Like other industries, the publishing world has vantages and challenges. Apart from the benefits that authors gain upon signing, other factors come into play. There are two (2) types to choose from self-publishing and traditional. If authors choose to self-publish their work, they would own the rights and royalties. However, it would be up to them to gather professional assistance. On the other hand, traditional publishing means the author would have to share the rights and royalties of their work. Besides that, the publisher would have to assist the author until the actual printing and selling. To get a much better feel for the publishing industry, I interviewed Rayne Mariano, Edrian Macabalitao, and Margaux Dy.
How Publishing Begins
Before turning their works into physical books, Rayne, Edrian, and Margaux posted them online. Their works gained traction online, attracting local publishers. Rayne’s first physical book was AFGITMOLFM, published by Pop Fiction under Summit Books in 2014. Under Ukiyoto Publishing, Edrian printed Lacking Fragments in 2021. Meanwhile, Margaux published her novel Endless under IMMAC PPH, even nurturing it into a best-seller. Since then, these three authors worked hard to maintain momentum. Rayne published more than 11 titles as of writing. Some are self-published, and some are traditional. She also contributes to anthologies and magazines to this day. Meanwhile, Edrian wrote From Mirana and Other Stories, a collection of narratives and poetry, under 8Letters Book Store and Publishing. Margaux, on the other hand, admitted that she writes slowly compared to other writers. Nevertheless, she completed five (5) books since printing her first in 2019.
From Online to Physical Books
Posting online differs from publishing physical books. As a writer myself, I think of holding a physical book to my name as the hallmark of my writing career. After all, most writers have their passion ignited by physical books. Before the invention of gadgets, physical books are what we are all about: the musty smell of paper and its rough feel against our fingertips. As writing platforms emerged, the difference between posting stories online and publishing books couldn’t be more evident. Rayne further explained the disparity between online publishing and physical books,
You get feedback [in] real-time sa online. Publishing books, [though,] it’s business.
Rayne also recognized how actual money is the capital for publishing books. While passion still counts, authors should mind the money that comes along with printing physical books. For Edrian, publishing physical books meant more pressure and responsibility. He mentioned the importance of copyright and intellectual property (IP) laws that authors must follow. On the other hand, Margaux acknowledged the shift’s effect on her as a writer. She admitted,
I do get more liberty [in] writing a book online than turning it into a physical book. Nalilimitahan kasi ‘yong story in so many ways kapag naisasalibro na. [But] again, this is subjective.
Margaux, then, discussed the processes involved before mass printing. She revealed that the more pages are, the higher the printing cost and selling price. Because most of her books were posted online first, Margaux confessed that “the fun part is getting to know her readers’ live reactions”. Meanwhile, Rayne thought of receiving live reactions as a positive thing but she also considered it a disadvantage. Live reactions are received by the version posted online. However, most authors prefer to revise before turning their works into physical books. This is simply because the ones published online are first drafts pending improvement. According to Rayne, most readers struggle with the revisions. She explained,
Sometimes kasi, readers don’t want ‘better’. They just want the memory. Pero as a writer, you want your story better, but at the same time, hindi ma-lost ‘yong soul.
For Edrian, books are magic. This was the very reason why he seized the opportunity to publish. He mentioned that one of the disadvantages of shifting from online is that he began feeling “small”. Online writing and reading platforms – like Wattpad and Archive of Our Own (AO3) – made writing more accessible than ever. Because of that, marketing physical books became more difficult as most readers now prefer reading online.
You’d realize there’s a bigger world out there,” Edrian added.
Marketing in the Publishing World
Right off the bat, Rayne stated “marketing is not for the anti-socials”. Marketing requires the author to come out of their shell and entice people to buy their work. In this process, authors need to be relevant. They have to constantly appear on social media, keeping up with trends. Rayne discussed how creating while marketing could be tiring. Marketing a book means the author must market themselves, too. Rayne advised,
Have fun lang din siguro. Mahirap kumilos ‘pag sapilitan lahat, so dapat ma-enjoy ko ‘yong process ng marketing.
Edrian seconded, admitting that he “isn’t good at marketing”. His preference for solitude made it challenging for him. Meanwhile, Margaux struggled to market her books that will be released this month. She, then, reiterated the role of publishers in the marketing process. If the book is traditionally published, then the publisher will shoulder and/or assist with its promotion. Self-published books, on the other hand, mean the author will have to create their collaterals for promotion. Because she will self-publish her books, Margaux opened up about marketing them,
Sometimes, nakaka-discourage siya kasi you put so much effort promoting your stories, but if they’re (readers) not into your genre or they’re not into that certain trope, wala kang magagawa. You can only pray and hope na ma-reach mo ‘yong tamang audience.
