The road to publication can be broken into two basic steps: writing the best novel you can write and getting it published. Sounds almost simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s not. The life of a writer takes dedication and determination. You have to really, really want it. You have to feel this deep want in your bones. Why? Because until you get it published, it’s all on shoulders whether or not your manuscript sees the light of day.
Right now, I’m lingering on the edge of phase two in the process and I can clearly see that writing my novel was the enjoyable part. Spending all day inside my character’s heads was fun, insightful, and warming. Now that I’ve finished though, the business side of it all starts today.
What does a person do once they have a book?
1) Find an agent, who will sell it a publishing house, and get it published.
2) Publish it yourself
How to published a novel is one big gray area. This is due to the fact that there is way too much advice out there and most of it contradicts each other. For example, some authors are quick to point out that if you don’t have an agent, no one will take a second look at you. While others choose the self-publishing route themselves and were picked up by a major publishing house afterwards.
This illustrates to two important rules:
1) Every rule to publication has an exception.
2) You have to find your own way.
In reality as a writer, you have to choose which route best fits you. This is crucial due to the fact that neither route is easier.
Let’s breifly examine what each road involves:
1) The Traditional Road: You need to get an agent. Why should I do this and what is so important about them? An agent knows how to work with the major publishing houses. They know how to negotiate the best rights for your book. Furthermore, most major publishing companys will not work with unagented writers to begin with.
So how do you get an agent? First you need to write up a query letter. A query letter advertises your book to agents in 400 words or less. That’s right, you need to spill and wrap up your novels guts onto a 1 page document after months of writing. You can stop jumping up and down for joy now (insert sarcasm here). This can be incredibly difficult and intimidating to writers. In fact, I’ve been frozen solid for two weeks in fear of even starting my letter. However, the good news is it can be done. What I have been doing is researching what makes a good query letter.
Most articles I’ve read agree that a writer should spend 1-2 months drafting up their query letters before proceeding forward. This is due to the fact that they are infinitely important! If you don’t have a great letter, your book will sit alone and rejected whether its New York Times Bestselling material or not.
Once your comfortable with your letter, you need to research legitimate agents. A great way to do this is to buy the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents. It provides a list to over 750 agents.
Look for ones that publish your type of novel, follow their guidelines, and send it out to not 1, not 25, but 100 agents if you can. Sending out a query letter is similar to fishing. The more lines you have in the water, the better your chances are for finding an agent who not only likes your novel, they love it.
Once you have an agent, make sure you both work well with each other. From a writers point of view, agents look like all powerful gatekeepers to the publishing world. But in reality, they’re people just like us with day job we hope they enjoy. You need to be able to reach your agent and now they have faith in your novel. According to some authors, they’ve had multiple agents until they found the right one for them. Once you do find that special agent someone (sounds almost like dating, doesn’t it?), your book is as good as published. Of course…it will take a while to edit it and get it ready for the shelves 🙂
1) Published by Myself: Wouldn’t it be great if I could somehow bypass all the waiting it takes to find an agent and publish my book now? Thankfully, today that is exactly what you can do with websites such as CreateSpace or iUniverse.
With a click of a button, your book can be up for sale on Barnes and Noble and Amazon. This looks very appealing. The same way eating brownies for breakfast does each morning (at least for me…cough). If your an independent person who likes to be in control of your own future, self-publishing sounds perfect.
Due to the fact that anyone can publish a book, nothing will keep your book in the dark for all eternity. The only problem with this is that millions of people are doing exactly that. In order to make your book stand out, you’ll have to sell, market, and advertise by yourself.
Honestly though, authors that took the traditional path have to do almost the same exact thing. The difference is that this road comes with a negative stigma associated with it. Many bookstores will not sell a self-published book and the publishing community tends to turn their nose up at someone who has done that. Furthermore, the chances of a self-published novel getting picked up by a major publishing house is slim (depending on how well you have advertised your book) and you probably won’t make much money off of it.
That being said, this is a great option for some people and I honor anyone who has a book published. Which route you choose all depends on what you want and how you want to get it.
Above all: never stop writing or believing in yourself! You will make it.