Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How to Become an Author in Today's Publishing World: P. 2 – Launching Forward

Once you’ve established the foundation of a writing career, how do you know when it’s time to launch forward and seek publication? What does the process even look like, and where should an aspiring author to begin?

Last week, we discussed how aspiring authors can set a foundation by writing a book, researching publishing, building a platform, gaining publishing credits, winning contests, etc. So what's the next stage? You guessed it—the submission process.

But wait … if you move ahead too soon, you could risk sending your book into the public pre-maturely. It could even cost you a publishing contract.

So how can you know when it’s time to submit?

  • You’ve built a foundation (platform, writing credentials, understanding of the publishing industry, etc.)
  • You’ve taken the time to write and polish a book that you’re proud of
  • Critique partners/editor(s) have reviewed your manuscript
  • You’ve prepared yourself—mentally and emotionally—to receive rejections

Where should you start? First, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my overall goal and vision as an author? (The answer to this will steer your publishing-related decisions.)
  • Should I seek publication with a small/medium-sized publisher, which doesn’t typically require an agent? (See this post for a glimpse at pros/cons of publishing with a smaller press.)
  • Would it be best to take the self-publishing route? (If you’ve reached this point, then you should know the pros and cons of self-publishing.)
  • Or do I want a literary agent, someone who can bring me into traditional publishing and negotiate contracts on my behalf?

With your goals and vision in mind, it’s time to launch forward!

If you’ve chosen to seek publication with a small/medium-sized publisher, it’s not necessary that you submit to an agent. (Although there are several benefits to having representation, and some smaller-sized publishing houses still require agented submissions.) To find publishers, you may want to purchase the Christian Writer’s Market Guide or Writer’s Market Guide. Make a list of potential publishers, then do research to make sure that your book would make a good fit. Study the house’s previous works, then submit your book proposal according to the submission guidelines. (Not doing this could result in an instant rejection!)

Tip: You can also meet with editors at smaller houses at writing conferences. This is how I sold my first book, PURPLE MOON, without an agent.

If you choose to self-publish your book, it’s vital that you know what you’re getting into and understand the risks involved. If you choose to self-publish, you’re no longer the author; you’re both the author and the publisher. This means it’s up to you to present a quality overall book to the market. You’re 100% in charge of publishing, sales, marketing, etc. I recommend that you do research beforehand and build a team (cover designer, editor, formatter, etc.) who can accompany you in this process.

Tip: Before diving into the unknown waters of self-publishing, you may want to first speak with authors who have successfully self-published their books. Writing conferences are a great place to make these connections.

If you choose to sign with an agent, you’ll want to begin by making a list of prospective agents who represent your genre. Where can you find a list of literary agents? Research. You may want to subscribe to Writer’s Digest. Oftentimes, authors will mention who it is they’re represented by on their website, social media, or in the acknowledgements section of their books. Once you’ve written an impressive query letter, it’s time to submit! I advise that writers submit to prospective agents in batches of about 5 – 10 emails at a time. That way, if you continue to receive rejections and constructive criticism, you can take their feedback and make necessary revisions to your manuscript. That way, you won’t burn several bridges at once.

Tip: You can also meet with agents at writing conferences. Meeting face-to-face is a great way to potentially rise to the top of their slush pile.

The timing of this process varies from writer to writer. Some writers see success instantly, but most writers have to wait months—if not years—before they finally receive a yes. The key is to keep going. While waiting to hear back from editors/agents, don’t waste any time; get started on your next book! Keep plugging away at your platform. Enter contests. Attend conferences/workshops. Gain publishing credits.

The writer’s journey is just that—a journey. Patience is a vital quality to possess, especially as you wait to hear back from editors and agents.

It’s only those who give up who are guaranteed to never see success.

Sure, that might sound cliché—but it’s true. I recently found a quote (source unknown) that says this: 

"The master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried."

Why is this?

Because those who succeed are the ones who kept pressing forward. Closed doors are an inevitable part of the journey. When they receive rejections, they take whatever constructive criticism they need to hone their craft/career—then they try again, and again and again until a door has finally opened.

Eventually, you might just find yourself with a contract. And when that happens, it’s just the beginning! There’s still more to learn. More opportunities to grow. More waiting seasons that will stretch your patience. More criticism that will test your humility.

In the next post I’ll discuss how you can sustain momentum and build a career once you’ve stepped through that open door. (No, it’s never too early to plan ahead!)

 ~ ~ ~

Have you reached the submission process yet? If so, what do you think is the most difficult part of this stage?


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