So You Want To Be Published?

The market for black writers is hotter than ever. Here's your guide to landing your first book deal.

GETTING AN EDITOR INTERESTED IN YOUR WORK
Getting an editor’s attention takes savvy. Having an agent helps, but creating awareness of your work in the publishing world is almost equally important. Writers such as Rohan Preston, who wrote for the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times, and Mark August, who wrote for the Dallas Times Herald and Tampa Tribune, were working journalists prior to trying their hands in the literary marketplace. Writers such as Paul Beatty, author of the critically acclaimed novel The White Boy Shuffle (Houghton Mifflin), and Sapphire, author of PUSH (Knopf), made names for themselves performing on the poetry circuit before publishing their novels.

According to Preston, contributing essays, poems or short stories to anthologies is one of the best ways to grab the attention of editors. Several of the writers who contributed to his anthology, Soulfires, have attracted interest as a result of this kind of exposure. In particular, contributor Colin Channer will publish his first novel, Waiting In Vain (Ballantine Books), this fall.

Reading your poetry or excerpts from your work of fiction at local coffeehouses and bars is another way to get linked into the literary network and begin making a name for yourself. Many places offer open- mike nights, and well-known spots such as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in Manhattan, the Guild Complex in Chicago or Victor’s Cafe in Oakland draw editors who are scouting new talent.

ONCE YOU HAVE A DEAL
Once you’ve struck a deal with a publisher you can expect to spend several months working out the details of your contract. Some of the terms you will want to address are the payment schedule of your advance; book sales royalties; your input on the book’s cover design; whether your publisher will retain or sell your book’s paperback rights; and whether you or the publisher will retain foreign, audio and electronic publication rights. While terms such as royalty percentages are standard (10% of the first 5,000 copies, 12.5% of the next 5,000 copies and 15% of 10,000 and over for hardcover sales), others such as who retains foreign, audio and electronic publication rights can be negotiated.

Though most writers rely on their agents to help them understand the terms of their contract and to negotiate one that is in their best interest, it’s always good  to do your own research. Professional organizations such as the Authors Guild or National Writers Union can help you determine what terms should be covered, and what constitutes a fair contract.

While you are negotiating contract terms with your publisher, it would also be wise to begin developing a relationship with your editor. Your editor will not only guide you through rewrites, she will also help develop support of your book from the marketing, promotions and publicity departments within the publishing house. This is particularly the case at the larger houses, where the number of releases is so great that projects often receive minimal attention. Having a good relationship with your editor can mean the difference between a bests
eller and a flop.

Carol Taylor, an editor at Crown Publishers, says that one way of developing a good relationship with your editor is to view the editing process as a partnership, and be willing to work as hard as your editor to ensure the book’s success. “The writer and editor should decide together what works best for them,” says Taylor. “Should the book be written in batches and edited chapter by chapter, or should the whole book be completed and then edited?”

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  • Dominique

    Hi. How are u doin?well i come to ask for help on how to build a poem book?like what all do i need other then the poems it self.

    thank u
    from
    dominique

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