Internet Authors Arent Dummies

by : Mike Scantlebury

There are plenty of people out there who've written a book. Maybe you're one of them. Maybe you've thought of trying to get it published, (not on the internet, but with a real, live, bricks-and-mortar publisher). OK. First step? You need advice. You trot along to your local bookshop and start looking along the shelves until you find titles like 'Getting Published for Dummies' and 'Seeing Your Book in Print for Complete Fools'. Trouble is, there is no way on earth that anybody can write a formula for getting your book published by Traditional Publishers that works every time, and you will be sorely disappointed.

You see, getting published generally falls into three stages. First is Writing the Book. Ah, right now, you've hit problems. Sure, the advice 'for dummies' will be all about Plot, and Tone, and Point of View, but the fact is that this will vary according to what you want to write. If it's a hard-boiled detective mystery, you might choose to have tough, no-nonsense characters from the streets, talking in the local argot, swearing and blaspheming their way through life. If you want to create a Mills and Boon romance, on the other hand, you need to drop the bad language, the 'attitude', and find some sympathetic people with everyday problems to write about. So, when the advice is 'Make sure your dialogue is sparkling, witty and pithy', who are we talking about here? Does that advice apply to the type of story you're trying to create? When the advice is 'Keep your descriptions short and to the point', does that work every time, in every situation? No, the 'advice' is way, way too general, well-meaning, and, ultimately, vague and inappropriate.

Writers who find their way through this maze will then have to move on to Stage Two. This involves Preparing your Manuscript for Publication. Ah, now we are on much safer ground. This is the one time in the whole process when you can be absolutely accurate about what to do. The fact is that every publisher will want to see a manuscript neatly typed, with no spelling mistakes, on one side of A4 only, and with separated pages. That's right. No ifs, no buts. Don't think you can send in your handwritten material – it won't get looked at, and don't think you can print on both sides of the page to save paper. They won't accept it. These are 'Rules' that we can all agree on. For once.

Now we move on to Stage 3, Submitting your Manuscript to Publishers. Which publishers? This is where the advice gets kind of vague. 'Choose a suitable publisher' seems fairly easy to understand. Don't send your novel about drug-fuelled crime warlords to Mills and Boon, but don't send them the one about gay cowboys either! After that, it's hard to tell. You can look in your local bookshop (again) and see what each publisher has out now, but don't forget that these 'new' books were over a year in the making. What that publisher is looking at today may be completely different to what they published then. So, it's rather hit and miss, then? Yes, it is, and the 'Dummies' book will be full of true, but rather unhelpful anecdotes, about how various authors got published, often against the odds and unexpectedly. At the end of the day, you can 'try and try again'. Maybe it will work.

No, most authors are not 'Dummies' and don't need to be lectured at. But reading a book about getting published by Traditional Publishers is a bit like reading a book on 'Roulette for Dummies' or, you know, that really good one on 'Winning the Lottery Without even Having to Buy a Ticket'. If you want something more certain, take your manuscript and log on to a print-on-demand site like where you can upload your material, print off a few copies and make a start on 'being a published author', not least because yes, you do then have a book in print. After that, it will be less nerve-racking taking the traditional route and posting off your precious creation to publishers, because at least you will have had the feeling of what it's like to hold a book in your hand with your name on the cover and your story on the pages. Traditional Publishers can't guarantee that will happen – ever – and no advice for would-be authors, however well-meaning, can ensure success either. Only the internet can, and that applies to everybody, 'dummy' or normal person.