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Carine

I Would Like To Publish My Compositions But Where Do I Start?

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I have been composing piano pieces for my students for several years now which is very enjoyable and educational. Recently, I tried to get my work published but found no on request because the publisher I contacted already had a sufficient amount of piano literature. Can you give me advise? Do you have experience in getting your work published? Did you face any difficulties? Should I contact as many publishers as I can?
 
Also, I can imagine there are other ways to get work published these days. Are there any websites where composers can upload their work and musicians can download the compositions for a small fee or something?
 
I am looking forward to your response. Thanks! :)

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If you want money, just sell them yourself, if you want prestige, you need to build a reputation first.

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First make sure your compositions are in a publishable state.

 

http://imslp.org/wiki/IMSLP:Typesetting_Guidelines

 

Then make sure someone actually wants your compositions. Chances are no one does, but it is not because your compositions are bad; it is because they don't know who you are. You have to do a fair amount of networking.

 

Finally you can set up a website and sell your music out of there—either as printed scores or as PDFs. Your contacts from networking will hopefully include some musicians who want to play your music, and you can give them a link to your website.

 

I can't think offhand of any publishers that accept submissions from randoms outside of competitions or similar. Mostly their job is to sign composers who are well known in order to make them more well known.

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That typesetting standards page needs a thread of its own.  Everybody clean up your scores!!! 

 

But, yes Carine.  In general the publishing companies are so inundated in unsolicited scores that they don't even look at them.  Many say so on their websites in a futile attempt to stem the flow to their mailboxes.  Looking at it from their point of view, it makes sense.  Musicians comb their catalogues looking for pieces they are already familiar with for the most part.  Putting together a recital program, the piano teacher thinks, "right… we need some thing early, something a little later, something a little later than that, and what if the theme was French composers?"  And then they brainstorm pieces they are already familiar with that will fit the guidelines and be the right difficulty level for the student.  For the most part, they just don't want to deal with a completely unknown piece.  Something they've heard premiered, sure!  Something that was premiered by someone famous, sure!  Something their friend told them about, of course!  So publishers don't want to talk to you until THEY have heard your premiere, you've been premiered by someone famous, or their friends are recommending you.  

 

You can definitely set up a website to sell copies of your work to people you meet directly.  Or you can give copies away for free to strangers.  But you will need to get your work out to lots of eyes, or to some influential eyes, before the publishers will want to talk to you.  Being able to say you won a competition or two is also a great stamp of approval.  I might order a copy of your piano piece from the publishers catalogue if the blurb said it was the winner of the 2014 Rhododendron Prize, even if I have no idea what the Rhododendron Prize is.  

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Publishers are obsolete for the contemporary composer, just do it yourself.

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Publishers are obsolete for the contemporary composer, just do it yourself.

 

Unless you're writing educational pieces/primary or secondary school choir/band/orchestra music, etc...

 

My school district uses these publishers ALL the time (Alliance, Pepper, etc.). They just look through the online catalogue and pick pieces.

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True… I don't know quite how it works, but the standardization of curriculum for school music programs in the US means that the teachers now have to be able to prove that they are teaching a certain level of music for a certain grade level of kid.  How do you prove what level it is?  Someone somewhere has picked a bunch of pieces out of the publishers catalogues and decreed that they are level 11b.  Teachers don't necessarily have unlimited choice on what their students work on.  (Which is really unfortunate, because students are going to come into the program with a variety of musical backgrounds and it's already hard enough finding things that will work for everyone the group you happen to have, without adding these requirements on top of everything else.)  

 

Has anyone been through high school recently enough to know more about how that works?  I hear vague allusions to it on the directors forums, but I don't know exactly what the system looks like.  

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True… I don't know quite how it works, but the standardization of curriculum for school music programs in the US means that the teachers now have to be able to prove that they are teaching a certain level of music for a certain grade level of kid.  How do you prove what level it is?  Someone somewhere has picked a bunch of pieces out of the publishers catalogues and decreed that they are level 11b.  Teachers don't necessarily have unlimited choice on what their students work on.  (Which is really unfortunate, because students are going to come into the program with a variety of musical backgrounds and it's already hard enough finding things that will work for everyone the group you happen to have, without adding these requirements on top of everything else.)  

 

Has anyone been through high school recently enough to know more about how that works?  I hear vague allusions to it on the directors forums, but I don't know exactly what the system looks like.  

 

There's more freedom than you would think. I work at Carl Fischer, one of the leading educational publishers and we have our own grading system approximately 0.5 to 5 for band and orchestra pieces. We have to have an arbitrary system because of differing state standards when it comes to music education grading. In New York, for example, the NYSSMA manual grades all pieces in the repertoire (based on their editions) from Level 1-6. Other states have similar schemes. These state-approved grading schemes are probably what you're referring to above, but rarely is any director bound by such standards. More often it is a helpful tool to gauge how difficult piece is compared to their ensemble's ability so as not to give them something too hard but also something that will challenge and inspire the kids.

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