- Why isn’t [book] available in my country?
- Where can I find [book] in audio or ebook format?
- When is your next book coming out?
- What are you working on now/next?
- Why does publishing take so long?
- In some books, there are continuity mistakes. What’s up with this?
Writing Questions & Advice
- Where do you get your ideas?
- How do you come up with characters?
- How did you come up with the creatures in your books?
- Where do you get names for characters and places?
- How do you develop the worlds and cultures in your books?
- How do you start a book or story?
- How do you deal with writer’s block?
- Do I have to rewrite my work?
- What do you say to people who want to become writers?
Publishing Questions & Advice
- How long is a book supposed to be?
- How can a new writer get an agent?
- What does an agent do?
- How can a new writer get a publisher?
- What if my work is turned down?
- How do I get published in comics?
Unfortunately, Tammy has no control over when or where her books are published. The decision to publish books outside of the U.S. and Canada is dependent upon whoever holds the rights in your country. And yes, this includes ebook versions!
This means that there may be some delay between the book’s initial release (in the U.S. and Canada), and when it becomes available in your country. Rights and publishing schedules can be pretty complex, and they can also vary from book to book, and series to series.
Let’s take Australia, for example. Currently, Scholastic Inc. holds the rights to the Circle books in the U.S. and Canada. A subsidiary, Scholastic Ltd., had the rights to publish the Circle books in the U.K. and Australia, which means that the Australian release dates were the same as those in England. Unfortunately, since they were also printed in England, it sometimes took month or so more for the books to reach Australia.
However, the Tortall books were published in the U.S. by Random House (now Penguin Random House), which still holds the rights to them. In 2003, Random House and Scholastic Australia worked out a contract that would allow the books to come out there at the same time they come out in the U.S. and Canada. As of Trickster’s Choice, all Tortall books have the same release date in Australia and the U.S. But, because Scholastic Ltd. still holds the Australian publishing rights to all Circle books, the newer Circle books were still published first by Scholastic in England, and took longer to reach Australia.
If you think that’s confusing, that’s because it can be! But hopefully this explains why it can take a lot of time for books to become available in your country, and why the circumstances are out of Tammy’s hands.
In short: if you have a question about a book’s publishing schedule and availability, your best bet is to contact the publishing house. In the meantime, if your local bookstores don’t have Tammy’s books, they may order them if you ask. You can also check online retailers like Amazon, AbeBooks, Bookfinder, and Book Depository.
When in doubt, ask the publisher. Who publishes the print version of that series? Who published the other audiobooks in that series, or the other ebooks? They’re your best bet for finding out when or if the other stories will be available in your chosen format. The more they hear from fans who want it, the more likely they are to publish audio or e-version of your favorite stories!
Unfortunately, there’s no estimated release date yet! Tammy’s still working on Book Two in the Numair Chronicles, and typically, with publishing, there’s about a year’s wait between a final draft and a book’s release date.
Tammy is currently working on the second book in the Numair Chronicles, her newest series, which follows the early life of Numair/Arram Draper. Currently, three books are planned for the series. She has some ideas for her next series—and there will be a next series!—but for the time being, there are no other projects planned and scheduled after the Numair Chronicles.
While she would love to revisit more of her characters and their stories, there is a lot in her worlds that still hasn’t been explored. We hope you’ll be as excited to meet new characters as Tammy is to share them with you.
First, please remember that while machines are involved in publishing, those involved in publishing are not machines. Every single person involved in the process has a life with complications, setbacks, personal concerns—not to mention other books they’re working on—and every one of those things can drag out or disrupt the process. Because it is a process. Even at the best of times, a book typically takes a year to go from finished final draft to bookstore shelf.
We’re talking about the post-author-sale process, here: you have an agent, you have an editor. You’ve given the editor the manuscript you’ve labored over to get to this point. And now the first round of waiting. Once your editor is finished reading and making notations on your manuscript, they’ll send you an editorial letter that sums up the “big picture” changes suggested, as well as any major plot holes or character inconsistencies. They’ll also mark up the manuscript pages with more minor questions and corrections, requests for clarity, or recommendations of areas to cut or tighten up.
Initial rewrites can be more or less severe. Sometimes there are plot holes that require a huge amount of correction, sometimes things are pretty decent and only need a round or two of polishing. Sometimes the editor will suggest changes to make the story stronger, to bring out what seems to be your central theme, or to make your characters and setting shine.
