As a new writer, will you pay to get your first publishing break?

There’s a common saying in the conventional publishing world. Money flows to the writer. What does it mean?

It means that you should never have to pay money to anyone in the publishing chain – publishers, editors, literary agents, websites running websites or any facilitators who are suggesting that they’ll make the rocky road a little smoother for you.

Here’s how it works for each team.

Publishers
Traditional publishers take on the financial risk of getting your book published. That is why they have to be selective and focus not only on the quality of writing, but also on the commercial aspects. As a writer, money will flow to you in the form of royalties. You will make money only if they do. Well, you might say advances are paid upfront. But that again is just an estimate of how well they think your book will do in the market.

Editors
If you are working with a traditional publisher, they will assign an editor for your book and absorb the cost. You will not be expected to pay the editor from your pocket. But to get to that stage, you will need to ensure that your writing has been pre-edited before you submit your manuscript to the publisher. You might hire an editor independently for her services and that would be your personal call. The publisher will not insist that you hire anyone.

Literary agents
There’s nothing that stops anyone from launching a literary agency, and many do. The good ones make money after they’ve sold your book. Not all of them are successful in doing so. And they might resort to getting their compensation from the author – under labels like reading fee, administrations charges and other creative categories.

Writing contests
Many websites organize contests where writers can submit short stories or articles and be considered for mouth-watering prizes. Some might ask you for an entry fee or a registration charge. Others would make the entry free. See what (real) folks who have interacted with the organizing team have to say about the authenticity of these contests.

Of course, all that is in the ideal world. Given the fierce competition, new writers are more than willing to pay money to smooth talkers who are good at selling dreams. If you think anything sounds to good to be true, ask yourself why others in your situation haven’t already grabbed the opportunity and bypassed the long wait.

Not all of the available options might be evil though. With the advent of alternative publishing options (like self-publishing), the rules of the game can change. So before you shell out cash, do carry out some research about how the model works, how credible are the guys who are helping you in the process and what their track record has been.

13 Comments

  1. Joy says:

    I have scripted a 150 page novella keeping in mind the waning interest in reading literary fiction among the young and the old in equal magnitude. However it is the premise that stirs doubt in my brain. I’have Jacaranda, Red Ink and Sherna Khambatta in mind. I was noticed and published by the Kindle magazine, but I wish to know if there are other Literary competitions specific to India where I can present my thoughts.

  2. Sameer says:

    Joy,

    Congrats on getting the exposure in Kindle magazine.

    If you are looking for India-specific competitions, opportunities and (paid and unpaid) writing assignments then you could join the Caferati community.
    http://www.caferati.com/
    http://caferati.blogspot.com/

    Subscribe to their newsletters and you might just stumble upon the break that you have been waiting for.

  3. Ashwani Singh says:

    Hi Sameer..
    I recently completed my fiction novel about love story
    i want to know how much charge taken by editor for complete around 200 page.
    and one more thing if i want get published how much amount publisher charged. please tell all the hidden and other charges for a book to launch in market.

  4. @Ashwani: I assume you’ve read the blog post above to know that you shouldn’t be paying anything if you choose the traditional publishing route.

    For vanity publishing, each phase (editing, printing, promoting) can run into tens of thousands of rupees.

  5. Anand Goel says:

    Hi Sameer,

    First I am impressed the way you are active on your site. Second I appreciate all facts mentioned over here. I found no glitches on your words and will appreciate more if your could advise me too.

    I have written a Novel “MR.NOBODY still remembers HER” but I had no clue how to move forward to get it published. Thanks to you, I got some idea from your site and I am currently following same. I have dropped an initial query letter to Jacaranda and as per my understanding I will prefer to goal a literary agent rather than a publishing house directly. Please advice your suggestions and please help me with some more names so that I can get a blast.

    Also when I checked google I found no place to put my work (first chapter of my novel) where I can find target audience or people who can notice me. It will be great help if you could suggest me some.

    Please do check my website : http://www.anandgoel.com

    Regards,
    Anand Goel
    anagoel@gmail.com

  6. Tirthendu Ganguly says:

    Hello, Mr. Sameer,
    I’m from a poor family but I have the zeal to do anything to get my books (all sorts of writings, fictional novel, literary & academic books & poetry) published. But my financial status won’t allow me to publish my books on my own. Is there any other way? Hope a reply from you.
    Yours truly,
    Tirthendu Ganguly

  7. Remita Panda says:

    Hello Sameer, I just wanted to know, do I need to pay any amount (money) if my manuscript gets accepted aftr I submitted it? I am not talking about self publishing here, kindly let me know that if I wanna be a published writer, do I need to pay any sum even if dey make me wait 6 months for an acceptn?

  8. @Anand: Just checked your site. Seems like it ran out of steam after 3 posts. The key is to be persistent with any approach you take if it doesn’t show quick results.

    @Tirthendu: You don’t need money to get your book published. Traditional publishers do it for free.

    @Remita: No you don’t have to pay anything to traditional publishers.

  9. Remita Panda says:

    Thanks Sameer:)

  10. Vijay prajapati says:

    Mr sameer my manuscript is under consideration and I choose first traditional publication than after waiting for one year I ask for partnership mode and they are ready for it and for partner mode I have to invest some money
    What to do next
    Move forward or not

  11. Sameer Sinha says:

    Sir, is it possible that my novel get publish by traditional publication house as I’m a fresher, if yes then how long it may take or else should I try some other ways like literary agency or blogging…

  12. Sameer says:

    Hi sir,
    I have completed my novel and set to roll with agents but as first time writer its getting a bit harsh and complicated. I talked to one publisher named teenage publishers.

    They said to me that the novel is quiet impressive and in first stall they would provide me book worth 80k indian rupee but for that i have to give an upfront payment of 50k.

    I was like does this usually happen with first time writers. 50k is a big deal.

    Trying immensely in india i am thinking of even trying out outside.
    Sir can you help me out with some foreign agents or publishers.

  13. Ankit says:

    Hi Sameer Sir,

    I had sent my novel to a publisher. They have given me the option of Traditional publishing. BUT they said that the book will be appreciated but only by a particular section of people. That their editorial, marketing and production team feels that they won’t be able to reach up to break-even point due to high production cost.
    They have demanded rs. 30k for as share of production and sale promotion cost.

    Please advise.

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