Chris Fenwick

April 22 , 2024

The Ins and Outs of Getting Published

There is often a misconception in writer’s circles (and minds) regarding the publishing business. I’d like to address this and hopefully get you excited about your success in publishing. Everyone hears about J.K. Rowling’s, Tom Clancy’s or Michelle Obama’s book deals. Every writer dreams of being the next Elizabeth Gilbert, Stephen King or Malcolm Gladwell. The truth is, these big-name authors are less than 1% of authors worldwide and the chances of you breaking into that elite group are slim to none. I am not here to burst your bubble or steal your dreams, miracles do happen. But for the sake of this article, let’s consider the rest of us writers who love it, and work at it, but may never reach that pinnacle.

The exact numbers are hard to come by, but it is no exaggeration that over a million books are published every year. Some are good and go unnoticed. Some are bad and should remain unnoticed. Traditional large to medium-sized publishers will evaluate your manuscript on a whole host of factors, but they really boil down to two main points.

  1. Is the writing/story any good? When the acquisitions editor looks through submissions, they will look for typos, common writing errors and plot holes. They will also hope to be intrigued. But you must understand that publishers get thousands of submissions (again no exaggeration), and they are tasked with finding the gems in that hay pile (apologies for mixing metaphors). So, if you give them a reason on page one to reject your manuscript, you will get the ‘Dear John/Jane’ letter. I know this seems basic, but at least 80% of all submissions to Sunbury Press are rejected because of page 1. This is why large publishers will only accept manuscripts from agents. It guarantees they aren’t wasting time.
  2. Does the writer have a platform of any kind? Do they have a website, an email list, are they comfortable with speaking, have they written a book before? Evidence of a platform tells the publisher that the writer understands the difficulty in selling books in today’s market (remember: 1+ million books a year). The larger the publisher, the higher the platform ‘bar.’

So, what happens if the writing is good, but the platform is ‘eh?’ A medium-sized publisher might take a chance. But, even then, most will give you three months to make the sales goal that is set (they don’t always tell you what that is) and if you don’t make it, they drop you. Meaning no more time and effort will go into your book. They have moved on. They have to. If they don’t sell books, they don’t make money – actually, no one does, including the author. It’s a tough market and they have to find others that can sell books.

Marketing efforts vary wildly from publisher to publisher. Some will take care of distribution, but marketing is the author’s job. Some will spend some marketing dollars to see how it goes, watching to see if the investment is going to pay off. Others spend a ton, but only for that top 1% of authors. Fiction writers think this doesn’t pertain to them, only non-fiction writers need a platform, right? Nope. Fiction writers might want to stay behind their keyboards and just write stories, but if they are unwilling to get out there and talk about their book, chances are, even if they get one book published, they’ll have a hard time with number two.

Sunbury Press takes a slightly different approach to all of this. Oh, we still sort through a lot of bad submissions looking for gems. AND, we also are looking for writers who have a platform and are able and willing to help sell their books, but we also publish a lot of new authors. We are looking for partners. We’ll edit, distribute and invest in marketing, hoping that you will be out there talking about, reading and selling your book too. We won’t give you a three-month window. We take the long-view and hope that sales continue for at least a year or more. Our bar is lower, but our expectations are not. If we see authors who are unwilling to help sell their books, we can’t continue to invest. On the flip side, those writer-partners who are actively working to expand their platform and readership, you’ll find us happy to help with manpower, information, training and marketing investments that make sense.

As Sunbury Press grows and expands, you’ll find us even more committed to finding those gems and partnering with authors who are ready to join us in that growth!