If you’ve followed my previous posts on writing a book; research, characters, plotting, first draft, and editing, then thank you. If you haven’t, why not read those after this! This is my last post about writing a book, and it focuses on what to do once your book is finished. There’s no reason you have to publish of course. Writing for the sake of writing is ultimately what all authors do. But if you want to try and get into “print”, you’ll first need to decide if you want to try the traditional route or go for self-publishing.
This used to be pretty much the only way to see your work in print. You submit to a publishing company, and if the stars align, they publish your work. Many people still think this is the only way to be a “real” writer – which is rubbish. It’s incredibly hard to get published however and it’s no guarantee of quality. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it if you so choose. Digital has given traditional ways we consume media a good kicking. But for books, people still love to have an actual copy in their hands (even if they buy them from Amazon). Here are some key areas to think about before you try this route.
Publisher vs Agent
You can submit straight to publishers, or you could try to get a literary agent. This may be an advantage as some publishers only accept submissions from agents. But they’re no easier to interest than publishers are, and if you have an agent they’ll get a cut of the money should you be published.
Do your research
Find out the type of work different publishers or agents take on to find the ones that suit your book. You can do this online, or via books like the Writers and Artists Handbook. They’ll usually say if they’re accepting submissions and lay out their guidelines for doing so.
Take time on your synopsis
The synopsis tells your whole story in a succinct but descriptive way. It’s not that fun, but it’s worth taking time over. The recipient won’t have your whole book, and may not even read the chapters you’ve sent unless they think it’s worth their while.
Don’t forget about the covering letter
Your covering letter is your chance to sell yourself, a bit like applying for a job. It’s a good opportunity to explain your book and what you do. You can also provide information about your writing career so far, like competition wins, or previous publications.
Not all publishers are equal
There are big ones, small ones, niche and not so niche, traditional and digital-only. Some publishers help with editing and marketing, some leave that side up to you. If you do get interest in your book, take a good look at the deal you’re being offered before signing on the dotted line.
Self-publication isn’t new, but it the past you’d need a decent amount of money to pay for printing costs and then haul it about to make sales. With the advent of our old friend the Internet, it’s now far easier and cheaper. So much so the market is arguably saturated. But it’s still an accessible way to get your book out there, even if you need to fight to be heard.
Digital vs hard-copy
The need for moolah for hard-copy still applies, so it remains restrictive. However, print-on-demand technology means you don’t necessarily need to pay as much up front to get physical copies of your book to people.
On the other hand, digital can be almost free and easier to do from the comfort of your own home. And some digital marketplaces offer print-on-demand as well.
To charge or not to charge?
Some people publish their work for free on a blog or website. Others charge, albeit a fraction of the price of a hard copy. On market-places like Amazon, you can charge zero if you want. If you aren’t too fussed about money and just want people to read your work, then free could be the way to go. But it doesn’t guarantee sales as there are a lot of free books out there. Charging means you can make a bit of cash, but as a newby, it can be hard to convince people to pay even a smidgen for your unknown work.
Get a good cover
There are a lot of books out there. so a good cover can help attract attention. There are plenty of people you can pay to create a cover for you. Or you may have sufficient skills to knock one up yourself. I’ve used stock photos and Paint to make mine. They aren’t amazing but think the images are striking enough to attract the eye. It also means a bit of a layout of funds, but I think it’s worth it.
Proof-read and proof-read again!
You could pay someone to do this, or get stuck in yourself, just make sure you do it. Nothing will mark you out as an “amateur” more than a book full of spelling errors, typos, and grammar problems.
Put a bit of thought into Marketing
A self-published author has to also be a bit of a marketer. Some people are really good at this, some aren’t (or simply don’t have the time). Most of the authors I know have a blog or website, and social media channels to network. It’s useful to become part of the community and not just sell. I’m not a major marketer by any means, but I have those channels and have put together a few ads to share on them. There’s plenty of information out there to help you develop a marketing plan if you want to get really serious.
So that’s it, the end of my brief advice about writing a book. I hope you enjoyed it. If you are interested in what I’ve written (shameless plug alert) then take a look at my e-books here.