The editor is not your enemy. You don’t have to take every suggestion that they make, of course, but they aren’t trying to undermine the integrity of your work, claim it for their own, or force you to rewrite until your story is unrecognizable. If they paid you for your manuscript, it’s because they saw a good story and they want to help you make it better.
Once you’ve worked through that first round of feedback and made the suggested changes (or discussed with your editor why you don’t want to make them), congratulations! You have your first draft.
Yes, your first draft.
Doesn’t matter how many versions of the story you’ve written before this point. As far as the publishing process is concerned, that there is your first.
Then comes another round of editorial commentary, more discussion, more ideas, blood, sweat, tears, rewrites. And at the end of all of that, you have draft number two.
Lather, rinse, possibly repeat. Tammy usually goes through 2-3 drafts before the editor sends their final round of commentary. Along with the editor’s final commentary comes the copyeditor’s notes. They’ll check for spelling, grammar, and inconsistencies (like Pounce sitting on the window sill at the beginning of a scene and reclining on the desk at the end of it). You can accept the changes, tweak things yourself, or deny the changes. Tammy frequently rejects spelling and grammatical changes to her dialogue. If someone uses slang, local colloquialisms, and bad grammar while they talk, she intends it!
While the editing, editing, editing goes on, the marketing and sales people are working on jacket flap copy, an author bio for the back of the book (often they ask for these), and cover/promotional art. Unless you’re a Big Deal author, you probably won’t see the cover until it’s been finalized. Unless you’re a Huge Deal author, you’ll get little to no input on what the cover looks like. Sorry!
Right around when they’re finishing the cover designs, you’ll receive a typeset manuscript. This typically has two pages to a sheet, and looks as it will on the bound pages of your future book. This is your last chance to go over it for typos and minor mistakes and to make small changes. The editor and copyeditor will also go over this to check for the same things. The more eyes, the fewer typos get through. And some will still get through.
Then comes the sales meetings. You get to go in to a team of people who want to sell your book and talk about all the reasons you loved it when you started writing it! Try to remember what they were. They’ll be there, somewhere, buried in the deep recesses of your mind, beyond the desire to throw the entire manuscript into the air and take a flamethrower to it.
Engage the sales people! They’re nice, enthusiastic, and they want your work to succeed. The better they get to know you, and the more they like you, the harder they’ll push to get your work on the shelves. That’s the next phase: the publicity circuit, book fairs, catalogues sent to stores and libraries.
Then, at some point, you will get a box. Inside that box will be shiny new author copies of your work. It will be surreal. Bask in it.
About a month later, your books will hit the shelves.
To recap: it’s about a year from final draft to bookstore shelves. Tammy has at this point written three entirely new first drafts of the Numair books, and had a final polish of the first book submitted by April 2017. (And the book itself just came out in February 2018!) This, between author visits, being down with a cold or a migraine, dealing with unexpected life events… You get the picture.
So hopefully that answers the question of why there has been such a stretch of time between when she started work and when the books will hit shelves! She really appreciates the excitement and the patience you’ve had, and is doing her best to get things done as quickly and as well as possible.
Often, if you see an inconsistency between one book and another, or even in the print version vs the ebook version, the reason is what you might expect: human error. Of course, on some occasions, what looks like a continuity issue might just be a plot point that will come into play in a later book. But usually, it’s just a simple mistake. Some things manage to slip by Tammy, her editor, and the copyeditor, or they’re just the results of some wires getting crossed when an older book’s being converted into an ebook.
The truth is, as a writer, you can keep the most detailed, organized, and thorough notes possible… and still mix things up! Usually, these rogue mistakes are corrected in subsequent printings.
Writing Questions & Advice
Some I stumble across. Watching his nature programs, I decided British naturalist Sir David Attenborough would make a cool bio-mage: he’s the basis for Numair’s friend and teacher, Lindhall Reed. Watching my mother and sister produce blankets from balls of yarn and crochet hooks, I thought of it as a kind of magic and wondered what all could be done with thread magic. Wrestling with my best friend’s dove gave me the ideas for Kel’s relationship with the baby griffin in Squire.
