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Five Publishing Pitfalls To Avoid

Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott


Freelance Copywriter


Feb, 2018

This is the 4th post in the Final Draft Series.

We are consuming more information today than ever and the ways to publish that information are now sprouting up like hydra heads! So how do you make sure that what you publish is seen and that you get credit (and paid) for it? I spoke to a number of new and experienced authors to put together a few of the more common publishing pitfalls to avoid as you set off on your journey.

1. Don’t Give Up Too Many Rights

This may be the most common of our publishing pitfalls for new authors. Many new authors are delighted that somebody has recognised them and wants to publish their work, but there are plenty of places that are more than happy to publish your work and not give you what you deserve for it—sometimes even charging you for the privilege. If you haven’t read my article on different types of publishers, head on over there and take a look.

It’s not arrogant to imagine your work being made into an audiobook or eBook, translated into many languages, or even adapted for TV or film; you have to prepare for the best and worst of scenarios, and one way to do that is to hire a professional in creative rights. Yep, lawyer up. Brian Michael Bendis has a great chapter on what the average comics writing contract looks like in his book Words for Pictures and you could do a lot worse than checking it out for some tips on how to make sure your imagination-baby is treated as well as possible when you send it out into the big bad world.

2. Be Market Savvy

The best thing about Indie Publishing is that you get to write exactly what you want! If you fancy writing shellfish erotica featuring the Court of Crusty Conch Shells in eighteenth-century England, then go ahead and write just that! And remember with glee that there’s no obligation for anybody to buy it!

One of the benefits of agents and larger publishers is that they have knowledge of the market. They know what sells and when it sells. But this isn’t alchemy, people. If you want to know the state of the market, do your homework and use a bit of common sense. Checking out places like publishersmarketplace.com to find out what editors are looking for right now would be a great place to start. Don’t forget, balancing what you love writing about and what might sell is a trick best learned early in a writing career, and if what you love doesn’t sell, you’ll always have had the pleasure of writing it!

“One of the benefits of agents and larger publishers is that they have knowledge of the market. They know what sells and when it sells.”

3. Hire an Editor

I elaborated on finding a quality editor another article so I’ll say briefly here that your mother, your boyfriend, your best friend and your cousin who’s an English teacher are the worst people to send your manuscript to. They love you and that makes them blind to your shortcomings. You need cold consideration of your work—and not just because you keep writing effect instead of affect.

4. Proper Formatting

Indie publishing is great because it’s liberating and it’s awful for the same reason. There are more than a handful of “books” on Kindle that look like they were handed into a ninth-grade English teacher only days before they got their “big publishing break” online. You wouldn’t be happy with printing mistakes in your paperback—make sure your online publication looks just as good. You can download Smashwords’ Style Guide free here. Your readers (and bank balance) will thank you later!

5. Let It loose!

The last of our publishing pitfalls is a bit different. It’s no false cliché that there are a billion “masterpieces” withering away in drawers around the world. Most people write their work, finish it (or don’t) and then treat said work as if it were their first baby and they’re an overprotective mother too scared to let it go to preschool in case it gets a graze on its knee. Finish your work and then submit it to the most caustic, searing trial-by-fire at the formidable hands of the most dastardly editors, agents, and publishers. It’ll come out the other end as most manuscripts don’t: “good”.

Have any publishing pitfalls that you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments below!


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