How to Get Happily Published: A Complete and Candid Guide (5th Edition)


The classic, bestselling guide to getting published

In the 20 years since it first appeared, hundreds of thousands of writers'professionals as well as beginners—have read, followed and benefited from How to Get Happily Published. This new edition adds material on making deals with publishers (and what's important), working with small publishers (and when that's preferable), capitalizing on contacts (and where to make them), deciding whether to self-publish (and how much that ...

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The classic, bestselling guide to getting published

In the 20 years since it first appeared, hundreds of thousands of writers'professionals as well as beginners—have read, followed and benefited from How to Get Happily Published. This new edition adds material on making deals with publishers (and what's important), working with small publishers (and when that's preferable), capitalizing on contacts (and where to make them), deciding whether to self-publish (and how much that costs), using new electronic media (to publish; to get information, publicity, promotion and sales; and to connect with enthusiastic readers), and making your work sell better (whoever the publisher is).

Plus hundreds of new resources—books, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, groups, experts and Internet sites covering every step of the publishing process.

The source both professional and beginning writers have turned to for more than a decade, How to Get Happily Published provides writers with advice on all aspects of the publishing process, from constructing a book or article and getting it to the right publisher to working with the editor and assisting in marketing.

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Editorial Reviews

Lisa Shaw
"Helped me write 20 books for publishers large and small and start my own publishing company!" -Lisa Rogak Shaw, Williams Hill Publishing
William M. Shinker
"I recommend this industry classic to writers all the time for its practical, common-sense guidance." William Shinker, President and Publisher, Broadway Books/Bantam Doubleday Dell
Publisher's Weekly
"A must addition to every serious writer's reference bookshelf."
The Marcus Letter
"It's taken me thirty years, writing a dozen books, to have learned what I could have learned in one reading of this book. It's all here-and more."
Midwest Muse
"Concise advice on every topic from dealmaking with publishers to going it alone [and] extensive resource lists such as Internet sites, writing groups, newsletters and much more. ... Examples detail how authors have made this advice work for them."
Money Magazine
Among the many books of advice, the best isHow to Get Happily Published.
Publisher"s Weekly
"Over the past 20 years, few books have proven more useful to authors, established and beginning, than Judith Appelbaum's How to Get Happily Published, now appearing in its fifth edition. This new edition adds material on a number of areas of current concern to writers, including how to work with small publishers, how to use the new electronic media and how to decide whether or not to self-publish; there's also information on hundreds of new resources, from books and magazines to Internet sites. This is a must addition to any serious writer's reference bookshelf."
Midwest Book Review
"Highly recommended for all aspiring writers wanting to break into print, all veteran authors wanting to enhance their continued success in the literary marketplace, and all publishers seeking to establish themselves in the literary community as a preferred resource for good authors and an enthusiastic, supportive reading public."
From Barnes & Noble
This longtime industry classic is a valuable writer's resource for successful, profitable publishing. Learn the ins and outs of making deals with publishers, self-publishing, boosting sales, marketing and promotion, more.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062735096
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Edition description: 5th edition
  • Edition number: 5
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 818,705
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith Appelbaum—who's been a columnist and reviewer for The New York Times Book Review, an editor of Harper's and the managing editor of Publisher's Weekly—is managing director of Sensible Solutions, Inc., the New York book marketing firm. Winner of the Publishers Marketing Association Benjamin Franklin Award for Lifetime Achievement, she serves on of the faculty of the Publishing Institute at the University of Denver and is a leader in industry efforts to improve royalty payments for the benefit of authors and publishers alike.

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Read an Excerpt


To begin with, an announcement for professional writers, would-be writers and people who have important things to say from time to time and want to say them in print: It is largely within your power to determine whether your work will get published and whether the public will buy it once it's released.

That having been said, two questions naturally arise: Why do so many people fail to get their articles, stories, poems and books into print? And why do so many people who succeed in getting articles, stories, poems and books into print then find that their work never attracts a sizable audience?

The answer is surprisingly simple. Failures abound because hardly anybody treats getting published as if it were a rational, manageable activity--like practicing law or laying bricks--in which knowledge coupled with skill and application can lead to success. Instead, almost everybody approaches the phases of the publishing process, which have to do with finding (or, in some cases, becoming) a publisher and then attracting an audience, by trusting exclusively to luck, to merit, to formulas or to somebody else.

