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Advice and tips on publishing and publishers

Finding a publisher

There are two types of publisher you may want to find:

Special issues arise, however, with science fiction and fantasy.

Finding a local publisher

How do you find a local (New Zealand) publisher? There are two main ways:

It is still an acceptable and also relatively common practice for writers to approach New Zealand publishers directly, without the aid of an agent.

However, before you go sending your manuscript off do some research. Many pulbishers in New Zealand are highly specialised. They will not be interested in your horror novel if all they publish is books on marine engineering.

A free directory of publishers can be downloaded from the Book Publishers Assocation of New Zealand (BPANZ).

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Finding an overseas publisher

How do you find an overseas publisher? There are two main ways:

Most overseas publishers and, probably, all publishers in the US require you to submit manuscripts through an agent. You may find a New Zealand agent to take your work on and sell it overseas for you but, if your prime focus is an overseas market, you may well find it just as easy to get an overseas agent as to get a local one. See Agents page.

If you decide to rely on your local publishers to sell your work overseas, you should find out how active they are in seeking such opportunities. Some local publishers work hard at overseas sales. Others do not.

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Finding a publisher for science fiction and fantasy

Unfortunately, there is little science fiction or fantasy published for adults in New Zealand (work in this genre for children or young adults is another matter). One or two companies have experimented in these genres but no one has done much more than this. There does not seem to be a market here for locally written material.

Your best bet for getting work of this kind published is to try to find an overseas publisher. This, in turn, will probably mean finding an overseas agent.

There are some big overseas magazines, especially in the US, which specialise in science fiction and/or fantasy. One option is to approach these and ask for submission guidelines. If you succeed in getting your stories accepted there you will be in a stronger position to get an agent interested in your novel.

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Paying a publisher

There is nothing wrong with contributing towards the cost of publishing your book. However, there are some things you should bear in mind:

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Royalties and advances

Royalties are paid as a percentage of either the recommended retail price (less any tax) or of what the publisher receives for sales. Normal royalty rates are equivalent to around 10% of retail for hardbacks or quality paperbacks and 7.5% for mass market paperbacks.

Royalties are paid on the basis of the number of copies which the publisher sells to the bookseller or other outlet, not on how many copies the bookseller sells.

An advance is an advance against royalties. It is not an additional payment. Thus, if the publishers give you $2,000 advance, they will keep the first $2,000 of the royalties you earn.

Advances are normally non-refundable so that even if your total royalties are less than the $2,000 you would not have to give anything back.

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Submitting your manuscript

Some do's and don'ts about submitting your mansucript to a publisher or an agent.



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Will they steal my ideas?

Publishing is all about handling intellectual property and publishers, in general, have a great respect for copyright. Their livelihoods are based on it. Thus, a publisher stealing someone else's book is like a banker stealing someone's money. This does not mean it won't happen, of course, but it is unlikely if you are dealing with a reputable publisher.

Unfortunately, though, you can't copyright ideas because it is always possible that two people will think of the same thing. You can, however, copyright a text just as you can patent an invention or trademark a brand name. Quite where ideas end and words begin is a debatable point. Charges of plagiarism are very hard to prove unless the words themselves are stolen.

If you are desperately keen to protect your text, put it on a disc in a sealed envelope and post it to yourself. The date stamp on the unopened envelope will prove the time you wrote what you wrote.

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Chasing up your manuscript

It pays to wait up to three months before asking a publisher what is happening.

It can take several months before a decision can be made about your manuscript. With a small publisher it may take several weeks before the manuscript is even read.

In general, a big publisher will get back to you quickly if they have no interest in your book. A long wait may be a good sign. With a small publisher, a long wait doesn't mean much at all.

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