Up to several years ago, I would easily have been able to outline the best method of submission for your manuscript. My suggestions would have looked something like this:
- Categorize your completed, edited manuscript
- Research markets, guidelines
- Acquire an agent (many traditional houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts)
- Query the publisher through the agent or on your own, depending on their guidelines
- A concise outline of submission format is available on The Editor’s Blog.
- Upon request, send a synopsis, the first three chapters of your manuscript, and a cover letter including a few things about yourself as a writer, your target audience, your qualifications for writing this story, marketing ideas and contact information.
- Wait, repeat if necessary.
But times have changed. Attitudes and actions have changed. Writers are no longer willing to wait endlessly at the whims or time constraints of editors and publishers. Readers are unwilling to wait, or to drive to brick and mortar stores to buy books. They want instant access. Everyone, including the writer, wants immediate turnaround of product.
Yes, there are still traditional publishers out there, but their bottom line is tighter because of the many options available to readers, and the publishers are less willing to take risks on new and unproven talent. It’s not impossible to be traditionally published, but it’s definitely more difficult than it used to be.
Besides the large traditional publishers, there are many small houses that have sprung up around the globe. Many of these are reputable, but you must research and discern. If you have to pay a fee, it’s not a royalty publisher. If it’s is a glorified book printer, you might do better on your own (see below).
If you are willing and able to pay, there are many publishing businesses with options for everything from editing to cover supply to printing and distribution, but count the cost first.
So what happens if you’ve tried the round of traditional royalty publishers to no effect? First consideration: why was the book rejected by trad publishers? Does it need editing? It may prove worthwhile to hire an editor. There are editors available everywhere, but know what you expect and how much you can pay for the service. Some writing organizations offer quality editing at very reasonable cost. Some groups swap editing for other writing skills. Ask around.
If you are confident your book is worthy of publication, consider publishing it yourself. In the past, self-publication carried a negative connotation, but with the increase of indie (independent) publishing and simplified templates, many authors who formerly published in the traditional method have branched out to take charge of their own publication. Technology has made the process easier, as long as we remember quality. With perseverance, most of us can learn to format our own digital or print books, choose (or hire out) a professional cover, and produce a quality finished product.
Then we’re stuck with marketing on our own, you say, but in most cases on the traditional route, we have to do most of our own marketing anyway.
If you decide to go indie, it’s important to become at least moderately comfortable with social media (I will be discussing this next month). This requires a fine balance. On one hand, if you want to sell your book, readers must be able to find you. On the other hand, you shouldn’t sacrifice all your writing time for social media time.
Back to the original intent of this post: submission and publication.
If you go trad, follow the instructions at the beginning of this post.
If you go indie, go to Google or to a friend or indie group and start learning.
- Edit your manuscript or have it professionally edited. This step is essential to a quality book.
- Compile a publication kit: author info – bio (short, medium, long), photo, writing credits, etc.; book info – summaries (back cover, short, long), synopsis (for agent or publisher only)
- Decide whether to find/buy a cover or to hire it out. Please don’t ask your friend’s sister’s niece to paint a cover. 99% of the time it will look unprofessional and hinder sales.
- Create or purchase a template to set up your book for digital / print format. I would suggest putting it up digitally first. They are different processes, and you will save yourself a lot of time and grief if you recognize this. A concise how-to book that I recomend is Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors by Carla King.
*Remember that if you go the indie route, you remove several layers of filters (agent, editor, publication group), so you need to be advised and professional in all areas of publication.
- Ask people who have traveled this road to give you pointers. Most of the time, writers are very willing to help each other. They’ve been helped along the way too. And make sure you help others who are following a few steps behind you.
P.S. I welcome feedback from other authors who are a step or three ahead of me. If you differ in opinion in some point, let me know. If you have additional tips to pass on, send your email and I’ll be glad to publish it here or direct writers to your site.
**Don’t forget to read the comments below for tips and experiences shared by other authors. One reply came from clfergusonblog.wordpress.com. Lots to see on her website. Also check out the story gal at http://www.carolynwilker.ca.