Other ideas come from my past obsessions. As a child, I read anything and everything I could find about knights, the Crusades, and the Middle Ages, before moving on to fantasy novels and Arthurian legends in middle school. I wrote my first book, on a girl disguising herself to serve as a page and squire to achieve her knighthood, without doing any research on medieval life. Except, of course, I had: back when I was very young, reading articles in encyclopedias because I liked finding out more about knights. That was the first time that I realized my old interests could give me ideas.
Another way I get ideas is from people, from talking to them and listening to their input and suggestions. Current events and history are also fertile ground for ideas. Keep a file of events and figures that interest you; it might prove useful one day.
The best way to prepare to have ideas when you need them is to listen to and encourage your obsessions. Watch and re-watch all the TV programs and movies you have a need to watch; read and re-read all the books, magazines, and comic books; visit all the museums, zoos, galleries, concerts, and wilderness areas; and listen to all the kinds of music that interest you. If you get a sudden passion for anything and everything to do with, say, gang warfare, starling behavior, painting frescoes, or jousting, go with the urge. Find out all you can. Even if you can’t use it right away, it’ll go into some holding zone deep in your brain, and surface when you need it. All creative people—not just writers!—expose themselves to as much information, in as many forms, as possible, in the hopes that it will be useful down the road, or even right now. You never know what will spark something new!
I often start with a real person—if not someone I know, then an actor or actress I think would fit the part. It’s easiest for me to start with what someone looks and sounds like—if I know that, then I know about the character’s personality. As a result, I use a lot of photographs of people or performers. Of course, there always comes a point, as I’m working, when the character breaks away from the person I based them on to become their own self. That’s how I know I’m doing it right.
A word of warning: tell no one that you based a character on them. Even if you think you’ve written about that person perfectly, they may not like what you have to say. If the character you create starts doing things the person you based them on doesn’t do, they can get quite vexed. If they ask, lie. If you’re a bad liar, like me, practice in front of a mirror. Do not tell them.
As a kid, I read a lot of Greek, Roman, and Norse myths. Nowadays, I have a large number of reference books on mythology at home, including Graves’s and Hamilton’s books on the Greek gods and the Dover coloring book of mythological creatures. When I saw how goofy the medieval ideas of “fabulous beasts” looked, I started looking for creatures of my own that would make some kind of sense. The basilisk of medieval times was made up of a rooster’s head, a goat’s head and a snake’s head, on a goat’s body, with a snake’s tail. Fortunately, I had heard of the Central American basilisk lizard—they just needed to be a bit larger.
Others, I made up. I’ve read so many scholarly books about myths and why they have the power they do that I could use those abstract ideas to help me shape the inhabitants of the Divine Realms. Here are some examples:
- Hurroks. I wanted winged horses, but the Daine books are so rooted in the real natural world that bat wings made so much more sense than the traditional bird wings. I also wanted both friendly and unfriendly winged horses, though every time I tried to put friendly ones in a book, I’ve had to cut them for space. I wanted to have a term for the nasty winged horses that would mean “nasty winged horses” only, and jammed horse and hawk together to get hurrok. Then I added the marks of a predator: claws, fangs, and forward-facing eyes.
- Dragons. I started with the Pena sculptures and dragons like the one in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The Pena sculptures are a bit too round and cute, so I thinned my dragons down, but I liked the rich colors and kept those. I also based some dragons’ coloring on animals I know (Scamp and Grizzle are my best friend’s Maltese and toy poodle).
- Stormwings. I began with harpies, but I did not like the fact that harpies are only female—I wanted something for both sexes. I took the Stormwings’ mission to despoil battlefield dead from an image in Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts. The harpies who ruin the king’s dinner are so creepy and alien that the image of their attack stayed with me. (Knowing that they mess with bodies also gave me the idea for their smell.) I also wanted my Stormwings to be clearly unnatural and therefore frightening, which is where the steel feathers and claws came in. It was my husband’s idea to make them not entirely hateful. I would have just gone on writing them as Evil as Zhaneh Bitterclaws was, but he pointed out that I’m not very good at portraying characters that way, and that they’d be more interesting if they weren’t. Then, of course, I had to find a way to make creatures so terrifying in the first book into mixed ones for the others. I’m so glad I ran into Rikash—he really helped me to shift my point of view.
