Subsidized Publishing

Question:
Hi, I was wondering what you thought of having a book subsidized?  See, I was going to send in my story to a publishing company called Dorance Publishing because they said they wanted to review it and possibly publish it. Then I find out that this is a subsidy publishing place. The author has to pay the publisher, and they also said in their handbook that they sent me that the books they publish rarey sell well at all. They print a certain number of books, and in the rare chance that they sell out and someone wants to order more, the author has to purchase more books. They said that they publish manuscripts mainly for the authors satisfaction of seeing their work in print, and also that they publish most manusripts that are sent to them. If my book is published, I want it to be because it’s good and the publisher thinks it will sell. I want it to be by a reputable publishing company , but Dorance publishing says that most reputable publishing companies don’t bother with manuscripts from unknown authors. Is that true? Wasn’t every established author an unknown when they started?
My question is, would you reccommend that I send my manuscript in to this publishing company who admits that even if they publish my story, it’s likey that no one will ever buy it? Should I start with having my first book subsidized, or just go straight to the better known publishing companies? Thanks for your time.
Phyllis replied:

They are being honest with you, and of course you want your book to be published because somebody thinks it’s worth investing in it–not because you pay them.   Although a very few people have hit the best seller list with a book that started out as a “self-published” book, the authors put an enormous amount of their own money and time and effort to drive around the country taking it to bookstores and talking it up.  I don’t recommend that you pay to have your book published.  I asked my editor how any new writer today can get a start if publishers only want manuscripts that are submitted by agents, and if agents only want to represent authors with track records.  (How do you get a track record if you can’t get published?)  She said that the best way is to carefully choose a publisher by reading up on which companies want which kinds of books, studying the books in your library to see which companies publish the kind of book you write, find the name of the editor and the address of the company in the most recent edition of “Writers’ Handbook,” found in the reference rooms of public libraries, and then write to the editor, a brief letter telling him/her a very short description of your book, how you got the idea if it’s unusual or required specific research, and ask if he/she would like to see it.  If the editor replies that she would, then you can send it in with a letter saying that she requested to see it, and that should get it in the “to read” pile.  I know this is discouraging, but there are more and more people on this earth and fewer and fewer books being published, because of the economic downturn, and more and more people wanting to write.  In the meantime, join a critique group, or a creative writing class, enter every writing competition you possibly can, and keep improving your writing on your own.  If you truly love to write, you will probably keep writing whether you are published or not, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

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