Then, publishers were the gatekeepers, the arbitrars of taste, who determined what the rest of us would (could) read. We’ve all heard how poorly publishers judged what was publishable. Carrie, by Steven King was rejected 30 times, the Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling was rejected a dozen times, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight 14, and Animal Farm, by George Orwell, was rejected for years even though it’s now required reading in most high school English classes.
Now, things are different.
Writers no longer face limited publishing options, but the competition for readers is even more intense than it was in the old days. So, what’s an aspiring writer to do?
Publishing options for the aspiring writer
Now, writers can choose from a number of publishing options, even choosing multiple options, if they want.
- They can either publish traditional paper books or stick with electronic books — ebooks — or do both.
- They can self-publish or go the traditional route by employing a publisher. Rarely, an author can transition from a self-publisher to a traditionally published author.
What ever you choose, whichever publishing option fits your situation, there are some things you’re not hearing and I want to share some of these with you — based on my experience as a published writer and from stories shared by friends, colleagues, and others who’ve chosen their own path from among publishing options.
Writing isn’t the only task for the aspiring writer. Regardless of your chosen publishing option, you’ll need to handle many of these tasks yourself:
- Finding an agent and/or publisher
- Serializing your work
If you’re a writer like Steven King or Stephanie Meyer, publishers roll out the red carpet to promote your book. Requests from all the morning shows, book signing tours, advertising in national magazines and newspapers, the whole shebang show up. Everywhere you go, hordes of fans flock to your events and clamor for signatures. You drive around in chauffeur driven stretch limos, fly first class, and hobnob with the rich and famous.
For most authors, especially firs time authors, your experience looks different.
You meet with a publicist, probably by phone. He/ she might set up a few book signings, place some small ads in local press, maybe set up something with the local morning show. He/ she might not have even read your book because they’re working publicity for hundreds of new book releases. He/ she is probably just learning the ropes and has little or no “juice” with the media.
The publisher prints some copies, puts them on Amazon and on list circulated to bookstores.
Whether you self-publish or go through traditional publishing options, you’ll likely have to do your own publicity. And, that publicity should start before you’ve finished the book. In my case, I stated after I’d finished the first few chapters.
If you don’t know how to do your own marketing, especially on a shoestring, check out my Marketing Blog.
I started a blog, social media, blogger outreach, and connecting with other writers. I started getting requests for interviews soon after.
None of us is perfect so it follows that none of us writes perfectly. Even good writers make grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, or use the wrong word on occasion. A bigger problem is that we lack continuity — especially if we’re writing part time with long time lags between writing sessions. We lose track of characters, break characters, or introduce behaviors that don’t fit the situation as described in earlier or later sections.
Hence, gathering Beta readers is your first goal. These readers need objectivity, they have to tell you when you’ve written something badly. But, they should do it in an uncritical way.
I joined a couple of writer’s groups where I get invaluable insights and criticism of my writing. I don’t think I could do this without them.
Once you’ve made all the corrections suggested by Beta readers, it’s time to hire a professional to go over your manuscript. If you’ve chosen a traditional publishing option, the publisher assigns folks to do that for you, but you still want your manuscript in the best shape in can be before submitting to the publisher.
Finding an agent and/ or publisher
Finding a good agent or publisher is very hard. Good agents are always looking for new talent, but don’t have time to read all the truly awful writing that they get. Newer agents likely don’t have the “juice” to get you into a good publisher.
Meanwhile, scores of scam artists lurk online trying to make a fast buck from some desperate or uninformed aspiring writer. They’ll promise to share your book with readers, promote your book, or get you into a publisher, all for a fee. Beware of anyone who asks for money up front. Agents and publishers make money when you make money for them, they don’t ask for money up front.
My personal belief is you should spend your time building your community and marketing your book. Then, agents and publishers see how many people want to read what you’re writing. Now, you’re in a perfect position to sell them the rights to your existing book (in another format) or your next book.
Serializing your work
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, authors commonly serialized their work in magazines. Much of Charles Dickens’s work was serialized and readers waited anxiously for the next installment.
I tried emulating his success by releasing chapters of my book, free, to anyone wanting to read them. You can get them here.
Here are some resources I think you’ll find valuable as you journey through the publishing options:
- On Publishing – actually a list of links for aiding your publishing decision and much more
- Amazon Kindle self-publishing – includes instructions, advice, and access to Create Space, their internal publication help.
- Publisher’s Weekly – the bible for writers
- Book Publishers — a list of publishers with links to their websites
- Self Publishing a Book – what you need to know
- Self Publish or Not? – from a traditional publisher
- How to Get Your Book Published
- Publishing Advice – the Best and Worst
- Advice to First-Time Authors
- How to Publish Writing