- Darkings. Years ago, when the movie Roger Rabbit came out, my best friend couldn’t stop talking about the brilliance behind the idea of the shoe that Christopher Lloyd’s character destroys in Dip. Clearly, the animators couldn’t bear the thought of using a human- or animal-like Toon to show how bad Dip was, but the sacrifice had to have some lifelike quality, or we simply wouldn’t care. They made Shoe cute and bouncy, and everyone hated the Judge for putting it in Dip. Then, when Aladdin came out, Raquel told me about how the animators had decided to go entirely with computer, non-human, animation for non-human characters, particularly Carpet and the sand lion/sphinx which appears in the desert. That, added to my thoughts on Shoe, led me to try to create my own creatures which were not anything living in the terms we normally use. From my knowledge of folklore, I’m always aware that blood is a powerful image in people’s minds, and of course Ozorne’s blood creations had to be small and close to invisible to be able to get close to Daine. When I dipped my ladle into the stew of all these thinks, I came up with darkings.
I get character names from all kinds of sources. One warning: avoid names from telephone books. If someone discovers their name in something you’ve written, they can sue. With that in mind:
- Baby name books. I own twenty-one, each with its own blank paper jacket. (You do not want people to see you reading a baby name book. They get all doofie—or snide.) Since I write fantasy, most of my books are world culture names, starting with The New Age Baby Name Book. This gives you a ready supply of names that are unusual to start with. You can find plenty of baby name books in any bookstore, usually under the parenting/child care section, often near the kids’ book section. There’s a lot to choose from, so leaf through and see if the book will be of use– the first book I got was one of ordinary American names, and it frustrated me almost to tears.
- Maps. When I’m really stuck, and I want a lot of names that sound like they all come from the same part of the world as the culture I based mine on, I get very detailed place maps. For example, I based the culture of the Saren and K’miri people in my Tortall books on Southeast Asia, so I found detailed maps of Laos and Cambodia. I don’t use all of a place name, but part of it, and I make lists of possible names for future use.
- Language books. When I’m basing a culture on part of our world, I pick up phrase books and dictionaries for the cultures which are dominant in that part of the world. In my Circle series, the Traders have traveled all over those parts of their world which are most like those covered by the historical Silk Road. I picked up Thai Hill Tribe, Tibetan, Nepalese, and Arabic phrase books, and Swahili, Hindi, and Chinese dictionaries, and looked up words which resembled the ones I wanted to turn into Tradertalk. I then tugged here and rearranged there, to get a word which felt like a real Tradertalk word to me.
- Ye Olde Notebook Trick. If you want to write anything, the notebook that fits in your bag or backpack and rests on your nightstand is your best friend. Mostly you’ll use it for ideas, sentences and descriptions, but they are also good storehouses for the names you like when you stumble across them in everyday life (like Old Dutch and Puritan names in the tax records I had to research for one job). Just remember, never use the complete name of a real person. Write it down, though, so you won’t accidentally use that person’s real first or last name when you are composing.
You’ve probably noticed that many names and words do not pass through my hands unscathed—I am always tinkering with them, dropping out syllables or rearranging them. One of the things I dislike in fantasy is reading along and being jolted out of the mood by a phrase or a name which sounds too much like my real world. You may not feel this strongly about it—or your work may be based on some aspect, modern or historical, of that real world. I just wanted to mention this, for what it’s worth.
I borrow from the real world, because I’m not good at making stuff up. I change names, I change incidents, I borrow bits of things from here and there provided they fit together smoothly, but at least when I start with what’s real I have a basis on which to build.
I never want to borrow too much from one particular thing or place, because then people will assume that those things that don’t belong to that era or that part of the world are mistakes, or not part of how I set things up. But having something real certainly makes it easier to start.
First, do your advance work: whatever research you might need. You may end up doing more research as you get into your story, but at least do what you need to get started.
Find out the time, place, and manner that makes you want to write the most: at a desk, in bed, with a computer and keyboard, or with a brand new notebook. Figure out what time is best for you, and gather all you need to write (so you don’t have to keep getting up to find things). If you have a ritual to get you in the right mind to write, do it, then place your behind on chair (or wherever you work).
Sometimes it’s best to begin traditionally: “Once upon a time/Sing, Goddess, the wrath of Achilles/Let it be known that in the days” or “Chapter One: I am born.” I start with a scene: people meeting to talk. Describe the setting, the first person there, then the second—try to introduce at least one main character.
