The story is finished and edited. Congratulations. You’ve made it farther than a lot of writers. But you’re not home free yet. There’s a lot to do before the public will ever see your work. The first thing you need to do is make a very important decision: self-publishing or traditional publishing? There are pros and cons to each, and that’s the subject for another post. But I’d like to present a short to-do list for each option.
1) choose a platform, be it Amazon, Good Reads, Lulu, Kobo …. there are lots out there. Remember, you should not have to pay to be published. Self publishing platforms and print on demand platforms tend to take a small share of the sale price from each unit sold or copy downloaded. If they want you to pay to have copies printed, up front, out of your pocket (and you’re not placing an order for them) they are a vanity press. You don’t need a vanity press when there are so many other options.
2) choose a format – digital or paper or both. Digital is so cheap and easy to do you’d be crazy not to. Most platforms are digital only with a few print on demand sites to mix it up. With the technology available, digital really is the future for the publishing world (another controversy for yet another blog post)
3) get your (generally) free membership to your platform, download the formatting guides, and study the upload system and the pricing rules. Yeah, there’s research involved. You can still change your mind if you find you don’t like something about this platform.
4) format your work according to the guidelines, get a cover.
5) upload the document and the cover, set the price, and you’re off to the races
6) self-promote and start writing the next book
While there are still a handful of publishers that will accept unagented manuscripts your best bet for a first book is to get an agent. I don’t have an agent yet so I can’t tell you how to get one, only the process.
1) Research – find literary agents accepting submissions in your genre for your intended reading audience (age group).
2) Follow the query instructions (which will include writing a cover letter or query letter, a summary or synopsis, a log line, and/or an author bio) and send them out
Repeat steps 1-3 until an agent gets back to you WHILE working on the next book. If you finish the next book before you get a response to the first book start sending out the next book (provided they aren’t a series) If an agent contacts you give them exactly what they ask to see in a timely fashion.
The agent will take care of sending the manuscript to publishers for you, they will help you with the contract negotiations, and they can answer some questions for you, as well as give you a little guidance about the market so you can plan your next book.
Sending straight to a publisher who accepts unagented submissions is basically the same process. Research, prepare, send, wait, repeat.
Query letters, synopsis, summaries, bios – I’ve never had to write them so I can’t give you concrete advice. I can tell you to research them extensively and as for help from your readers. There are also things like in-person pitches to agents at writing conventions, I live in a small city, we don’t have this where I live so I can’t help you. This is definitely a tedious, soul-wrenching stage that can take YEARS if you go the traditional route. If you’ve gotten this far I wish you the best of luck, and please, if you get an agent or a book deal, please share your advice with the rest of us!