First-time authors have a lot on their plate. So, if you’ve just finished your first novella, short story collection, or novel, and you’re ready to shop it around, you might be feeling overwhelmed. Sure, you could go with traditional publishing, indie, or a hybrid of the two, but you’re not sure yet. What you are sure of is that it’s quite scary to think about dipping your toe in the vast ocean of publishing choices. Do you need an agent? Can you submit directly to a publisher? What about a small publishing house? Vanity presses? What other creatures lurk in this (for you) uncharted sea?
Don’t let trepidation keep you from moving forward. Plenty of first-time authors give up at this pivotal moment out of sheer overwhelm, tucking their work away for “later”. Instead, follow these guidelines to put yourself on firm footing and keep moving forward.
Write a book proposal. Even if you think you’re going to self-publish, it doesn’t hurt to have one of these on hand. First, it will give you practice marketing your book and sharpening your pitch. Plus, once you’ve written your proposal, it’s ready for action should your research uncover the perfect publisher or hybrid option. A great guide for first-time authors on writing a book proposal is Michael Hyatt’s Writing a Winning Non-Fiction Book Proposal or Writing a Winning Fiction Book Proposal. Michael is the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, so I think he knows a bit about the business!
Develop relationships with other authors. Discover authors in your genre or other genres that you’re interested in. Most authors are willing to share their tips and tricks and many are eager to help new authors avoid pitfalls when they can. Not only can they give you worthwhile advice about publishing options, but they might even critique your writing as well. I met talented author, Lexa Cain, on Twitter and struck up a friendship. Not only did she give me invaluable advice about agents, publishing, and resources, she directed me to a great meeting place for writers, www.writing.com. You can pre-order Lexa’s new novel, Bloodwalker, here.
Know your market. Whether you’re planning on self-publishing or not, pick up a copy of the latest Writer’s Market. The 2016 Writer’s Market by Robert Lee Brewer is currently available, and you can pre-order the 2017 Writer’s Market here. These books will help you with writer’s guidelines and submission procedures for publishing houses, as well as information on where to sell articles and other short pieces.
Get a good critique. Polish your manuscript. Then, look at publishing. The website Preditors & Editors gives good, unbiased reviews of some of these services, and is a great place to check out potential editors for hire. Beware, there are some scammers out there. I can personally recommend Michael Garrett‘s services. Michael was Stephen King’s first editor, and he does a phenomenal job of manuscript editing. He’ll give you the straight-up truth accompanied by suggestions and advice for perfecting your writing.
Finally, never give up. You can go about it in many ways, but getting published is hard work. Michael Hyatt had his book The Millenium Bug, rejected 29 times before it went on to become a New York Times best seller. Publishers rejected Louis L’Amour over 200 times before his books sold over 330 million copies. Finally, 23 publishers rejected Frank Herbert’s Dune and 12 rejected J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.
If you get rejected, you’re in good company. To stay in this company, though, keep on trying. Don’t let a few, or even a hundred, rejections break your stride. Believe in yourself!
Persistence is the key to getting published for first-time authors. Persist in perfecting your craft, never shying from criticism or suggestions. Strive to learn the ropes of the publishing industry. Follow some publishers’ blogs, find out how famous writers got their start, and learn from the experience of other authors. The best way to ensure your eventual success is to keep reading, keep writing, and keep learning.
See you on the next page!