Some can write scenes from different points in the story, scenes which are easiest for them to imagine—they don’t need to start at beginning, but fill in around the scenes they’ve already written (most of us have to start at the beginning). Pick a point, any point, and start writing. If you’ve started the story too soon, or too late, you can always rewrite.
Here are some fixes I use when I get stuck:
- Introduce a new character. A strong character with an individual style in speech, dress and behavior, who will cause the other characters to review their own actions and motives to decide where they stand with regard to this new character.
- Have something dramatic happen. As Raymond Chandler put it, “Have someone come through the door with a gun in his hand.” (My husband translates this as “Have a troll come through the door with a spear in his hand.”) Machinery can break down; your characters can be attacked; a natural disaster may sweep through. New, hard circumstances force characters to sink or swim, and the way you show how they do either will move things along.
- Change the point of view from which you tell the story. If you’re doing it from inside one character’s head, try switching to another character’s point of view. If you’re telling the story from an all-seeing, third person point of view, try narrowing your focus down to one character telling the story in first person. You can even insert a nonfiction-like world-building segment as a change of pace. Try telling it as a poem, or a play. (You can convert it to story form later.)
- Put this story aside and start something else. Letters, an article, a poem, a play, an art project. Look at the story in a day, or a week, or a couple of months. It may be fresh for you then; it may spark new ideas.
- Talk to somebody. If you have a friend who’s into the things you’re writing about, talk it out with them. My husband often supplies wonderful new ideas so I can get past whatever hangs me up, and my family and friends are used to mysterious phone calls asking about things seemingly out of the blue, like what gems would you wear with a scarlet gown, or how tall are pole beans in late June?
Most important of all, know when it’s time to quit. Sometimes you take an idea as far as it will go, then run out of steam. This is completely normal. Whether you finish something or not, the things you learn and ideas you developed, even in a project you don’t finish, can be brought to your next project, and the next, and the next. Sooner or later you’ll have a story which you can carry to a finish.
Yes, at least once or twice. You will always find things to fix or change, because you learned more about writing as you got that book or story on paper. Chances are that even when you sell something, your editor will ask for a rewrite. You may hate that, but here’s the chance to show what a professional you are by gritting your teeth, having the courage to admit your editor has a point, and trying to see things through their eyes. Remember, you’re probably way too close to your “baby” to see its flaws like an outsider will. What many writers forget is that most editors aren’t in the business to make your life a misery, but to make your work better. Any halfway decent editor will see ways that you can make your “baby” excel.
Don’t let anyone fool you: every writer needs editing. Every writer. Be sensible about criticism, though. Think about everything you’re told, weigh it, decide whether it will improve your work or whether the critic has some need of their own. With editors and agents, if you disagree, state your argument politely, and think about the other person’s reply. Listen to your own instincts. Try to be open-minded, but have faith in yourself as well. It sounds—and is—hard, but you have to try, because you are the writer. The final responsibility for your work is yours, and you owe your readers (the people who pay money or time to read you) the best possible effort you can make.
I say, “Write what makes you happy.” Write what makes you want to write more. Write to please yourself first, because you may be the only audience you have for years and years. Listen to what other people tell you, because there may be something in what they say that’s useful, but learn also to trust in your own instincts about your writing.
Write the kind of thing you like to read. Try different kinds of writing, because each new form helps you to see your writing—and what you want to do with it—differently. So far I’ve written: stage plays, radio plays, screenplays (none that were made into movies, though), poetry (bad poetry!), articles, movie reviews, stories for women’s magazines, and all kinds of other short stories. I’ve also worked as an editor, copyeditor, and proofreader, which has been very useful. Helping other people sort out their mistakes teaches you how to avoid some of them yourself.
Publishing Questions & Advice
The limit on most novels for teenagers—up until recently, at least—is 200 manuscript pages (about 250 pages in final book form). Intermediate/Young Reader books are about 150 pages. For me, 200 pages is just long enough for the main character to get into, and (we trust) out of, serious trouble. Often, when I try to include detailed information about secondary or minor characters, I end up having to cut it to meet my page limit.
Thanks to J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman, we’re now being given a bit more room: Scholastic has let me run up to 220 pages, and Random House gave me an extra 100 pages for Squire. However, I typically prefer to keep the story to around 200 pages to keep the story direct and moving, and the cast of characters short. For me, that seems to work very well.
