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Should I Speak to a Publisher at the Conference?

August 25, 2013

–by Veronica Hart, 2013 Conference Chairperson

When it comes to approaching publishers, even the savviest writer can get it wrong. For instance, you may think, “I can’t interview with a publisher at the conference. I don’t have an agent.”

Under normal circumstances you would be right. Most traditional publishers consider only agented submissions. Not so at the annual Florida Writers Conference. Publishers on the faculty of “The Greatest Writers Conference on Earth” are actively seeking clients, without the filter of an agent. That’s their agreement with FWA and why they’ve come to the conference—to meet you. All you need to do is make an appointment.

Which brings up the next issue. With so many kinds of publishers out there, which is right for you? Let’s take a look at the industry’s burgeoning options.

 Hart, Veronica 2Ronnie in black and red

Wend your way through the maze

It used to be that publishers could be divided into two distinct camps: traditional and vanity. Along came electronic publishing, increased competition, and a new respect for do-it-yourself methods. Then other strange things happened. Some traditional publishers cut back on services while some subsidy publishers shared more of the publishing risks with authors. The lines blurred, but four major camps loosely remain, each with a multitude of variations.

The big traditional publishers

At one end of the spectrum are the Big Guys—the large traditional publishers. Traditionally, being published by one of the Big Guys has been the most prestigious way to go.

On the plus side:

  • Your publisher provides services of professional editors and cover designers, paid for by the publisher.
  • To varying degrees, your publisher works with you on publicity.
  • Your publisher knows the ins and outs of foreign rights, film rights, and other legal matters.
  • They also obtain your copyright on your behalf.

On the not-so-plus side:

  • You must have an agent.
  • The process is slow, frequently two years from first acceptance to publication.
  • Mindful of the need to make money, your publisher may not be open to your groundbreaking ideas or new writing style.
  • You receive a pittance in royalties for your first book. Should you be successful, i.e., sell more than 5,000 books in the first quarter, you may ask for a higher percentage for your next book.

Independent traditional publishers

This type of publisher is flourishing, no longer hiding in the shadows of The Big Guys.

On the plus side:

  • This is an excellent way to get started with your publishing career.
  • Independent publishers fill the gaps where large traditional publishers fear to tread, taking risks with innovations and genres such as fantasy, horror, erotica, and bizarre science fiction.
  • You still have professional editing, cover-design services, and some direction for marketing.

On the not-so-plus side:

  • They may have less funding for publicity than the Big Guys, so you may have more responsibility for marketing and networking.

Nontraditional subsidy publishers

These publishers are fee based.

On the plus side:

  • Your work will be accepted.
  • You have a professionally produced product to sell.
  • The publisher helps with marketing by posting your work online to various sites such as Amazon.
  • In general, subsidy publishers vary, but the ones on the faculty at the FWA conference are experienced and known to be honest and up-front about their fees.

On the not-so-plus side:

  • They are fee-based and the fees vary, depending on how much work you want them to do. It’s important to research every publisher before making a decision. “Predators and Editors” ( is a good site for checking out any publisher or agent. The site also has articles on how to spot scams.
  • Sometimes you are locked into a long-term contract.
  • Sometimes you are required to purchase a large number of books as part of the contract.
  • Many are unable to earn their authors space on bookstore shelves.


Self-publishers represent the other end of the publishing spectrum. This is where you jump out of the plane without a parachute.

On the plus side:

  • You are in charge.
  • An increasing number of traditionally published authors are heading in this direction.
  • Any income is yours. No sharing.
  • You can publish any length book, be it fiction, nonfiction or poetry, and no one will say it’s “not right for our list.”
  • When the film companies come calling, you own all the rights.

On the not-so-plus side:

  • The buck stops with you. No one else is to blame for your content, typos, formatting errors, or amateurish cover.
  • You are on your own with marketing and publicity.
  • People still look down on self-published authors.
  • It’s not a simple as it looks. It would behoove you to hire a professional editor after you believe your work is done.
  • Self-publishers do not normally earn their authors space on bookstore shelves.

Choose your interview

For the 2013 conference, we’ve invited publishers in the two categories most likely to be beneficial to our membership: independent traditional publishers and nontraditional subsidy publishers.

Traditional faculty

At this year’s conference, most of the publishers on the faculty are independent traditional publishers:

  • Mark Wayne Adams, Markwayneadams·inc
  • Rebecca and Neal Melvin, Double Edge Press
  • Eugene Orlando, Scriptor Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Chad Rhoad, The History Press
  • JoAnn and AJ Robinson, Cricket Cottage Publishing
  • J. Ellen Smith, Champagne Book Group

Keep in mind that each publisher is different and each expects a different degree of involvement from authors. What they have in common—and what makes them traditional—are they do not charge up-front fees, they pay a royalty (or percentage, in Scriptor’s case), and they provide all that is necessary to produce a book or ebook. However, keep in mind that publishing “categories” exist along a spectrum. While these independent publishers are all traditional, some are closer to The Big Guys, and some may have a few nontraditional services. To learn the nuances of each, check online.

Nontraditional faculty

We also have two subsidy publishers on the faculty:

  • Rik Feeney, Richardson Publishing, Inc. and
  • Julie Ann Howell, Peppertree Press


Among these publishers, virtually every service is covered, as well as every genre, so do your homework and make your appointment today. Your perfect publisher may be waiting.

“The Greatest Writers Conference on Earth” will be held October 18-20, 2013, at the Orlando Marriott Lake Mary. See the FWA website,, to learn more, to register, and to make your agent appointments. Also check out the full set of FAQs. Questions? Contact

  1. August 25, 2013 6:46 am

    Readers everywhere are now thinking, “All I Ever Needed to Know About Publishing I Learned from Veronica Hart’s Blog Post” so I’ll say it. Super job!

    • August 25, 2013 7:35 pm

      Glad you enjoyed her post! 🙂 It was definitely a great, and informative, read.

  2. August 25, 2013 9:53 am

    Thanks Ronnie, Now I understand publishing…just saying, Claudia


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