My first book, The Travelers, just came out on October 2, 2016. The journey to this point took a long time and, along the way, I learned several important lessons. While I’m still on this path of publishing, I wanted to impart the wisdom I’ve gained on this crazy trip so far to help any other aspiring authors trying to find their way through the land of publishing. (Alright, I will dispense with the traveling puns now.)
Best Advice I Was Given – What’s the harm in trying?
Here’s the truth, it terrified me to let anyone read my book, let alone send it to publishers. It took me years before I showed it to my husband and several more years before I showed it to a select group of friends. One day, one of those friends said to me, “What’s the harm in just sending it out?” It seemed so simple. What was the harm? So, I did it.
Here’s the moral, in case you need to be hit over the head with it, if you’ve written a book, you should go for it. You’ve done a great thing. Give it a try. Rejection is difficult, never trying is worse.
Best Thing I Learned – Research
Let me caveat this section by explaining, I did not have an agent. Therefore, this is my experience getting a manuscript published without the help of one. It includes what I learned through my research and experience. If I came across any information regarding how to get an agent, I included it below as well.
- Research publishers that are most appropriate for your book. There are publishers specific to all different genres – YA, fantasy, romance, mystery, southern literature, non-fiction books about horses. (I’m not sure about that last one but it’s possible.) Publishers provide very specific guidelines on their websites regarding the types of material they publish. Don’t just blanket every publisher on the planet with your manuscript. Research the ones most appropriate for you. You also increase the likelihood of your material getting reviewed if you target a publisher actively looking for your type of work.
- Assuming you don’t have an agent, try publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts. There are a wealth of great publishers out there who will accept unsolicited manuscripts (e.g., no agent). With a little research, you can find many possibilities. Below are a few helpful resources.
- Research publisher guidelines. All publishers have requirements regarding what to submit (manuscript, chapters, query letter) and how to submit (online, email or even snail mail. – I know gasp!) Make sure you know the guidelines and follow them exactly. Submitting incorrectly will likely result in a publisher not even reading your submission.
- Research how to write a good query letter. This is critical. Regardless of other guidelines, all publishers will want a query letter. A good query letter will determine whether or not a publisher reads your manuscript. Do the research on how to make the best query letter possible, including ensuring it’s in the proper format. There are resources everywhere. Here are a few that might be helpful. (Note: if you want to try to get an agent, they typically require query letters as well.)
One Thing I Wish I Did Differently – Develop a marketing plan early
Here is one rather large mistake I made. I chose not to pursue submissions to many publishers because they required a detailed marketing plan.This submission requirement was surprisingly common, especially for the smaller presses. All I could think was – I’m a writer, not a marketer. Isn’t that what publisher are for? (I can now tell you, unless you have a large publisher like Random House, the answer is No.)
Even if it’s not required, potential publishers will often view your submission more favorably if you include a marketing plan, even if brief. In addition, most small/independent publishers rely on the authors to do the majority of the marketing, so it’s helpful down the road regardless. (Sorry, couldn’t resist another travel pun.) At the very least, it will make you savvier regarding the marketing process.
So how do you create a marketing plan? It’s very specific to the person and the book.So, to go back to my second point, you’ll need to research how best to make a marketing plan for your book, personality and genre.
The Most Important Thing I Learned – Get a professional editor
This can be a costly venture that you may need to incur yourself to get published, especially if you want it done well. But it is invaluable. Here are a few key tips.
- Get your manuscript professionally edited before you submit to a publisher. You can have friends and family review and they may even provide helpful critiques of your work. But only professional book editor really understands how to edit a document for a publisher submission. They understand pacing. They can tell you if you’ve spent far too long in the head of your character. They will point out plot holes, too much use of passive voice, etc. This is a critical step that I can’t underscore enough.
- Find an appropriate editor. Make sure you get a book editor appropriate for your genre. I am an editor. But I am not a book editor. I don’t know how to edit a YA novel, which I learned pretty quickly when I received 20 pages of comments on my book.
Finding an appropriate book editor can be tricky. It might include word of mouth. Ask friends and family if they know any editors. The internet is also helpful. A quick search will reveal many companies that specialize in this. Make sure to choose a company or person wisely.
- Once edited, don’t be intimidated by the comments. If you are a first time author, most likely a professional book editor will “rip your manuscript to shreds.” (And, if they haven’t, you might want to find a new editor.) It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. Most likely it just means there are basic writing tenets for publishing you are not aware of. It happened to me. But, it also was the most helpful feedback I ever received. I wished I had done it sooner. It might have saved me a lot of rejections.
Below are some additional resources to find and research an editor appropriate for you:
Last Thing – Don’t give up!
There are many publishers out there. Keep trying. And don’t discount the option of self-publishing. Self-publishing is a growing industry and an option for many authors. However, no matter how you decide to go about getting your book published, hard work and perseverance make up the boat that will keep you afloat as you navigate the waters of publishing. (Sorry, I had to get in one last traveling reference).