Of course, adult novels are a different story, sort of. A good length for a first novel intended for an adult audience is 400 manuscript pages. If your first novel goes over 500 pages, pray that it’s really good, because publishers are very skittish about backing a long book by an unknown unless a number of those who have seen it are certain it will be a hit.
The best guide to agents is the annual Guide to Literary Agents, published by Writer’s Digest Books. The annual Writer’s Market guides, by the same publisher, additionally include information that can help you find an agent and get published.
These listings will tell you the names and addresses of the agencies. If an agency is made up of more than one agent, they will list the different agents, what kinds of book they represent, and whether or not the agent will accept simultaneous submissions to more than one agent. The listing will explain the terms of the contract, what form they want to see for your manuscript, writers they already represent, conferences they attend, and tips.
When making a query as a young writer, it’s best not to state your age. If your work is good enough to measure up to that of adult writers, you should give your age after an agent and publisher take you on. This will give them an incentive to give you extra publicity. If you tell them ahead of time, and your work isn’t up to an adult standard, you risk being published before a very hostile critical audience that will trash your work and diminish your chances for good sales and contracts for future books.
One thing we have to learn as professionals is to keep an eye on our futures. Yes, we want to publish books now, but we also want to make sure that we keep publishing them. That’s why it’s important to look at what your agent has sold before you sign a contract with them: make sure they like the kinds of things that you write now and what you want to write in the future. You don’t have to put everything in your first book, because if you work hard, there will be future books. Put it in the back of your mind that you want to work on future books, so your brain will start cooking ideas.
You can find the Guide to Literary Agents and Writer’s Market in the reference section of your library, or at most bookstores, under the section that carries reference books for writers. If you wish to purchase the books online, the 2018 Guide to Literary Agents can be found here, and the 2018 Writer’s Market guide here.
Oh, one more thing. Make sure your book is finished before you write to anyone. Agents and publishers need to know you can finish a book before they’ll take you on.
An agent’s services depend on the agency. First, an agent reads and comments on your manuscript and advises about the need for rewrites, depending on whether the agent thinks they can sell the manuscript as-is or if it needs more work. The agent then sends the manuscript to editors/publishers that they believe are right for this particular book; often, these are people the agent knows professionally through networking. When a publisher makes a contract offer, the agent is the one who negotiates the terms, including payment, foreign rights, movie rights, e-book rights, etc. Although the agent is your advocate, you should learn to read your own contracts and statements in case your agent misses something or neglects to pay you all that you are owed. Agents will also take in and send on your fan mail, and explain the mysteries of the publishing industry. Once they have taken you on as a book client, most agents will also do all this for any magazine pieces—stories and articles—you may write.
Agents’ commissions can run from 10 to 25 percent of all the money that comes in for you, depending on what services the agent provides.
This depends on what kind of publication you’re looking for. If you don’t feel you’re quite ready to throw yourself to the not-so-tender mercies of the adult publishing industry, but would like to have respectable publishing credits to your name, here are some sources you might try, depending on your age:
For writers ages 8 to 14:
- Stone Soup Magazine: A long-established publication by and for young writers. You can find copies of the magazine at just about any vendor that carries magazines for writers, and you can check their website to see about guidelines, etc.
- New Moon: Girls World Magazine: An online community for girls and their parents, which also includes a magazine by girls, for girls. New Moon is focused on empowering girls and giving them the means to express themselves.
For teen writers ages 13-19:
- Teen Voices: Now operating under Women’s E-News, Teen Voices accepts submissions from girls around the world, including first-person narratives and articles about issues affecting girls. Teen Voices is an online publication.
- Teen Ink: A monthly magazine featuring articles, essays, poems, pictures, and stories from girls and guys. The magazine is usually distributed to classrooms and libraries, but there are subscription options and free online content on the website.
If you decide to try a publisher or magazine directly, you should check out the annual Writer’s Market guide, as discussed here. This book will tell you what kinds of writers a publisher or magazine is looking for, what they’ve published in the last year, their address, and how they want you to send material to them. If they charge a fee to read manuscripts, I wouldn’t send anything to them.
Do think about small and international presses if you’re not having much luck with the larger ones. The advance payments will be smaller than those from large houses, but this can mean that if your book sells, you will see more money sooner. Also, when a book does well for a small publisher, sometimes larger publishers will pick it up.