Such behavior is thoroughly counterproductive, but it's entirely understandable at the same time, and on several grounds.

In the first place, just like everybody else, people who write are reluctant to risk ridicule by asking questions. Seeking information is an intimidating task. Since knowledge is power, as we've all been raised to believe, ignorance must be impotence, and it's shameful, therefore, to admit it when there's something we don't know.

And in the second place, we tend to proceed on the assumption thatmastery of any field is the exclusive province of specialists and experts. The lay public, so the theory goes, can't expect to understand how to fix a leaky pipe, let alone how to get a manuscript from writer to reader, so people who aren't prevented from inquiring by the fear of looking silly are hindered by the fear that the information they'll receive will be unintelligible anyway But even those who are brave and energetic enough to go in search of knowledge about getting published have not, in many cases, found the effort worthwhile.

What all authors really need is an experienced editor who has the time and the inclination to sit down with them and show them how the industry actually works. What writers have, however, is an oppressively large canon of works on selling to established publishing houses (which usually tell only parts of the truth and may not tell the truth at all), a growing body of guides to self-publishing (some of which make pie-in-the-sky promises) and a few books about publishing in general (which tend to explain the way the business works without focusing on the flesh-and-blood men and women who run it and who inevitably alter the rules to fit personal and practical demands).

This book is a substitute for the friendly, experienced editor. It offers a full and frank description of the contemporary publishing picture--complete with fallible human beings in the foreground and annotated guides to hundreds of helpful resources at the back. Anyone who reads it intelligently should come away with a good idea of the way the publishing process normally works, valuable information on the ingenious tactics writers have devised to make it work best for them, and easy access to additional information about the full range of publishing options, which together give you everything you'll need to create effective publishing strategies for particular projects.

Decades of personal experience in editing books, magazines, newspapers and newsletters have gone into the advice you'll find here about getting through the publishing labyrinth. And so have myriad experiences other publishing professionals shared, all of which help explain each phase, introduce the people in charge, define the unfamiliar terms, set forth the basic unwritten rules that govern progress and tell you how to discover more about whichever aspects of getting published interest you.

But at every step the main focus of attention will be on what you want, what you need, what you'll have to contend with to get it, how wide your options are, and how you can reach your goals most expeditiously.

This book, in other words, is designed to facilitate writing careers and writing projects, and its overriding purpose is to help you improve your improvisational skills so that you'll be able to switch gears when you need to, no matter what the rulebook experts say. The idea is that once you understand why your novel got just half a page in the catalog (for example), you'll take steps to improve its image. Similarly, once you see how queries work in context, you'll choose to use them for books as well as articles, and once you've gained the confidence toobey other people's dictates only when they fit your situation, you'll refuse to rely on a manuscript speaking for itself and craft strong covering letters, making sure that the one for the editor at New Woman is quite different in tone--and maybe even in content--from the one you're sending New Age.

New Woman may return your material, of course, and so may New Age Journal and Random House and Moyer Bell, but please don't let yourself be discouraged if getting what you want involves a few false starts. To keep your spirits up on darker days, you may find it useful to dwell on four important facts:

  Publishers need you at least as much as you need them. Despite widespread suspicions of conspiracy, there's little truth in the theory that an elite circle of editors and writers concentrated in Manhattan and doing business on the cocktail-party circuit reserves every printed page for itself.

How to Get Happily Published. Copyright © by Judith Appelbaum. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

Connections, or Welcome to the 20th-Anniversary Edition
Initiation 1
What the Pros Know 11
Buying Advice and Assistance 24
The Plain Truth About Agents 41
Who Do You Know? 53
Shaping Subject Matter 62
Openings, or Where to Submit Your Manuscript 74
Procedures, or How to Submit Your Manuscript 90
A Note on Improving Your Vision 107
Getting What's Coming to You 111
Editing, Copy-editing, Design, Production and Part-and-Parcel Advertising 128
Why and How to Be Your Own Best Sales Force 140
The Case for Doing It Yourself 163
Creation Processes: From Editing to Entity 176
Managing Sales 190
Finding Funding 213
Spin-offs 223
Righting the Scales of Success 239
A Comprehensive Roundup 244
Getting the Words Right Resources 245
A Foot in the Door Resources 276
The Sale and Its Sequels Resources 295
The Self-Publishing Option Resources 320
Money Resources 354
Index 369
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Interviews & Essays

Before the live chat, Judith Appelbaum agreed to answer some of our questions:

Q:  What drew you to a career in publishing?

