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So, let's say I decided to try to get published....

I have been wondering if I should try to send something in for publishing but I don't know where to begin...?
I have perhaps a dozen pieces or so (just started composing in earnest a few years ago while home schooling my kids). A few pieces have been performed here and there in the U.S. The first piece performed made into Project Encore. I have had a few pieces  showcased on this site as well.
Any suggestions out there for a newbie??
Replies (32): Threaded | Chronological
on June 10, 2014 11:55pm
Hello Joy,
I’m sure you’ll get lots of answers on this, and you will still be left with choices. Some of your – and everyone’s – success will depend on what I can only call (your) personal ‘energy’, which is different for each of us.
That being said, there are certain things that can be done which will help you with publication.
• A good recording is a great asset. (mp3, YouTube, CD, etc.). Personally, I would avoid sending midi-performances of your work for two reasons. The first is that they generally do not convey that special quality that only live or live recordings can give. The second is that they indicate that your music is not of sufficient interest to performing ensembles as to have merited a performance recording.
• Some indication as to possible popularity, i.e. continued performance of your submission. Do you have a detailed list of performances?
• You may want to seek out a ‘niche’ publisher if your music fits into a certain niche category (e.g. Sacred, Christmas, Folk, World Music, School… etc.) Bigger is not always better in this respect. Your music can be ‘buried’ in a huge catalogue from a huge company, whereas it may be much more successfully published by a smaller, niche company that is really interested in and promotes its niche.
• Particularly in the case of smaller publishers let them know how you might help publicize your music. Do you have a website? They should know of this, if you do. Publishing is only a start; the music has to get ‘out there’, and then has to be performed, and then has to be listened to, and then has to ‘catch on’. Are you in a position to assist in these areas? A good website is an invaluable tool for anyone serious about publishing, whether self, or traditional.
• You mention Project Encore. This is a real plus, as it indicates peer review and acceptance. Be sure to mention this!
• Are you in a position to attend readings? Choral music conferences? These are places where you can meet people who promote (new) choral music. It’s called networking! Whether you are self-publishing or trying to break into traditional publishing, you will still need to do your own footwork, at least initially. At the larger conferences, such as ACDA, you will often be able to talk directly with publishers or their representatives.
These are just a few ideas. The important aspect in all of this is that publishing in and of itself does not guarantee success (whatever that is…). Until you have a representative body of music out there, you’ll still have to work at it.
• Good luck. (You’ll need a lot of that, but fortunately we can create a good deal of this ourselves!)   
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 11, 2014 3:30am
Hi joy,
my company See-A-Dot Music Publishing is one of the smaller niche groups Donald referenced. Some publishers have a submission process  on their sites (including my own), I suggest submitting your absolutely favorite piece with a recording.
you can start at :)
on June 11, 2014 8:49am
Hi Joy!
Do NOT sign any contract that will allow the publisher to put your music in POW (permanently out of print.)  It will cost you over $1,000 for a lawyer to TRY to get your music back.  If there is anything on a contract that you don't fully understand, have a lawyer friend interpret it. 
Applauded by an audience of 3
on June 11, 2014 10:00am
I second Wally's comment and offer a specific suggestion.  If you go with a "traditional" publisher (i.e., a publishing contract whereby you turn over your copyright to the publisher in exchange for a small commission on sales), then I strong advise that you insert these two provisions in your contract:
(1)  If the publisher does not make the work available to the public within one year of the signing of the contract, the contract is void and all rights revert to the composer.
(2)  If at any time after one year, the publisher does not make the work available to the public for a period of six months or more, the contract is void and all rights revert to the composer.
I have simply heard too many horror stories of works being turned over to publishers who for whatever reason let the work go out of print, and then when musicians or choirs want to perform the work they can't and the composer cannot lawfully even give them the work to perform because the publisher controls the copyright.
In general, I would avoid any traditional publishing contract unless you are convinced that the publisher will do a more effective job of promoting and selling the work that you can.  With good alternatives out there to help self-published composers market their works (SheetMusicPlus, CadenzaOne, MusicaNeo, JWPepper, etc.), there is no good reason to give a traditional publisher your copyright unless you are convinced they are really going to go to bat for your work and promote it.
Dem's my two cents.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 11, 2014 9:05am
Hi Joy,
You might also consider avoiding traditional publishers altogether and selling your music directly online. Check out the Digital Print Publishing program at Sheet Music Plus: Choral/vocal music sells particularly well and our top sellers have made nearly $10k each in the last 6 months. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 16, 2014 6:24am
Hi Ryan:
Would you be willing to share the titles of your self-published top sellers (maybe the top ten or twenty) so that we can take a look and learn about the types of choral music that are actually selling well these days?
on June 16, 2014 10:40am
Sure thing Julia. Not all of these people have choral titles, but searching for them on Sheet Music Plus will give you a sense of what sells well, and how they've presented their music:
Kate Agioritis (#1)
Miranda Wong (#2)
John Gibson (#3)
David Burndrett (#4)
Hiroshige Fukuhara (#5)
Jenifer Cook (#6)
Jennifer Eklund (#7)
Cynthia Kelley (#8)
Rebecca Belliston (#9)
Nick Lacanski (#10)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 16, 2014 11:25am
Thanks, Ryan!
on June 11, 2014 4:59pm
great advice, everyone-- thank you! (and hi, Greg!)
So one mre question-- do any of you use these digital sites, and how have they worked for you? Have you gotten good/ any results? And do you overlap-- posting the same piece on several digital sites, as well as here on ChoralNet etc?
I have looked at sheetmusicplus in the past and have an account. Unfortunately their digiprint site seems down at the moment but I will try again tomorrow. I had never heard of MusicNeo. Will take a look.
Thanks again, everyone. I have heard tell of many pros and some very strong cons with the commercial publishing industry. Up until this point I have gone with a bit of luck and a few personal connections-- both of which have worked on occasion but the 'marketing' effort is definitely not my strong suit.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 12, 2014 8:11am
Good question, Joy. Thanks. I'd like to ask the same question as I think it is an important issue.
In the case of traditional publishers, there is an unspoken rule/convention that submissions be sent to only one publisher at a time. There are good reasons for this, one being that considerable effort – i.e. time and cost – is put into the acceptance process by the publisher; it's somewhat like judging a competition. If another publisher is also looking at the piece and one of them chooses to publish, then one of them has to be told that the piece is no longer available. Bad tactic: the 'snubbed' publisher is not likely to publish the next submission you send in!
My suspicion is that as the tradional vetting process does not play much if any role in digital publishing, there would be no problem with this approach. However, there may well be other problems.
Does anyone have experience with this, or opinions? Maybe we could hear from digital publishers themselves!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 12, 2014 8:52am
Hi Donald!
Here has been my experience with large publishers.  In the past, when I USED to deal with them, I would send a piece to
a publisher, and sometimes never get the courtesy of a reply, and sometimes get a reply several weeks later.  I used to
send a piece to two or three publishers at a time, so that I could get a "yes" or "no" from one of them.  In the event that I
got a "yes," I explained to the other two publishers that I sold the piece because I did not get a timely reply.  Fair is fair!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 12, 2014 2:10pm
    We live in such a different world today.  There are so many places a conductor can look to find new repertoire that posting things to as many online venues as possible sure seems the way to go.  I think of it like TV networks.  When there were really only three, they had a huge influence.   Now that there are 500 channels plus the internet, influence has been spread out to many places.   Soundcloud, Sheet Music Plus, JWPEPPER, YouTube, the Composition Showcase and your own website all add a little exposure.  Use them ALL!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 11, 2014 6:43pm
You will find it worth your while to purchase Barbara Harlow's little book How to Get your choral Composition Published.  Here is a link.  Harlow is the editor of Santa Barbara Music.  This will give you a view of dealing with the traditional published business.  
