Wading Through the Publishing River

Michelle Birbeck was my next fabulous hostess on the Heart Search Blog Tour. She wanted me to write on the subject of publishing and this is what I came up with.

You’ve spent untold hours writing your story. You’ve lovingly crafted your character and skilfully designed your plot. Having gone through editing and beta reading, your manuscript is now as perfect as you can make it and now comes the hardest decision of all – how to publish it.

As writers, most of us dream of getting an agent and being contracted to one of the ‘Big Six’ publishers, but it’s not as easy as that, is it?

Basically you have three choices; attempt to get an agent who will tout your masterpiece until you get a publishing contract, go through an Indie Publisher, or self-publish.

Traditional Publishing:

These days, it’s even harder to get an agent than ever. They are inundated by manuscripts and you can wait months for a response. The wait is agonising – I know, I’ve been there! You have to pen a killer query letter which will grab them in the first couple of sentences (no longer than one page), write a single page synopsis which will highlight the most exciting parts of your book and send in two or three chapters for them to consider. Writing a query letter which will have the desired effect is, in some ways, harder than writing the book itself. You need to research your potential agents thoroughly and adhere to their submission requirements to the letter with every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed. No mean feat that!

Having done all of that, you send it off with hope in your heart and wait. Several weeks or months later comes the email you’ve been dreading – the rejection. However, if this is your dream, you keep trying other agents and wait some more. It’s like a never-ending circle. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones who gets picked up by an agent, but there’s more waiting in store as your agent suggests possible changes to the book and you may have to re-write sections and then there’s the time to kill while your agent tries to get you a publishing deal. While all this is going on, you are depriving potential readers of your work of art. Still, if that’s your dream you must follow it.

Indie Publishing:

This is a similar process to traditional publishing except that you submit direct to the publisher. Again, you need to do your homework and ensure the publishers you choose want the genre your novel is based in and most of them only accept submission at certain times during the year. If you send your submission in speculatively outside of their ‘open window’, it will either be deleted or thrown away.

Again, it’s important to follow the submission guidelines to the letter, and you still have to wait and be prepared for rejections.

Self-Publishing:

This is, by far, the quickest and easiest way of getting your book out to the public. You can sign up to Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon and upload your manuscript. It’s a simple process and quite quick. If you want a paperback as well, CreateSpace or Lulu are the best, and again the process is simple. You can get free or cheap ISBN numbers through both (an ISBN is not needed for e-book through Kindle, but it does limit the availability – more on that in a minute). However, you may be limited to their distribution networks only.

If you purchase your own ISBN number, you have the flexibility to place your novel in so many more sales channels for either your e-book, paperback or both, and is something I would recommend. However, if you don’t have the time to place your book on Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble et al, you may be content to go with the distribution packages offered by these print on demand companies. Your choice!

One word of caution – don’t think about putting your novel out there before getting it professionally edited. Readers will be put off by typos and inconsistencies and ultimately this could be the kiss of death for your work. The money spent on getting your novel edited will pay off in the long run when weighed up against a tarnished reputation which is unrecoverable.

I’m lucky – I have the best of both worlds! I’m self-published under the banner of an Indie Publisher, Myrddin Publishing Group. This means I own the legal rights to my book and not the publisher, but I have the support of the team behind me.

Whatever you decide to do, you will still have to be prepared to market your book yourself. This takes time and dedication and where some authors fall down – they have no idea where to start. My advice is to look around on social media platforms and see which individuals or companies offer advice on marketing to authors and learn fast. Marketing is a whole different post so I’m not going to go into that now.

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At the end of the day, only you can decide what’s best for you and your book. I have one or two theories of my own which are yet to be put to the test, but ultimately you need to follow your dream. Good luck!

I hope you found this useful!

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A Writer’s Journey

I’ve loved to read as far back as I can remember. I had a lonely childhood and immersed myself in the wonderful tales spun like magic on the pages in my hands. The characters became my playmates when I was unable to see my friends for whatever reason.

It’s funny though – I never once stopped to think about the authors or the process they go through to get that wonderful gift into my hands. Obviously I knew someone had sat down and lovingly created the story, but in my ignorance I didn’t stop to think about them as people.

I would go into the library in school or town or into my local bookshop and see row upon row of hardback and paperback capsules of knowledge, wonderful worlds and people and pure escapism. I would pick books off the shelves and consume the synopsis on the back, letting my imagination ride over green fields ringed with trees that spoke and animals that were almost human, when seeing words like ‘magic’, ‘castle’, ‘witches’, ‘fairies’ etc.

