt until she came of age at twenty-one — a situation she couldn’t stand, leading her to flee and hide in the country until her birthday when she could claim her inheritance. Unfortunately, things spiral out of control when she is implicated in a violent and deadly incident in the town, one that unleashes a falcon spirit inside and leaves her questioning her sanity as she flees the authorities.
The story is interesting, deliberately keeping the reader guessing as to whether Peppa has really transformed into a giant raptor, or whether the drug she was tricked into ingesting cause a psychotic break. The novel is well-written, and I enjoyed it, though there were a few elements that held me back (all subjective).
My biggest problem was Peppa. She’s a naïve character who has grown up submersed in science, leading her to interpret the world and events through an almost purely clinical eye. She goes through a great deal in the book, and is undoubtedly the victim, but at the end of the day I just couldn’t bring myself to like her. It’s not always necessary to want to be friends with the protagonist in a novel, but in this case, I struggled a little to care about her future. This is definitely my subjective experience, and I have no doubt others will love her. She just wasn’t the style of character I’m drawn to.
Mathieu has done a lot of research for the book, and it shows. While there are supernatural elements to the story, it focusses on its science-fiction basis, and there is a lot of science to unpack. In places I found it a little heavy handed, but throughout most of the book it flows well. Some people will love the detail provided, others perhaps not so much. You’ll know if you like your stories with a heavy dose of science — I again present this not as a criticism, but as a subjective experience.
The Falcon Flies Alone is the first book in a series, the book nicely closes the primary story arc while opening into the next. The novel is action-packed with rolling twists and turns. Gabrielle Mathieu is strong writer who has delivered an interesting period science-fiction which will be loved by those who connect to the main character.
You can pick up a copy from Amazon here, or read more reviews on Goodreads here.

See full post

Recommendation: Cassandra Palmer Extended Universe

My “what I read” segments are short book (or series) recommendations based on the books I enjoy. They generally aren’t designed to be a detailed review — you get a basic summary of what the book / series is about, and why I like it.

The CPEU

As far as I know, the “Cassandra Palmer Extended Universe” isn’t part of the official lexicon, but it should be. This recommendation is really for two series that take place in the same universe: the Cassandra Palmer series and the Dorina Basarab series (a spin off). Both are written by Karen Chance and are accompanied by a series of fun novellas in addition to the main novels.
(more…)

See full post

Blood Capital monthly update

Updated 02/11/2017 to reflect the now announced final title. The previous version of this post named the book by its working title, Human Resources.

The Blight changed everything. Eighty years later, humanity is almost extinct. They survive only by the grace of the Melior, only so long as they are viable food.

Last month I mentioned the focus of the developmental edit had been on expanding the world-building and firming up some of the science behind the novel. I'm pleased to report that is now complete, I have new beat sheets and scene outlines, and am officially writing pages again!
Speaking of science, the MIT Technology Review just published a very interesting article on CRISPR being used to edit the DNA of human embryos. Why is this interesting? Because this application of CRISPR is a key trigger for the creation of the world in my novel. I've uploaded a special new excerpt to the Inkshares site telling the history of the world, from today to when my novel starts. You can read it here.
In other news, I took advantage of receipt trip to Sydney (the setting for the book), to further explore some of the relevant locations for scenes. I use the apple maps 3D city render, along with google street view extensively, but there's nothing better than standing on-site. A couple highlights below.
 

That's all for now — I need to get back to the manuscript and finish writing it so you can all read it.
If you want to know more about the novel, check out the page here on my site, or its page on my publisher's site.
 

See full post

Archive

Back To Top
Copyright © Robert Batten. All Rights Reserved.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram