So in the questions I’ve had asked, a few of the same came up:
“I have the desire to become a writer, a published writer. I just have no idea where to to start.”
I’ve come to the point where I’m revising a draft of a novel for mainly grammar and wording, no more major changes to the plot. My question is, when’s the time to start looking into publishing? And where to begin on that front? I’ve never had a work published before, so this is all very new to me. Thanks for your time.
plasticfacesofdorothy, I’ll start with you…
Well the first question is, have you written anything? Sorry, I know that sounds extremely condescending, but believe me that’s not my intention. I know a lot of people who have said that they’d like to be published, but don’t have their ideas down on paper yet.
So I’m going to say for your own good that if you don’t have a completed work, stop reading and go finish it before proceeding further.
Stephen, (and plasticfacesofdorothy if you’re continuing)
Well that’s the big thing every writer hopes for. Fortunately, you have several options at your disposal which we’ll get to in a few moments. The first thing I would say to do is work on getting your writers resume built. Write some essays and get them published in the local newspaper, or submit short stories to a small-time magazine. Keep any publications you may already have close, including old school newspapers (they count, believe me).
The next step is dependent on which way you want to go for publishing. There are two routes and each have their positives and negatives:
Traditional Publishing; Getting your book released through an established company.
-Less work, expense, and risk.
-More exposure, distribution comes from the publishers relationships with retailers and book signings are handled by your agent or the publisher.
-Publisher is responsible for copyrighted material.
-Editing is done by publisher
-Significantly harder field to break into.
-Depending on fiction or non-fiction, may require an agent (this puts an extra step).
-You pretty much surrender the rights to your story. The publisher may ask you to change things.
-Lower % of book profit.
Self-publishing; Getting your book written, printed, and distributed all by yourself.
-Higher % of income
-You own the rights to everything.
-How your book is released, advertised, and it’s cover are completely under your control.
-You can still get picked up by a publishing company down the line.
-No filter… ANYONE can get self-published… and believe me, there is a lot of garbage out there that makes it hard to break out.
-More personal costs.
-You are responsible for copyrights, edits, and everything else that comes up.
-Far more work.
Decided which route to go?
For traditional publishing, I’d first write up a literary query, which is essentially an advertisement for your book. Establish your hook, your resume (like I told you earlier), and your knowledge of the literary agency and/or publisher you’re peddling your work to (that’s right, take the time to research your desired publishers and potential agents.)
So now we need to decide if you need a literary agent. Well for non-fiction, I’d say mostly no. Go ahead and submit your manuscript directly to the publisher. If it’s fiction, start looking at agencies.
One piece of advice on submission, SUBMIT A PAPER COPY! Emails take longer and are more prone to get lost and you’ll wind up waiting months for an agency to reply for no reason. (they tend to take a while).
Be prepared, you are GOING to get rejected. I’m not kidding. Your first 50 letters or so will be rejections. Make sure your skin is thick enough to handle it, because it only takes one YES in a massive sea of NO!
So now you have your agent, they want to sign a contract… get a lawyer and have them look it over before signing anything. Once you sign the contract, remember THE AGENT WORKS FOR YOU! If you don’t get paid, they don’t get paid. Be sure to avoid any agencies that ask for $$ up front. 9 times out of 10, they are scams.
At this point, sit back and wait to hear from the agent while they contact their connections in the publishing world. They’ll sell your book. Just be ready to make whatever edits the publisher asks for and be ready to pretty much sell your soul to the devil, because your writing is now going to be theirs. They will buy the rights and ask you to make any changes they feel are necessary to get the work on the market.
Okay… so that’s traditional publishing. Let’s move on to self publishing…
First thing I would say here is to find your biggest critic, someone who doesn’t hold punches and tells it like it is. Got a person in mind? Print out your book and drop it in their lap. Ask them to read it and give you their opinion. If they think it sucks, rewrite it. If not, you’re good to go. Now find someone competent in the written word and have them edit the book. English teachers are usually a good source for this if you know any.
So now your book is proofed. Next thing I would recommend is looking into where you can get it published. Kindle Direct and Nook are okay for ebooks, but if you want hard copies, I’d recommend looking into Lulu or Createspace. Don’t get me wrong, YOU DO WANT ELECTRONIC COPIES as that’s where most of your money will come from in this day and age. Either of these sites should be able to guide you through the next steps for getting an ISBN# and/or copyright, as well as the correct formatting.
Finally, the cover… the whole thing about not judging a book by its cover is true, but remember someone could be intrigued enough by an attractive cover and choose to read the book from that alone. (I’ve done it.)
DO NOT USE A GENERIC COVER! I’m serious. Find yourself a decent cover artist, someone with animation experience is preferable. They are worth every penny you’ll pay them.
So once you have everything squared away and now your book is ready to go, it’s time to market it. Fortunately, I’ve already covered marketing in a previous post. Please refer to it here.
That’s pretty much it. Is your head rolling yet? I’d be surprised if it wasn’t. Mine was when I started. The best piece of advice I can give you is a piece that was given to me. Some may tell you that you’re going against the world as everyone and their mother wants to get something published. However, more than half of those people are incapable of writing full-length books, short stories, essays, or poetry. So eliminate them right off. That’s the majority of your competition. Next not everyone has a thick enough skin to persevere through all the hard work, determination, and tolerance it takes to get a book published. So there goes even more. In the end, your competition is one person and only one person; yourself. If you keep at it and keep pushing yourself, you can become a great writer. That is the best advice I can offer.
If you have any further questions or would like me to elaborate on anything a little more, don’t hesitate to send me an email.
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.
I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.
Catch you on the flip side!