Monday, February 6, 2012

Publishing for a Living, Part 2: The process

In December 2010, I decided to follow my dream of being a writer. I knew nothing about how to publish, or about the industry itself. All I had was the ability to write, a dream, and the feeling that I wasn’t happy with where my life currently was.

One year later, I now know how common publishing terms are defined, the general process of traditional publishing, and what expectations are reasonable. So, for anyone else who is trying to become an author, I decided to share. Consider this a short guide for beginners: If you've no idea what the traditional publishing process looks like, welcome to Publishing for a Living 101.

Part 2, The Publishing Process (for publishing fiction through a traditional publishing house):

Step 1, write a manuscript. Finish it.

Step 2, edit for plot, voice, pace, and other non-typographical problems.

Step 3, edit again.

Step 4, ask someone to help you edit again. Make the edits that were suggested. Or at least most of them.

Step 5, edit again.

Steps 6-13, repeat steps 3-5 as often as needed. Then go back, fix your math, and edit again.

Step 14, fix all grammar and typographical errors.

Step 15, start writing manuscript #2.

Step 16, research agents who represent your genre and who might be interested in your particular manuscript.

Step 17, submit queries to up to 5 agents at a time. Do not CC: or submit to multiple agents in one submission. Send each agent a personalized query. Wait to hear back. It may help to attend conferences and pitch to agent in person. (Pitching and querying resources)

Step 18, if none of the queries received a request, rewrite the query.

Step 19, (after receiving a request), send the requested material to the agent.

Step 20, wait. Maybe up to 6 months, depending on the agent.

Step 21, if the agent says she is interested in representing you, interview her and make sure she is a good fit with your career plans. If yes, then accept her offer.

Step 22, wait. The agent is shopping your manuscript. Do whatever else she suggests you do while she is shopping your manuscript. This may include further revisions.

Step 23, your manuscript has been accepted by a publisher. The publisher will suggest further revisions. Revise again.

Step 24, begin marketing your own novel to supplement the publisher’s marketing. Your novel has not yet been published. Build an author website, author webpage, and whatever else your agent suggests.

Step 25, after another 6 months-1 year, the manuscript is finally available in print and is being distributed. Continue marketing and building your audience. Start attending author signings. Follow your agent’s advice.

Congratulations, you’re published!

(Step 26, Hopefully manuscript #2 is now ready to begin the querying process. If you’re lucky, a publishing company may offer you a contract or a several-book deal. They also may not.)

Optional steps: Join writing groups, enter contests, take writing classes, attend conferences, write a career plan, bribe friends and family into putting up with your rants, decide self-publishing is easier and go that route, take up belly-dancing, form support groups, join a critique group, hire a professional editor

Suggested steps to not take: Get arrested for agent-stalking, be rude to anyone, take up streaking with the name of your manuscript painted over your body, sacrifice a goat on the alter of a made-up book god, condescend to agents, refuse to revise, lock yourself in a tower and make your family feed you by a system of complicated pulleys, tell self-publishers that they're all vanity publishing without know what vanity publishing really is, pretend there is a "one true way" to publish, expect to become a millionaire overnight

Questions? Inspirations? Noteworthy examples of steps not to take?

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