So here we are at the end. If you’ve followed my previous posts on writing a book then I hope you’ve found them helpful. If you haven’t you can find all the posts guiding you through the full process:
This post focuses on what to do once your book is finished. And first off, I’m going to state – you don’t have to publish at all. It’s your book. You can share it with as many or as few people as you like. Publication is not the only goal of writing and nor should it be. However, if you’ve gone through all the previous stages to really get your book polished up well, then I suspect it’s because you do want to get it out there somehow. There are a few ways you can do this but primarily they can be split between traditional (both digital and in print) or 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. For many (especially without contacts) it’s incredibly hard to get published. And if you’ve read any published books, you’ll know it’s no guarantee of quality. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it if you so choose. With the advent of ebooks, some publishers now provide publishing in different ways, so expanding the possibility of you being officially “published”. 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 first. This has advantages as some publishers only accept submissions from agents. But unfortunately, they’re no easier to interest than publishers are, and having one still isn’t a guarantee of publication. And if you do have an agent they’ll get a cut of the money if you do get 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, and some leave that side pretty much completely up to you.
Check before you sign
If you do get interest in your book, take a good, hard look at the deal you’re being offered before signing on the dotted line. If you can, it may be worth engaging a lawyer or someone with experience in this kind of contract. You want to make sure it’s going to benefit you.
Self-publication isn’t new, but in 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 to publish your own book. 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 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. It’s up to you if you think it’s worthwhile.
To charge or not to charge?
Some people publish their work for free on a blog or website. Others sell it, albeit for a fraction of the price of a hard copy. On marketplaces 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 – there are a lot of free books out there. Charging for your work means you can make a bit of cash, but as a newbie, it can be hard to convince people to pay even a smidgen for your unknown work. And if you do it through something like Amazon, they’ll of course take a cut.
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 grammatical problems.
Put a bit of thought into Marketing
A self-published author also has to 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.
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