Even when writing my own short stories I still never considered all the hard work each and every author does in order to get their fabulous stories onto those library and bookshop shelves. In my naiveté, I guess I thought they wrote the stories, took them to a printer and voila, out pops a book.

You know, it wasn’t until I wrote Heart Search: Lost that I finally understood.

It took me 9-months to write the first draft, most of that while holding down a full-time job, teaching two nights a week and looking after a home and my daughter. It took my editor about 2-months to get through it (she was working on other things at the time as well), then I had the first round of revisions to do. I then edited the manuscript myself to check all my revisions worked before sending it out to an alpha reader.

My alpha reader doesn’t normally read novels in the Fantasy genre, so perhaps I was taking a bit of a gamble . . . but then again, maybe not . . . SHE LOVED IT!! She gave me some very useful feedback, which was great, but the fact that she loved what I’d written gave me a tremendous boost. It gave me hope that maybe I was quite good at this, that my writing had some value and was entertaining.

Taking the feedback I received, I revised and edited again before sending it to a beta reader. This lady is a friend who is also a senior editor at a US publishing company. I trusted her, not only with my manuscript, but also impartial and honest feedback. That was exactly what I got! She suggested structural changes for some of the chapters and a few other things that I hadn’t really thought too much about. She was (and still is) incredibly supportive of me and my work and what makes it even more amazing – Alison and I have never met in person! (This is a whole other story for another blog post – maybe . . .).

So back I went again and revised for the third, or was it fourth time, implementing Alison’s insightful suggestions. I then gave it to my editor again and whip in hand, told her I needed it back within two weeks. She gave me one of her ‘looks’ (you know the one – peering over the top of her specs, eyebrows raised and lips slightly pursed in disapproval – I can see you picturing it now!), and said she’d do her best. Bless her heart, Maria (my editor) pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and got it done within the two weeks. Thankfully I only had minimal changes to make and then it was done.

Then the hard work really started. Oh, please don’t get me wrong; writing the novel, doing revision after revision after revision, edits etc., is hard work, but because you have so much of yourself invested in the plotlines and characters, it’s more a labour of love. What I’m talking about is the next phase of the process – trying to get published.

The first thing to do is decide which route is right for you and the research in itself is quite time consuming. There’s traditional publishing with an agent; traditional publishing without an agent (very tricky to get a deal, especially these days); independent publishers – printed books; independent publishers – ebooks; or self-publishing.

Having decided which route you want to take, you then need to research the submission guidelines for each agent/publisher you want to submit to and ensure that you stick rigidly to their guidelines. Each one is a little different so you have to tailor the next stages to their precise requirements.

The next stage is to write a synopsis of your book. This is not a chapter by chapter account, more a page or two giving the main story line, highlights, and most importantly, the ending. This document has to grab the publisher or agent’s interest so needs to be written, revised, revised again and edited to ensure excellent grammar and spelling.

Then comes the query letter which includes a one-paragraph synopsis of your novel. Again grammar and spelling is of the utmost importance, but more than this, the letter has to be professional, succinct and powerful enough for the agent/publisher to want to read your entire novel (you only normally send the first couple of chapters at this stage). More revisions and editing until this is the best it can possibly be.

Finally, you need to write a short biography. They don’t want your life history so a short paragraph about you will do.

Having done all the above it’s time to bite the bullet and submit your work to your chosen agent/publisher. And wait. And wait. And wait.

This is the stage I’m currently at. I decided to try the traditional publishing route through an agent. I picked the agent carefully, followed their submission guidelines and sent everything off on Friday 13th April (Friday 13th??? I know – crazy right?!). I’m now waiting in a densely populated place called Hope. I’m not naïve enough to think that I’ll get picked up by the first agent I approach, but who knows? Maybe I’ve done everything right. Maybe they will like what I’ve sent them enough to want to see my entire manuscript (all 152,000 words of it). And maybe they won’t.

It’s all a learning curve and I’m strong enough to face rejection if that’s what comes my way. I have other options and a plan in place should they not accept me. Whatever happens, I’m not giving up. I’ve already started writing book 2 and have plans for a third novel to round off the story. I’m going to keep trying to get my work out there and hope that my writing will give another person the same level of enjoyment and entertainment that I’ve taken for granted for too many years.

This post would not be complete without acknowledging the three people who got me this far.

My alpha reader and best friend, Jakki

My wonderful editor, Maria http://twitter.com/Maria7627

 

My dear friend and beta reader, Alison DeLuca (author of The Night Watchman Express & Devil’s Kitchen and senior editor at Fantasy Island Book Publishing)

http://twitter.com/AlisonDeLuca