Congratulations, you have completed your book! Now what? Should you publish it on Kindle or Nook? Do you need an agent to get a publishing deal? What about self-publishing on Lulu.com or iUniverse.com? Where do I start?! You are not alone if these questions are running through your head – they’re the most common questions that authors ask themselves when they finish writing their first draft of a novel.
The answer is different for every author, but there are some things that you should know before taking any steps towards publication: where will I publish my book, how much will it cost me to publish my book, and how long does it take to publish a book. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled an easy step-by-step guide for you to walk through the entire publishing process.
Step One: Professional Editing
Before sending your manuscript out into the real world, you should have it professionally edited. Publishers are not willing to take a risk with an author that has anything less than stellar writing, so proofreading is the first thing that agents and publishers look at. You can choose to have your manuscript edited by an editor working for a publishing company, or opt for self-editing.
Should you decide to self-edit, it is important to read your manuscript out loud to yourself or have someone else read it to you. Your ears are more sensitive than your eyes when it comes to hearing errors, so listening will help you catch mistakes that seep through spell check. Another option is to have a friend or family member proofread for you.
Step Two: Writing a Book Proposal
This is the step that publishers are most interested in, but at this point, you’re probably thinking how on earth do I sell my book before it’s even finished? Well, there are three different ways of doing this. The first one is with a synopsis – which is essentially an outline of the plot, but you would need to do more than just summarize your novel. You should also include the tone of the book, the characters, and your target audience (ages, genders, etc). The second way is by writing a query letter – this is where you’ll talk about why your story will be great for their company, who you are, and why they should consider marketing your book to bookstores (and possibly schools, if it’s a children’s book). The final way is by writing a complete manuscript and including it with your query letter.
You can do all of these steps while you work on the manuscript itself, but make sure that you don’t send anything out until it’s perfect.
Step Three: Finding an Agent or Publisher
Once you have a polished manuscript, query letter, and book proposal – it’s time to send your work out into the world! While you could send queries directly to publishers and agents (there are many databases available for this), we recommend pursuing publishing companies in Canada and the US first. Using databases like Publisher’s Marketplace is great for finding publishers that are open to submissions, but keep in mind that what you see online isn’t always up-to-date. If an agent or publisher comes highly recommended by someone whom you trust, don’t hesitate to use them!
Step Four: Waiting Game
This is the part where everyone gets excited – when publishers and agents start responding to your queries! For some, it can be weeks or months before you hear anything back, but for others – they hear back the next day. When you get a positive/negative response from them, don’t jump to conclusions so fast! There are certain things that agents might not love about it (which could actually turn out to be good for you and your book). For example the age range of your target audience. If you’ve said that it’s a children’s novel, but the agent only wants to market to teens – they might recommend changing the characters’ ages.
If this is your first draft, we advise that you don’t change anything without consulting with an editor first.
Step Five: Negotiation
Once you’ve got the offer in hand, it’s time to negotiate! This can be a tricky part of the process because every agent/publisher will have different requirements for your book. Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t offered 70% royalties or an advance – there are plenty of other opportunities out there. If you’re lucky, you can get both!
Step Six: Editing (Again)
No, don’t go back on the edit train again – this time it’s different. When you were editing your manuscript with your mother/friends/co-workers – you were focusing on big changes that would make a difference. This time, you’ll be focusing on minor changes that the publisher has requested. If they want to make a character’s age younger or older – do it! If they want to change a chapter from the first-person point of view to a third-person point of view, make those changes as well.
Step Seven: Cover Design
While you might have your idea for a cover in mind, it’s highly unlikely that the publisher will use this cover. In most cases, they’ll want to hire an artist to make a custom one – even if your story is set in a real-world location. They might also ask you for photos and images from your hometown/region that would be great for promotional materials. For example, if your story is set in New York City – they might ask you for photos of Times Square or Central Park so that they can download them to use on the cover.
Step Eight: Getting Noticed
The publishing world isn’t just about having a sexy book with a gorgeous cover design – it’s also important to get noticed by the right people. Take some time to study the book industry – read other books in your genre or by authors that are similar to you. Then, find out where they’re being reviewed and promoted online (i.e., Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews) and contact them about reviewing/promoting your work! This is essential because it will help your book get noticed by not only readers – but also other authors. You can even contact local newspapers that might be interested in featuring you and your book!
Publishing a book can be an exciting and daunting process, but with the right guidance, it can be a lot smoother. We hope that our tips have helped you to understand what to expect during each step of the publishing journey. Remember, don’t be afraid to negotiate with agents and publishers – as long as you’re respectful, they’ll usually be willing to work with you. Good luck with your publishing adventure!