A:  I stumbled into publishing, as lots of people do. While I was still in college I got a really low-level job -- one rung below editorial assistant -- as a "summer floater" for the company that's now HarperCollins. All day long, all summer long, I typed names and addresses for departments in the publishing house. One of those departments was Harper's magazine, which offered me a permanent -- and much more interesting -- job when I graduated.

I discovered right away that I loved editing and thought I'd be an editor for the rest of my professional life. But then I was asked to work on a wonderful spin-off of Harper's magazine that was called Harper's Weekly and written by its readers. Working on the weekly taught me a lot about how people who weren't writers -- or weren't writers yet -- could get published and use the power of print, and before long I decided to do a book about that. Almost immediately, though, I started hearing from people who were writers -- including writers who'd been published a lot -- who told horror stories about books that sank out of sight as soon as they were "published." At that point, the design of the book broadened, and it became a guide for professional writers as well as for sometime writers and beginning writers.

Then the book led to my becoming the managing editor of Publishers Weekly and a columnist for The New York Times Book Review, and responses from readers prompted me to start start Sensible Solutions, Inc., which helps authors and publishers round up readers.

Q:  What are some of the elements of a good book proposal?

A:  There's a move smart writers make before they send out a book proposal, and that's sending a one-page query letter that, in essence, asks targeted editors to solicit the proposal. Using queries means you never have to go near the dreaded "slush pile."

Both the query and the proposal are fully covered in the "Foot in the Door" section Of How to Get Happily Published, but here's an abbreviated version of the proposal checklist:

  • Remind editors that this is material they "asked to see."
  • Describe your book with a "tagline" they can use to convey its appeal to colleagues.
  • Present at least one anecdote or example that illustrates your theme and its significance.
  • Identify the audience the book addresses and outline ways you can reach them.
  • Talk realistically about the competition and how your book is different, so that both editors and sales reps will be able to respond effectively when booksellers say, "But we're already well supplied on that very subject."
  • Show how you plan to develop your book and mention your primary sources of information. Many nonfiction writers offer a Table of Contents with meaty, chatty annotations. For fiction, you'll need a synopsis that reads as well as the book does.
  • Explain your credentials, citing publishing credits as evidence of your ability to write, and any experience or training that qualifies you especially well for writing and marketing this particular book.
  • Enclose a sample of your text -- whatever chapter(s) or excerpts reflect your book's content and style most accurately and most favorably.
  • Express any excitement you feel about the project, and do your best to make that excitement contagious. If you can get an editor excited about your book, you'll be well along the path to publication.

Q:  How does one find a good editor whose interests and passions match theirs?

A:  There are lots of ways to fix yourself up with an editorial partner who's excited about your work, and they're spelled out in the "Openings" chapter of How to Get Happily Published.

One of my favorites involves discovering an editor through a book that you feel passionate about and that strikes you as similar in some significant way to the book you're working on. If you're lucky, you'll find the editor's name in the dedication or the acknowledgments. Otherwise, you'll have to do some detective work. Then, when you get the name, you should make sure your query explains the bond you sense between the book you loved reading and the book you want to write.

Another good approach to manuscript placement is matching the subject matter of your work with the subject matter that appeals to a particular publisher.

Information about publishers' specialties is available in directories such as the Subject Guide to Books in Print and Bacon's; in newsletters from national and regional publishers' groups that are listed in Literary Market Place; in magazines like Poets & Writers and Small Press Review, and through the zines and the many other publishing sites on the Web.

In addition to matching your work to publishers' needs, sometimes it's smart to go one step further and try matchmaking with businesses or organizations that publish articles and books of interest to the people they serve, as all sorts of groups -- including corporations, associations, governmental bodies, schools, and fraternal societies -- now do. You can find likely candidates to approach in directories that libraries offer, especially the Encyclopedia of Associations.

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