Brian Holmes
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 12, 2014 8:56am
Hi Brian!
When I tried to buy a copy of the book, the website wanted far too much personal information to send over the Internet, so I
rescinded my application.  Thanks, anyway, for the "tip."
on June 12, 2014 8:58am
I've been following this thread with great interest.  My current thinking is that self-publishing and digital printing seem to be the way ahead for most of us. This is partly because it's very difficult if you're not a 'big name', or at least a well established composer, to get anything accepted by the big publishers.  But I hadn't considered the other major snag that people have pointed out here, namely the difficulties encountered when a publisher decides to consign your cherished composition to their 'out-of-print' category.  I'm most grateful to Wally and Greg for pointing out this danger!
As to placing the same piece with more than one of the digital sites, I don't see that as a problem at all, as you retain your own copyright, and can do with it whatever you wish!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 12, 2014 9:39am
Hi all,
Just FYI, at Sheet Music Plus we do not vet submissions on their artistic merit and aesthetic direction, only on whether they are of generally acceptable viewing/printing quality and satisfy copyright legalities. The complete Terms are here
We also do not hold any exclusivity on your works, so you can have them for sale wherever else you'd like. 
Sheet Music Plus
Digital Publishing Program
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 12, 2014 11:19am
   Thanks for joining this discussion!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 12, 2014 10:25am
Dear Joy,

In this article, I address the issue of traditional publishing vs. self publishing.
"Publishers all have niches-- very carefully carved-out market segments establishing their voice as a brand.  If you really want to be published, study their catalogs and see what has been recently released.   Honestly ask yourself if your particular piece would fit in perfectly with those works.

Publishers do serve a variety of very important roles, including marketing, engraving, printing, and distributing your work.  One day, they may partner with you in a mutually beneficial way by publishing things you write.

In the meantime, consider self-publishing.  Just because something is not profitable enough  to be worth a publisher's time doesn't make it worthless.  There may be a market for your marimba sonata, it just might not be big enough to be financially viable for a publisher.  There are a variety of self-publishing options out there, but of course I am inclined towards CadenzaOne."
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 12, 2014 10:48am
In the spirit of the discussion of drawbacks to traditional publishing and the ease of self-publishing via online sales and digital printing, you might like to have a look at Swirly Music, which offers a user-friendly storefront and provides printing and fulfillment for self-published composers.  It is a non-exclusive service to composers who hold their own copyrights.
Thanks for having a look,
Michael Kaulkin
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 13, 2014 12:31pm
This seems to be the right time and place, at long last, to speak of my woes as a composer/arranger/editor and publishing industry.
I am working very hard to overcome a very bad case of "gunshyness" currently with regard to getting my music published, by whatever means. With the exception, perhaps, of one or two publishers or subsidiaries thereof, every publisher that has published music of mine has had something bad happen to it:
Some were bought out multiple times (relegating whatever backlisted works I had with them to increasing obscurity or POP status).
Others went bankrupt (in one particularly egregious case, I was told, a line of works of mine was selling quite well; but I never saw a single penny in royalties).
Still others had major changes in editorial policy (dictated from a parent company) and either deep-sixed a large number of published works (including my own), or else are accepting no new pieces and are "trying to maintain the existing catalog." Fortunately, this latter situation seems to be working for the moment.
As for getting works back from said publishers: one flatly refused; another wanted a $50 "processing fee" for each returned work. I have not had time or resources to pursue the many other pieces of mine in legal limbo.
As for the increasing number of venues for self-publishing: perhaps I'm old fashioned, but having a publisher's imprimatur says that a work, on whatever basis, has been vetted and is therefore worthy of attention. Self-publishing, in my mind, still carries the "vanity press" stigma—if a piece is really worthwhile, then why hasn't a publisher picked it up?
Discussion/advice/reassurance/encouragement is welcome!
