From the Editor’s Desk: Career Planning


Here at Carina, we’re always looking for new authors to sign, publish and build. But we recognize that putting your manuscript out on submission can be an intimidating process. How do you make your manuscript stand out, from the query letter to the last page? We’re here to demystify the submissions process by giving you some insight into what a Carina Press editor looks for when she opens up a submission for review.

Today’s post comes from Libby Murphy, who is a freelance editor for Carina Press, and gets to read submissions from the slush pile on a daily basis. Lately, she has seen a large number of previously self-published books come through, and here are her thoughts.

Wow, is it May already? I keep hearing that summer is dead in publishing, and I don’t know who started that rumor, but it is not true! We are always reading and acquiring projects, and I hope many of you are getting projects ready to start submitting.

All right. Let’s get to our topic for today: career planning. Having a plan for where you want to go—and how you’ll do it!—in your publishing career is crucial. Authors are so fortunate because there are so many choices out there, and with that comes so many variables that can be overwhelming. You can go the traditional route and work with a publisher, self-publish, or become a hybrid author and get the best of both worlds. Choice is good. The hardest part is to know which choices will work best for you. I’ll give some examples below.

With traditional publishing you submit your book to a publishing house and get a contract. You work with an editor to revise your manuscript until it’s beautiful and shiny. While you’re writing and/or editing, you have several people working for you (this entire team comes with the package!) to make your book appealing to your potential audience. Behind the scenes, professional cover artists, marketing folks, copyeditors, copy writers, and proofreaders are hard at work to make your book the best and brightest on the shelf. Once your book begins to sell you make royalties based on how well it sells. Money always flows to the author in this case.

But working with a publisher isn’t the right fit for every author, so they turn to self-publishing. With self-publishing you have to pay out of pocket to publish your book, and play the role of publisher and all the other publishing roles I mentioned above…while you’re writing your next book. It’s a lot of money and a lot of work, and many writers have found mega success that way. They love having the creative control, and being able to work around their own schedule. They are also very business savvy, and understand the ins and outs of publishing pretty well.

On the other hand, others have found that they could afford to publish one or two books on their own, but didn’t make back their investment and couldn’t afford to self-publish anymore. It can cost several hundred, and even thousands of dollars to publish a book. They still have awesome stories to tell in that world, so they search out a publisher who’s willing to take on previously published projects as well as new ones (which, by the way, we do at Carina Press!). I’ll go into more detail on that in a little bit.

And then there’s the hybrid author. I’ve seen many authors find some great success with the hybrid model of publishing. For example, they can publish three books in a year with their traditional publisher but can write five or six books in a year. They need flexibility with their publisher’s deadlines and working with two publishers might be tough to juggle, although it does happen, of course! So they self-publish the extra books they can write, and both brands have the potential to do very well. One, because the author’s backlist is promoting the new books. Two, because they have a wider range of markets they can hit with a traditional publisher that they wouldn’t have reached on their own. Those markets work together to build the author’s brand, and direct readers to all their books.

When considering previously published works, there are many things I have to take into account. Why didn’t it take off when it was published before? Can we do anything editorially or marketing-wise that will bring some notice? If the book wasn’t edited well previously, does the author’s brand now have a reputation for lack of quality? The market is constantly evolving, so is the book the author published three years ago still in a market that’s thriving? What are the author’s plans for the rest of the series? And those are just a few.

When I ask authors why they want to work with a publisher on this book now, I get mostly the same responses. They want to focus on what they do well, which is the writing. They need professionals to help them produce a book that will sell. They feel isolated and crave a team to work with. They would like to work with a publisher who has connections to get wider distribution. They want to boost their career to the next level. They don’t have the funds to consistently publish their own books.

This is why I strongly urge you to look ahead a few years when you’re deciding where you want to go with your publishing career. Don’t only look at six months from now. Look at five to seven years from now. Take your budget, your schedule, and the unexpected into account. Can you sustain the role of being your own publisher while balancing that role with writing and the rest of your life? Do you even want to? Don’t just look at these things at face value. Talk to other authors who have published traditionally and on their own. Get a large sample of opinions, and join some online forums, too. While you might have friends who are doing really well in one area, you might not do so well, or even like it—so be careful not to follow a particular path because it worked great for somebody else. The most important thing you can do for your writing career is to do your research and make informed decisions on the right choices for you.

At Carina Press we love working with hybrid authors, and in fact, I work with a few myself! We’ve even included information about authors’ self-published books in the backmatter of their Carina books. We are also happy to acquire books that have been previously published, as long as the author plans to write more new books for us. If you are submitting a previously published book, be sure you have ideas to continue your series, and let us know what you’re planning with a brief series synopsis. No matter how you’ve published in the past, or plan to in the future, we are excited to work with you to make your ideas the strongest they can be.

Thank you for reading—we hope these tips have you excited to submit your manuscript to Carina Press! Here are some quick references to help you through the submissions process:

  • We’re always open to submissions!
  • We respond to all submissions within 12 weeks.
  • Have a question and can’t find the answer on our guidelines page? Email us at and we’re happy to help.
  • Looking to target your submission to a specific editor? Find out more about editor submission calls here.

Looking for more information on our submissions process? We’ll have more posts coming in this series, and in the meantime, you can read about our acquisitions process here, and find out more about what an editor does here.

Ready to submit? Click here to start your publishing journey with Carina Press!

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