Writers with books meant for a very specialized market—homeschoolers, say, those with celiac disease, people who are trying to live a completely natural lifestyle—often find they are better off self-publishing, then selling the books online or at conventions and conferences that appeal to the target audience. Again, there’s a remote possibility that a mainstream publisher will notice and pick that book up.
Although Writer’s Market doesn’t seem to cover online publishing, there are sections on what you should charge, what publishers look for, and what you should give them. Don’t sign away rights before you’ve read every inch of a contract and talked it over with someone you respect. See in the Market what other publishers demand, and never give everything away.
If an agent or publishing person turns you down, it may have nothing to do with your writing and everything to do with what that person likes and doesn’t like. If they comment on your work, read it carefully and think about it, sifting out what’s useful and what isn’t.
Don’t let a turn-down discourage you. If you think a rewrite is needed, then rewrite, but be sane about it. I rewrite twice, then send things out, and I keep sending them out while I work on something new. Many times, the thing that makes the difference between someone with talent who gets published and someone with talent who doesn’t is the fact that the one who got published kept sending their work out, while the other gave up after one, two, or three turn-downs. Even best-selling writers like Tom Clancy and J. K. Rowling were turned down by many publishers until one took a chance on them.
This answer was written as a special guest addition by Molly Durst, online comic writer/artist/publisher. (Note: mature subject matter!) It was reviewed and approved by Tamora Pierce in October 2006, and reviewed again in March 2016.
Let me start by saying that these two websites I’m about to list are the best resources for girls who are interested in comics:
These websites are for The Friends of Lulu and Sequential Tart magazine. They are both organizations which promote female readership and authorship in comic books. These two sites have tons of information, including book reviews, ratings of published material and support for artists and writers.
My general advice for getting started in comic books is, Don’t worry about getting picked up by the big publishers. Most of the major companies are looking exclusively for established talent. They are not a good place for new creators to try to break in.
There are a lot of smaller press comic publishers which are female friendly.
SLG, or Slave Labor Graphics, publishes a lot of female writers and artists. (Note: No longer accepting new submissions.) But there are others… The Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market, which is published annually just like the Writer’s Market series, has many listings for comic book submissions.
Also, if you want to break into comic books, go to the conventions. There are listings of local comic book conventions all over the Internet. It’s easy to find them everywhere in the U.S. (Your local comic book stores will also post information about nearby conventions.) Most conventions feature panels where writers and artists give lectures on how-to’s and how-not-to’s.
Most small publishers DO NOT want to see your idea. They do not want a script without art or art without a script.
Standalone art, even if it is good, doesn’t tell the publisher that you can create art sequentially, which is what they need for a comic. Most small publishers want to see a finished product. It would cost a small publisher money to hire an artist or a writer to collaborate with you, and they have limited budgets.
Every small press publisher with a web page will have submission guideline information on their websites that will tell you just what they are looking for.
So what do you do if you are a writer but not an artist, or an artist but not a writer?
You are going to need the other half. Meeting other people interested in creating comics will happen fairly organically if you visit con (convention) circuits enough, post an advertisement in your local comic book store for a collaborator, or join on-line news forums to meet people.
On working with a partner: If you’re working with someone else, remember this isn’t all your show. There’s a give and take. If you let your partner do some things her/his way, s/he should let you do some things your way if the partnership is going to work. Keep an open mind. Listen to what the other person is saying, and ask her/him to do the same for you. Remember that the final product will be different with every new partner. What usually happens is not that you get something that is half you and half the other person, but the creation of a third entirely new creator, when you work in partnership.
I prefer the one-woman-band method myself. Self-publishing is MUCH, MUCH more affordable than ever. If you have a decent home printer and desktop publishing setup, you can get cranking.
You can also publish very cheaply (or even for free) on the web. There is a fairly good listing of free hosting sites on this page.
To sum up, my advice is…
- Research: Look around for female-friendly publishers using resources like Sequential Tart and Friends of Lulu; talk to people; and visit conventions to learn everything you can.
- Research some more: Pay attention to those FAQs and submission guides when you send out your stuff to potential clients. They post them for a reason.
- Create a complete work: Find yourself a companion or do it all yourself.
- Submit and/or self-publish: Well, that’s self-explanatory, isn’t it?
And good luck! Remember to keep trying – keep writing new material, keep practicing your art, keep trying new partners if one doesn’t work out. But just keep at it!