Robert A.M. Ross <Robert Ross 11>
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 13, 2014 12:49pm
It sounds like publishers are in over their heads as their old business model is beginning to fail.  They may no longer accept new composers as readily as they used to because it's just bad for business, given the financial risks they have to assume.
This is why I started Swirly Music, and why the other similar services mentioned in this thread are appealing to composers.  If we can solve the mechanical distribution problems on our own, and publishers aren't doing much to promote our work, then being published in the traditional sense has less importance.
Personally, I believe the vanity stigma is a thing of the past.  Conductors here will correct me if I'm wrong, but I think they'll do a piece if it's good, regardless of how well known the composer is.
Michael Kaulkin
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 13, 2014 12:51pm
I hope that's true! Thanks!
Robert A.M. Ross <Robert Ross 11>
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 13, 2014 4:57pm
Hello Robert and Michael-
Your points – and experiences – are very well taken. Publishers are obviously reeling from the onslaught of the ‘do it yourselfers’, and I am not using this term pejoratively. It is all fallout from the evolution of technology.  That being said, I do think a few publishers will survive – at least for a while – because they can do what no individual publishers can do, and that is to act as filters for the thousands of pieces of music sent to them yearly. Yes, a conductor will perform a piece “if it's good, regardless of how well known the composer is” BUT – conductors want to be able to compare as many pieces as possible in order to do this. How is this possible? Or more to the point- IS this possible?
The desktop industry certainly does not do this, so where is this kind of necessary ‘filtering’ done? Currently, it is done in at least two places– a. by publishers, and b. in the multiple concerts presented at large choral conferences such as ACDA, Choral Canada, Great Britain’s ABCD and so on. This is precisely why so many conductors flock to such conferences and local chapters.
Something other than concerts draw the attention of conductors at these conferences, and these are the choral literature readings. I have seen a number of comments made by composers as to how difficult it is to get their desktop works into such readings. I certainly sympathize. Traditionally, the mechanism for this has been largely driven by music publishers– both mainstream and niche. We are at a crossroads presently, where there is really no ‘mechanism’ for getting the best (whatever that is…) of the desktop works into such readings. But there should be, and there could be! Perhaps this is an area that composers can explore, individually and in concert. Is there a way that choral works can be peer (or otherwise) recommended for conference readings? And who would pay for this, and who would pay for the music to be read, and who would pay the clinician? Lots of questions..
Or maybe there’s a totally different approach? Any suggestions? In any event, I think it has more to do with the practicalities of music selection than with vanity stigma. Personally – and as someone with a deep-rooted fear of monoculture in any field – I kind of relish the co-existence of traditional and desk-top publishing. Together they have the potential to mutually stimulate the best in each mode of publication. Can one ask for more?
In connection with all of this, I am thinking of an extraordinary major choral composer who at the age of eighty has never had his music published by traditional publishers– if I am not mistaken. Yet, he has more than thrived. He is a meticulous craftsman, a tireless composer and innovator, much of his music utilizing a specific notation created for any given work. He began to ‘desktop’ publishing long before the term was coined or the process fashionable– in fact, even before the computer became de rigeur. His music has been sung, and his instrumental works performed, by virtually every major ensemble in the western world and by many beyond– by children in the classroom to the finest instrumental and choral ensembles anywhere.
Here’s the rub– well before the end of the last century, Canadian R. Murray Shafer began his own publishing house, Arcana, for most of the reasons composers complain about today. Arcana has more than survived. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest in a nutshell why, in part, he has been so successful: a combination of hard work, uncompromising excellence, inquisitiveness– and a very healthy dose of entrepreneurship!
Much to think about!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 13, 2014 4:09pm
Hello Robert,
I thoroughly agree with Michael Kaulklin that if a piece is of high quality and fits what a conductor is looking for, they will buy the piece. The stigma of the publisher versus self published is gone for many conductors if not most. At various ACDA division and national conventions I've attended, it is less common for a choir to not include a non-publishing company piece than to include one in their performance.
