I recently completed, the Australian Writers Centre’s online course Inside Publishing – What You Need to Know to Get Published, which delivers a comprehensive overview of the global publishing landscape. This is a must do course for anyone thinking about publishing a book and not already familiar with how the publishing industry works. The course is self paced and contains five modules, each consisting of videos, handouts and links to relevant resources, all of which you can download for future reference. AWC does a great job of breaking down complex legal and technical concepts and explaining them in accessible language. It offers a terrific overview of how the publishing world its together, as well as providing handy tips for writers about to launch themselves into it.
The first module is about copyright – boring right? Surprisingly I found it fascinating. It explains in plain language how copyright works and the curious way it is carved up across geography, languages, film, television and books. It delves into what you own, what is yours to sell and the role of agents in getting you the best deal. Learn about the structure of the global publishing industry, the professional roles of various people who work in publishing houses, and how they make decisions. There are also tips on what to look for and what to avoid in the industry.
Module two focusses on the broad array of book formats – hardcopy sizes, audio, ebooks, why different book formats are produced and what it means for the author. This module then goes onto to explain how different formats relate to book marketing, buying, distribution, audiences, how sales are measured and how this guides publishing decisions about printing, as well as what happens to books that aren’t sold. The module also touches on the differences between the traditional publishing route and indie publishing and things to think about when considering which way to go.
The third module goes in deep on author editor relationships from the time they pitch to the final proofread. It explains all the different types of edits, the difference between editing and proofreading and the value of a good edit. Of course first you have to submit a manuscript and this module covers the pros and cons of submitting to agents versus direct to publishers and what you need to think about with both of these approaches. The resources include sample pitches and submissions, dealing with rejection, how to use rejections to improve your work and what happens after your receive an offer from a publisher.
Module four gets down to the nitty gritty of offers and what you need to think about, including how advances work, marketing, royalties, public lending rights (libraries), and educational lending rights, and an introduction to some of the things to look for in contracts.
Contracts is the focus of module five, which sensibly comes with a disclaimer that it’s not a substitute for legal advice. Make sure you’ve had your morning coffee as this is the serious end of the business and requires some concentration. This lesson talks about negotiating contract terms and goes into quite a bit of detail about the various clauses in standard publishing contracts. It ends with a little reminder that publishing is a business, so you have to approach your author journey professionally and do your best to educate yourself about how the industry and the publishing process work.
I got a lot out of this course and one of the best things about it is that when you enrol, you get access to the online materials for twelve months. I’m confident I’ll go through it a couple more times before that time is up and will learn a bit more with each viewing.
Image: The Met, New York City