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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Authors Guide to Self Publishing, Guest Blog By Dawn Binkley

Reading between the Lines: How to submit a story.
Included is a message for those of you that are considering self-Publishing.

Hello, I am Dawn Binkley, owner and Executive Editor of Hellfire Publishing. I am also a writer, so I can provide you with a unique perspective from both sides.

We have changed from being open to submissions to not accepting unsolicited subs. However the following advice is pretty much the same for most independent Publishers. 

I thought this would be a good time to talk about how to submit a story to a publisher and what that means. This will be in two parts and I hope this helps you know what a publisher wants. Below are our previous guidelines and then under each section I will break it down to what it means for you, the struggling writer.

Note: Hellfire Publishing is not accepting unsolicited Submissions. This is just a template to help you.

Hellfire Publishing’s previous Submission Guidelines
Formatting Requirements Please make sure that your manuscript is traditional print size, double or 1.5 spaced, 12pt, Times New Roman and that each page has a header, except the first.
Example of a great slugline: Smith/HellDay/2
The first page MUST contain all of your contact information, EXACT GENRE, completed manuscript word count and whether or not this is a simultaneous sub. Simultaneous submissions are okay, but you must let us know immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere while we are reading it. Also, please include a website, blog or Facebook address.

Between the lines: The above guideline is very loaded. If you didn’t place in a header or the genre on the top of your manuscript, would the publisher really hold that against you? Yes and no, everything has to do with time crunch. The above guidelines are an absolute in our manuscripts, so if you don’t do it we have to. So if two people turn in a manuscript, that are close in caliber and we are torn between the two, guess what!  WE WILL PICK THE ONE WITH THE PROPER HEADING!

Side note: Personally I wouldn’t take the chance of sending in work to a publisher that didn’t meet their guidelines exactly, because you don’t know who is reading your manuscript and what kind of day they are having. So, it is best to follow the guidelines to give your manuscript the best chance.

I like to anticipate your questions and I imagine that you’re wondering why a staff member would read a story, if they were busy or in bad mood. Well, because it’s their job so they have to read every manuscript that comes in whether they feel like it or not.
Slush readers, acquisitions and executive editors have one agenda on their mind and one agenda only, and that is the good of the company and what their particular publisher is looking for in that exact moment. Publishing is a hard, fast paced world where when something is hot you have to strike at the moment. So in the case that there are ten manuscripts that fit perfectly for what the pub needs, but they only need one, someone will take over. In our case, the executive editor goes through and does the process of eliminations starting with what submission rules have been broken.

Acceptable manuscript word count ranges from 3,000 up to 70,000. If you come close, either over or under, please inquire.
Between the lines: This we mean, exactly. Please ask first. If you don’t, there is 90% chance you will be told no.

#1 When you have your story perfected to the best of your ability, send it as a virus-free attachment in an e-mail.
Between the lines: Perfected is the key word here. We mean that!

#2 A query introducing yourself, your story plot, and any accomplishments. If you have not been published, let us know that, too.
Between the lines: This is my favorite part, because I don’t just take stories, I take the writers as well. Some work has been so outstanding I have overlooked the lack of query, but I sure do like to see it.

#3 A synopses of at least two pages, single-spaced. (Not required for less than 10,000 words)
Between the lines: The synopsis had better be there if it’s over 10,000 words or you can just forget it! If writing a synopsis, makes you want to put on a pretty dress, swallow a bottle of pills and lay on your bed with a note pinned to your chest, here is a link that helped me write my first one

Note: All attachments must be a word document or an RTF. No PDF, please.
This gets down to simple instructions, if you can’t follow simple instructions. What kind of time will we have to put into you to explain things? We would rather spend time working with you on editing your manuscript and your PR campaign. 

I am a writer, that struggled, so you probably wonder how I could be so cold and calculating when it comes to rejecting writers that worked so hard—so easily. First, it’s never easy, we won’t talk about my manic ritual when I have to send out no’s. Some HP staff members, (I won’t mention Jen by name, lol) won’t even do it. So I am on my own when it comes to the rejection letters. But as an author, I understand that a writer has a job to do. You don’t accept employment at McDonalds and expect your manger to do parts of your job for you. Editors and Publishing staff are very busy and don’t have time to do the writers job. Would you honestly turn to your boss at Mickey D’s and say, “but I am an artist and without me to flip your burgers your company would fail?” *Dawn snickers* I don’t think so, but yet I hear it all the time.

To those of you that have opted to self-publish, I of course being a publisher don’t necessarily agree with it. But I respect how tough it is to make the decision to do it on your own. My advice to the self-pubbers is, please don’t forget you are just that, a publisher. It is imperative that you see that your work is edited, copy edited and proof read by a fresh pair of eyes. And of course write the best story that you can. You may not be trying to win the affection of a publisher, but you have the daunting and wonderful task of winning over the reader. So give them the best that you have to offer.