As a conductor, I regularly seek out non-publishing company music (self published and public domain) as well as music published more traditionally. I personally find that I end up having to sift through about the same percentage of pieces I would never consider performing with self published pieces as I do with the traditional pieces (of course I see other people buying pieces I didn't choose, and they would do the same with self published music).
I believe the main drawback for many conductors in buying self published music is the difficulty in finding the music. A publisher often sends music demos to your home, it is easy to find music on a website, and especially one of a distributer. I believe this is changing through avenues such as choralnet, but especially because of opportunities to sell self published music through distributor websites (such as Sheet Music Plus, JW Pepper, Cadenza One, Swirley, etc...). I personally think this is the future for selling sheet music as this largely solves the biggest drawback to self publishing (availability to a widespread and unknown audience).
At reading conventions sponsored by a distributor where the presenter picks the music (which are 10 times as valuable in my experience as a reading convention sponsored by a publisher - which are merely promos - just send me your demo cd and pamphlet as far as I'm concerned) a presenter can as easily include a self published piece that is sold through the distributor (especially in the JW Pepper program where they are willing to print the piece) as a piece published by a major publisher.
With that said, I still will buy from traditional publishers (I have no beef with them) because there is still a lot of great music published by them. There is room in the market for both approaches.
God Bless,
Michael Sandvik
Applauded by an audience of 4
on June 13, 2014 5:15pm
Thanks for this, Michael.
It is informative and helpful to hear from someone at once a composer and conductor.
You have interesting insights with respect to distributor-sponsored readings. Can you suggest ways in which composers can knock on the doors of such distributors? Do we know to what extent distributors handle self published works? Perhaps there is a useful mechanism whereby presenters may receive new choral works.
Right off the bat, though, I'd like to suggest (only!) that composers somehow agree to submit only works that have had at least one performance, and that a live recording be submitted as well. I think if I were a presenter I would heartily endorse such a practice. Personally, I have made it a point to never submit works to publishers or presenters unless they have been performed. It would be useful to hear from presenters on this!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 14, 2014 8:08am
I've been following this thread with great interest since it's addressing many things I've been pondering...
If you go to an ACDA convention, you will find that most choirs are performing at least one work that is self-published, published by a cooperative, or manuscript, as Michael pointed out above.  If you go to one of the reading sessions, however, you will be hard pressed to find anything other than works published by a traditional publishing house.  This has a lot to do with how the current Repetoire and Standards commitees are set up to disseminate what is "hot off the presses."  I know very little about the process (and someone is welcome to correct me if I'm wrong), but my understanding is that publishers send music for the R & S chairs to sift through in the same way that conductors are sent mailings to buy the latest works.  It's traditional, based on an old model, and I'm sure there are more than a few of us wanting to see that change.
I think one of the challenges we face with self-promotion is demonstrating in a very short amount of time (you don't give a lot of time to one piece if you have hundreds to go through) that a piece is worthy of performance, or even more than just a passing glance.  As Donald said, I think if we are to find some kind of in-road to Reading-session-land, there needs to be some kind of endorsement mechanism.  One of the things that I think is hardest for us, the composers, to gauge, is what kind of ensemble a piece we have written is really suitable for.  How many times have we written something designed for a high school ensemble and find that it really takes a college ensemble to do it?  R & S folks don't really have time for this.  I think if we are able to provide a live recording and some kind of performance record with a submitted work, and then submit it to the correct representative, it's more likely to get a little attention.
I don't have the answers, but there's my opinion...
Applauded by an audience of 5
on June 14, 2014 8:04pm
Justine's point about the reading sessions is well made. I would consider these kind of sessions publisher sponsored (they send music, which is sifted, then some pieces are presented). These are not bad reading sessions, but they will contain what is sent from publishers only.
