This month when we tossed the pebble in the pond and created #inkripples we looked at publishing options for writers. Check out what Kai Strand says, what Katie Carroll says and what Mary Waibel says on their blogs. Here’s my two-cents.
Recently I new author told me that her journey in writing and publishing had been astounding. In other words, it was a lot harder than she realized.
I’ve been writing for over thirty years. But, I didn’t get published until 2000 and that was nonfiction. Fiction is even harder. It took me until 2014 to finally publish a work of fiction. Others have less daunting stories of their publishing journey, but mine may be more typical than new authors want to believe.
When you finally finish that great work of fiction or nonfiction, you think everyone will want an opportunity to publish this amazing work right? They will welcome my query letter. Unfortunately new authors and seasoned writers find out this is false. Getting your words in print is sometimes harder than the actual creation of the book.
So, what’s an author do to? What options are out there for us?
Here are some tips and some avenues to explore:
- Do not try and write something you think is popular at the moment. In other words, don’t try to play to fads. The fad will be over and done by the time you get your book in front of an audience. Instead, write what you feel passionate about. Your passion will be reflected in the quality of your work.
- If you’re writing fiction, you must finish the work before sending out queries. Do not think that having the first 3 chapter is enough. Each query letter must include the statement that says “I’m submitting my completed manuscript of 93,421 words…” Note two things: completed and word count.
- If you’re writing nonfiction, you must submit a proposal that includes: 1) A complete table of contents 2) The first chapter fully written 3) A marketing analysis and plan. You can’t simply submit an idea. And, it’s unnecessary to write the entire book before sending out a query.
Options for writers:
- You don’t have to have an agent. Particularly with nonfiction agents are not necessary. It’s great if you can get one, but don’t waste your time with a lot of agent queries when you can be querying publishers. Often it’s harder to snare an agent than a publisher. Why? They want writers who are both published and have a track record for sales. They want little risk. Their incomes depend on your sales.
- Try the smaller publishing houses. We all want to believe that our great work of fiction will be picked up by Random House or St. Martin’s or one of the established New York houses. After all, it’s a great work of fiction, right? Unfortunately, those houses are very exclusive. You must either be an established writer with good sales or you must know someone who is an established writer with good sales who will vouch for you. Or, you could be a celeb. They love celebs. If you have none of those things going for you, forget it. First of all, they rarely take unsolicited manuscripts. That means you’ve gotta have an agent to even send a query. And remember point number one. Second, you will waste a lot of time and get rejections that will look as if they’ve been mimeographed. Nope, they won’t even read your stuff. The smaller house are much more open to new writers. Find a house that publishes your genre and submit to them. Go to the online clearing houses that help you find houses that are looking for new content. I use Duotrope.com, but there are others.
- If you get lots of rejections examine the reasons, perhaps your manuscript wasn’t ready. Did you ask Beta readers to study it? Did you pay to have it professionally edited? If either or the responses to these questions is no, then start over.
- Make the decision to self-publish. I see only one reason for self-publishing and that’s to maintain control over your book. If you’ve written a business book that you want to sell yourself, then, by all means self-publish. But, if you’re written fiction, I’d consider going the traditional route. A lot of writers give up on the traditional route because they get tired of the process. And, it is exhausting. But, it’s worth it. Even small publishers have access to resources you don’t have as a self-publisher. (Of course those are increasing). If you do self-publish, you have lots of leeway for pricing the book, for cover decisions, for marketing. But, once you self-publish, everything falls on you and soon you find you no longer have time to write!
These are some of my thoughts about What’s a Writer to Do? It’s a confusing world out there. If you want more about how to write, publish and sell your novel, why not sign up for my free giveaway. There are many more tips in there.
Meantime, why not share some of your tips. What has worked for you? What options do you see open to writers in the 21st Century?
Kai Strand says
What a great giveaway, Joan! There is so much to this business and it has changed a lot and quickly in the past 10 years. Sometimes I think it takes just as much time to keep up on the business end of things as it does to write a book! Solid advice. Thanks for sharing.
Joan Curtis says
Thanks! I am always looking for new avenues for publishing. I liked the angle you took on your blog. From the reader’s POV it may look rosier than from the writer’s.
Katie L Carroll says
I think you’re right that most authors have a long path to becoming published. It’s the stories of overnight success that get a lot of attention and skew people’s ideas of what it’s like for most authors.
Joan Curtis says
Hi Katie, Yes, those highly publicized big advances and quick successes are few and far between. But, it presents a completely unrealistic expectation for new authors.