It’s imperative that you look for FAQ’s on any publisher website, this is very personal to the publisher and lets you know what it is they require or might be looking  for, exactly. This is also helpful to the writer to better understand, what will happen to them after they are published with this particular publisher.
Q- How long will I have to wait for a response? Answer – One to six months.
Between the lines: It closer to 6 months and don’t bother us before then! We are busy enough without having to answer queries. The snotty or threatening inquires go directly to the slush pile. This sounds harsh but we are busy and we have the horrible sleep depriving task of determining whose dreams come true and whose doesn’t. And we need time to think, not more added pressure.

Q- What are the terms of the contract? Answer - Our contract is for three years. It requires full rights (digital and print) and is negotiable. We pay royalties of 40% of the cover price sold through Smashwords only and 35% of the cover price on single-author E-books sold through all other third-party vendors. We also pay 10% of the cover price on single-author print books.
Between the lines: We ask that you read your contract over thoroughly, we work hard to have a smooth environment and nothing is more frustrating than somebody that agreed to something and didn’t realize it and then have a fit after the fact. So please, please read your contract and it is partially negotiable at almost every house I know of. But only before it’s signed.

Q- How soon after I sign a contract will my book be released? Answer - Release dates are dependent upon a number of factors. Availability of editors, the extent of manuscript editing required, and the publishing schedule for other books in the same genre or by the same author. After our Grand Opening, Hellfire Publishing will make every effort to release accepted work within three to six months.
Between the lines: Pay close attention to words like, factors and effort, these are vague words, and the publisher has to use them. Because writers hold their publishers true to their promises and they should. So in cases that the publisher can’t make a promise they will use those words and of course there is the dreaded ‘subject to change’.
Q- Do I need an agent to submit? Answer - No. There is nothing wrong with having an agent, but we don’t require one.
Between the lines: What ‘I” said.

Q- May I send several submissions, at the same time? Answer- No. One at a time, please.
Between the lines: This goes back to the simple instructions. But I have over looked this one on several occasions especially when someone has a complete series done. But again you should ask permission before bending the rules otherwise the publisher will wonder what other rules you might bend.

Q- Does the book need to be print ready? Answer – It depends what you mean. Should your book be error free to the best of your ability? Yes. Should your book be ready to be sold when you send it? No, our editors will take care of that kind of editing. Any changes that need to be made would then be diverted to you.
Between the lines: This is pretty clear. But be careful—we are a stickler for the polished book, as is any good publisher.

Q- Does the erotica need to be about humans? Answer – As per our guidelines, sexual activity must be between two human beings, vampires, shifters, werewolves in human form or zombies.
Between the lines: Don’t be gross, we don’t like gross! Unless it’s zombies feeding on the bones of a virgin. That we like J
Q- My manuscript is unfinished/unpolished. May I send it anyway? Answer- If we have a prior relationship, you can feel free to mention anything that you are working on. But, no, we would never accept unfinished, unpolished work from anyone.
Between the lines: Don’t you dare send unedited work!
Q- Do you accept work that is being read by other publishers? Answer- Yes, just keep us abreast of what is going on.
Between the lines: Yes, we highly suggest this.

Q- If Hellfire Publishing accepts my manuscript; will it be published as a print book, as well as an e-book? Answer - If your manuscript is greater than 40,000 words, is part of a series of smaller novellas/short stories, the answer is probably. Approximately three months after its release as an e-book.
Between the lines: This is true, but pay attention to the word count.

Q- Do I have to send at least a two-page synopsis with a short story? Answer- Over 10,000 words, Yes.
Between the lines: As mentioned prior, yes you have to send in a synopsis along with the completed manuscript.

Q - I don't have a synopsis. May I send an excerpt instead? Answer- No. We need to know if your story has the elements we are looking for before we venture into your entire manuscript. A synopsis gives us that information.
Between the lines: Dear God, yes please. We need to know before we read an entire manuscript if the novel is not going to reach our readers desired end.

Q- I previously submitted my manuscript to Hellfire Publishing and it was rejected. May I resubmit it? Answer- We probably sent you a letter explaining the reason for the rejection. If you were able to fix the problems, then yes you may resubmit it.
Between the lines: What I said was correct—but—only if we did send you a letter stating how to correct it.

Q- How will you promote my books? Answer – Since we are a small company, getting the word out will be a creative, cooperative effort between author and publisher.
Between the lines: What this means is that every bit helps and when it comes to marketing a book, it’s like the old adage of, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, well it takes everybody you know day and night reminding others that you have a book for sale.
There is an unwritten code of conduct and ethics that writers used to go by and still should. But that is another blog, so for now, I will leave you with this…follow each publisher’s guidelines to the letter and most importantly write a great story and your name will be in lights before you know it. However, these guidelines are not just for new or unpublished writers; these guidelines apply to everyone that submits to a publisher.

I hope this advice will help you on your path to a long and happy career in writing.

Dawn Binkley
Executive Editor
Hellfire Publishing

Also known as:
Keira Kroft


  1. Thank you so much for having me Gary :)

  2. Thank you for sharing these helful and important to follow tips. I'm working on editing my book and maybe when Hellfire Publishing is accepting submissions, I'll be ready. Have a great week.