By contrast, what I refer to as a distributor sponsored session is thoroughly different. This kind of session is beautifully modeled by the Summer reading institute of the Washington ACDA Chapter. I have attended about 10 of their Summer institutes when I was an undergraduate and then a teacher in the WA State, but having moved away for graduate school, then to the east coast and then gulf coast, I have (alas) missed the last three WA institutes. I am sure it has been improved upon, for they seemed to get better every year. Essentially it went like this: three days of reading session, headliner presentations, and masterclasses. The reading sessions were of course headed up by the R&S chairs for the various categories (middle school, high school, sacred, world music, etc...) Rather than publishers sending music, the R&S chairs picked two persons (sometimes themselves) to each present usually 9 to 15 pieces in a session. The presenters would compile a list of pieces that had worked well for them, or that they would love to do, and would give that list to someone who would be give it to JW Pepper (the invited seller of sheet music). JW Pepper would compile packets of the pieces requested by the presenter to be handed out at the session (I think at times not all of the pieces requested were included for logistic reasons). The two presenters for a particular category would lead a read through of the pieces, often sharing what/why the piece worked for them. Two sessions (different categories) would occur simultaneously in two separate places, with the exception of the session lead by the headliner for the institute. However, you could always go pick up a packet from the session you did not attend. You could return packets, or pieces you did not wish to keep, but JW Pepper donated all the music.
These sessions are far more valuable (in my opinion) than a publisher sponsored session because the pieces are all tried and true. You get new pieces combined with "oldies-but-goodies" which amazingly enough, people forget quickly. Sometimes the presenter would bring in someone's self published piece (copied by permission) and add it to the packet (no complaints from JWP).
With the new systems such as myscore, SMP digital print, etc... a self published piece could be included in these sessions as easily as a traditionally published piece, providing the presenter requests the piece (and the composer is selling through the distributor).
I hope more and more chapters will do these kind of sessions. The publisher sessions can often be replaced by mailing a promo book and a cd to conductors. With the new systems of distributing, it would be easy to include self pubished music, providing it was being sold through the distributor sponsoring the session.
Also, composers need to be in contact with R&S Chairs and chapter presidents (these are our colleagues) and respecfully encourage these kind of sessions and sessions that promote venues that distribute self published music (I think one was set up with the composition showcase and an acda session a while back, Jack can correct me if not/give details if he is willing).
I think the ACDA is/can be one of choral composers biggest ally. It is an organization worth joing if only for the networking (it is far more valuable than only that of course).
God Bless,
Michael Sandvik
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 27, 2014 1:04pm
Interesting discussion. I'm actually in with JW Pepper and Sheet Music Plus and am happy with both of them very much! Have had many things published over the years with an assortment of publishers. But I like this new model for many reasons.
on July 8, 2014 10:13am
Hi everyone. I've put together a survey to help Sheet Music Plus design our Digital Print Publishing program in a way that best serves your needs. Would you mind filling it out? You'll get a 10% discount code at the end!
on July 8, 2014 7:20pm
Hello Ryan,
Started to fill out the form but got held up on #3
Which music organizations are you currently a member of?
I am not a member of any of them so did not check off any, but DID fill in the box in which one is asked for other orgs. I am told I must check one of the (American) organizations (before I can continue)
Does this ALSO imply that if nothing can be checked off for any particular question, one can not continue the survey?
Thanks, Donald
on July 9, 2014 1:34am
Ditto!   I think there should have been a box to tick against 'other'!   However, I did somehow manage to complete the form by checking one of the other boxes and then going back - don't ask me how!  Not clear what the 10% discount is for:  is it for anything at all on the SMP site, or just for digital printing, and is it just for one single purchase?
on July 9, 2014 9:08am
Sorry guys! I've revised it to make #3 optional:
Many of the questions must be answered before moving on, which I only did because people were starting to skip through without answering anything just to get the discount code :-/
And yes Gordon, the discount code is good for any purchase(s) made on SMP! 
Thanks for this!
P.S. I need to close this survey and discount code by 8/1/14, so if you're interested, please fill it out before then. Thanks!
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