In the Middle of Business and Creative Freedom
When asked about the supposed line between business and creativity, Rayne did not shy away. She explained how she has always been a fan of independence and choices. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when she stated that a partnership must exist between editors and authors. She also commented how editors shouldn’t treat stories as “just another job to edit”. Rayne also noted how sometimes, editors become too lenient with famous stories. According to her, too much freedom should also be a no-no in publishing.
Manage authors pero bigyan din [sila] ng pagkakataon to choose,” Rayne suggested.
Edrian, on the other hand, gave a direct answer. In terms of creative freedom, he deemed that the author must have 89% of freedom throughout the whole process leading toward publishing. The remaining percentage, for him, must belong to the editor. Because both the author and editor must cooperate, the editor’s suggestions need to be examined first by the author. That way, the people involved could discuss the suggestions before applying them. As for Margaux, she took the opportunity to promote the advantages of self-publishing.
Literal na your book, your rules sa pagse-self-pub,” she explained.
The Not-So-Secret Affairs of the Publishing World
When asked about memorable experiences, Rayne narrated how she handled AFGITMOLFM herself. PopFiction granted her the freedom to do what she wanted (almost). Because of that, she got to work with her friends. She had a small team that assisted her in “fixing” her story, the art included. But despite having her friends, Rayne still wished for a mentor to guide her through the process. As for the second title that she published, which was a chat fiction, she recalled pitching the concept to her editor in 2014. The said editor only responded to her, a year after chatseryes – like Vince, Kath, and James – became popular.
Rayne opened up about how the experience upset her. She felt rushed as the publishing house wanted to chase the hype of chat fiction. Rayne also remembered being told to remove things crucial to the plot, as chat fiction stories are difficult to format. When she explained that they were important, her editor suggested:
Pabasa mo na lang sa readers ‘yong Wattpad version.See Also
Despite that experience, Rayne bounced back and kept going. What happened didn’t stop her. Now, she still voices her concerns while being mindful of her tone. To prevent her experience from happening to others, she began mentoring authors to hone their storytelling and editing skills. As for Edrian’s memorable experience in his first physical book, his answer was simple. For him, everything is memorable as long as his work impacts those who read it. Instead of lashing out whenever he receives criticism, he prefers to do the opposite:
You already said what you wanted to say, now it’s the public’s turn to examine the work you put out. See now, to you, as an author, there’s a lingering sense of accountability. More like a ‘touch move’ rule in the game of chess.
Margaux shared an embarrassing yet memorable story. Back in 2019, she submitted a manuscript that wasn’t formatted properly. Margaux realized her mistakes when IMMAC PPH’s Jheng Immaculata approached her, offering to escort her through the unpredictable journey of publishing. Only then did she become aware of the many stages a physical book undergoes.
For Those Who Want to Dive into the Publishing World
For those who plan to dive into the nitty-gritty world of publishing, the three authors gave the advice they wish they knew before. Edrian’s was simple. Writing for a living invites setbacks. With this in mind, he urged those who want to publish their works to take the process “one day at a time”. Edrian concluded with,
As long as you’re doing it because it’s just who you are, then continue.
Margaux left a cliché yet still very true quote: “Do it but don’t rush it.” She also stressed the importance of weighing the pros and cons when signing contracts with publishing houses. Apart from that, she assured those who have no experience that it’s okay to ask for help. Margaux also reminded them that publishing stories can be cut-throat. According to her, publishing isn’t a competition, nor it shouldn’t be treated like one. She, then, recalled how she wasn’t prioritized because she wasn’t that “famous”. Nevertheless, she learned to trust the process.
I had to constantly remind myself that published or not, it won’t make me less of a writer,” she reiterated.
Rayne, on the other hand, gave powerful advice. In publishing physical books, money is involved from the capital to the consumers’ payments. She mentioned that no one should take financial matters lightly. Rayne stressed,
Writing is art, publishing is business. Let’s do both with integrity, and enjoy the process, (and) the money, pero sana hindi bulag sa profit alone.
Now more than ever, the publishing world is very much alive. Its heart is pumping fast, steady even. Besides being accessible, the invention of gadgets also opened gates of opportunities for talented writers out there. The pandemic made marketing physical books difficult but writers found a way to earn by posting their works online. And it might have restrained humanities and the arts for three (3) years but one thing’s for sure. It didn’t stop writers like Rayne Mariano, Edrian Macabalitao, and Margaux Dy.
The pandemic didn’t prevent them from chasing the high of translating pieces of their souls into ink, screens, and paper. If anything, I think the pandemic even prolonged and intensified every writer’s hunger for creating. Want to read more articles like this? Click here.
If Florence is not busy with her school works, then she is probably binge-watching TV series and films. She finds it easier to write with the help of playlists she curated. However, she is still looking for the balance between fiction writing and journalism. Because she likes both, she tries to do both even if their techniques and concepts could not be farther from each other.