What's the best way to get published?
Thanks to all who responded to my request for advice on finding a
publisher. What follows is a summary. Most every comment has
been included, and redundancies have been removed. There were
no significant disagreements among the responses. I have added a
few parenthetical comments; these are my own.
SUMMARY OF ADVICE ON FINDING A PUBLISHER
Agents are not necessary or typical.
Become acquainted with standard publishing contracts. For examples
see the book "This Business of Music". Also look for "How To Get
Your Choral Composition Published," by Barbara Harlow
Identify publishers who print music like yours. Prioritize them.
Approach publishers one at a time. (This was emphasized repeatedly.
I didn't appreciate before how much time publishers devote to
considering pieces, and that time is wasted if a piece is later
found to have been picked up by another publisher.)
If you feel a need to protect yourself from being strung along, state
that you will pursue other publishers if you don't hear back after
some number (1-3?) of months, but that is considered tricky
Call a publisher before mailing the score and ask for the choral editor.
Describe the piece and ask if he or she wants to see it. (It's a relief
to hear that these people do not dwell in "unapproachable light.") Ask
if there is a particular time of the year they consider new pieces.
If your text or tune is not public domain, contact its owner yourself.
Make your own agreements for sharing royalties, and then approach the
publisher with that agreement in hand. Publishers don't want to help you
Composers with one piece to sell are common and unloved. Publishers like
composers who can demonstrate the ability to generate hits repeatedly.
The manuscript should be produced with a computer or be very neatly
Be clear with expression markings and avoid extreme vocal ranges. Find
out from each publisher whether they appreciate recordings along with
Consider a publisher who is associated with your denomination (GIA for
Catholics, Word for Baptists, and for various Lutherans there are
Morning Star, Concordia, and Augsburg-Fortress.)
Treat internet publishers with caution (some of them are disreputable).
Smaller publishers may be able to make decisions much quicker than large
Mention any performances of your music. This was from one helpful
respondent: 'But know that "publishing" and sales comes only after the
music achieves some "recognition" through performances, not vice versa.
Even with a "big publisher," the composer has be "promotable" and be
involved with promotion. So think about what you are trying to achieve.
If it's "cash," you're going to find that when you "crunch the numbers"
on sales of choral octavos, the returns are small unless you are doing
*well* above average sales through a traditional publisher (that goes
for the profit the publisher gets as well, which, after expenses,
is about what the composer gets).' (I'd like to hear more about this;
would it help for me to prepare a resume or letters of recommendation?
No doubt the usual rules apply, and slick packaging communicates you
are smart and sophisticated.)
St. Luke Lutheran Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan