Probably one of the questions I am asked the most is about how to get published.
I sure wish I had a good answer for you.
I submitted queries for both Geek Girl and Heart on a Chain to multiple agents, only on rare occasion getting past the "thanks but no thanks" form letter. It's disheartening, to say the least. A few asked for the first few chapters, one for the entire manuscript, but all ending in the same, depressing way.
I don't tell you this to discourage you in any way. You may be the author of the next Twilight and have no problem getting an agent (though I believe I remember Stephenie Meyer saying she received over 50 rejections before being picked up by her agent). I really think that it's becoming very difficult, almost impossible, to get an agent without being an already known entity...or writing about vampires.
This has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the book or the writing being submitted. It has everything to do with the demise of the traditional bookstore. Almost all of the big name book stores have gone away, except for Barnes & Noble and Borders. Of course, Borders just closed 200 stores and I've heard that they are perhaps in trouble of bankruptcy, though that's just heresay, so don't quote me. It's sad because there is still no experience like sitting on one of the comfy couches in a bookstore, reading with a friend or your daughter/son/mother/father.
Shelf space in a book store is also at a premium. Publishers pay big bucks to have their books placed on end caps or those tables throughout the store. Even to have your book placed cover out (instead of spine out) is a deal made between the store and the publisher. And that shelf space is ever-shrinking.
For most authors, that leaves one of two options: self-publishing, or being published by a smaller, vanity publisher that will accept un-agented submissions.
Self-publishing is a tricky thing. There are a great deal of fabulous authors self-publishing right now. These are authors who might not have otherwise been published, who you would miss out on if they weren't published.
The great thing about self-publishing is that anyone can have their work published. Conversely, the bad thing about self-publishing is that anyone can have their work published. For every great indie author you find, you will probably also find someone who would most likely never have been published in any other way.
I don't want to sound cruel, or as if I'm such a great author that they are all beneath me -- trust me, nothing could be further from the truth. I think there are some who just need a little more life experience under their belt. Others are just in desperate need of a good editor. There are many creative minds out there, it's mostly just a matter of polishing their work. Unfortunately, many of them don't and put out a book that is less than stellar. This gives all of the self-published industry a bad name.
I'm begging you to give self-published authors a chance. There are many, many good ones out there. My best suggestion is read the reviews (make sure they weren't written by the author them self or a relative). Then read these books, many of which you can buy for less than traditionally published books.
As far as being published by a smaller publisher, I think that's another amazing option for authors. Smaller publishers, many times referred to as vanity or indie publishers, are willing to take a look at a manuscript without an agent. They will publish books that the big publishers overlook. And sometimes, as in the case of my book, Geek Girl, they will even publish a book that has been previously self-published. Cedar Fort Publishing was willing to take Geek Girl on, even though it had already been out in the world for six months.
Why did I chose to go with a publisher, when I was doing well enough alone? Because I don't have the ability to get my books on shelves in bookstores. Self-published, or POD (print on demand) books are not refundable; therefore, stores will not carry them. They want to be able to return books when they can't sell them. So I decided I wanted to have it traditionally published, get it out there into stores, and see what happens.
Some people will argue that the desire to have a book on the shelf is nothing but vanity, that it's a moot point once you're already published. I disagree. Not only are there a great deal of people who still want the experience that comes with vegging in a book store, I have people asking me all the time in what stores they can purchase my books. Not everyone wants to order off the internet.
Except for in the case of ebooks, of course. Even as early as July, 2010, Amazon was reporting ebooks outselling paper books by almost 2-to-1. It seems almost monthly other publishers are adding their name to the list of those selling more ebooks than paper books. B&N is actually being very smart about this -- they now allow authors to upload their own ebooks directly to their site, without a publisher. Borders does not offer this.
So it seems not only will we soon have a lack of book stores, we may also have a lack of actual books. and, while that may not bode well for the publishing industry and bookstores, it could be a boon for authors everywhere. We may not like it, but the wave of technology is coming fast, and we can either ride it, or be swept away by it.
Have questions about publishing your work? Send me an email from my website http://www.cindycbennett.com/ and I'll tell you what I know (granted it isn't much!).