I’ve pretty much spent the last ten years writing middle grade books and trying to get them published. Which means that as much as I’ve been writing, I’ve also been trying to figure how to navigate the publishing landscape.
But I’ve come to realize that I may never really have it figured out. There are so many variables that go along with having a book published and even though the pub date of my own middle grade book is fast approaching, I still have so much to learn. The whole process has gotten me thinking about what it takes to get a book written in the first place, what it takes to then get it published, and all that has to be done to get it into the hands of readers.
Whether your book is being published by one of the Big 5 houses, a small independent press, or someplace in between, there are some commonalities. So I thought it would be fun to put those commonalities out there in plain sight. Why? Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes it’s motivating to see just how far we’ve come already and helpful to know what may be ahead.
I’ve broken this whole thing down into 3 phases: Writing a Book, Getting a Book Published, and Selling a Book. Again, these are based on my own experiences and observations. I’m still trying to make sense of it all, so if you have anything to add, feel free to comment below and I’ll write it right in!
10 Steps to Writing a Book:
- Think up a unique story premise, or a unique twist on a classic story premise.
- Brainstorm ideas for characters/ plot/setting.
- Create a general plot outline.
- Set up a world in which the story will be told.
- Create character profiles.
- Write a first draft manuscript.
- Revise the first draft—over and over and over again.
- Get feedback from critique partners and beta readers, and revise manuscript again.
- Let the manuscript sit for a while so it can be re-read with a fresh perspective.
- Repeat steps 7-9—until you feel manuscript is ready to submit to literary agents and/or editors.
These steps can vary a bit, and each step has many more detailed steps within them, but in general, this is what it takes to write a book…and it can take a very long time.
10 Steps to Getting a Book Published:
- Write a really good manuscript.
- Submit the manuscript to literary agents in hopes of gaining representation.
- Once you receive representation, revise manuscript based on agent’s feedback.
- Wait while literary agent submits your manuscript to editors at publishing houses.
- Once offer is made, sign the contract.
- Wait for edit letter from your assigned editor.
- Based on editor’s feedback, revise your manuscript again. This step may take several rounds.
- Based on managing editor’s feedback, revise again, and send off to copy editor.
- Wait for your advanced reader copy to come and celebrate—then review for errors.
- Wait for your book to release!
But wait! That’s not all, unless you don’t mind if your book never sells.
During the Getting a Book Published phase, there are many other things that a writer needs to do so that when their book sells to a publishing house, it will sell to the public well. Again, I’m no expert on all this but there are some things that need to be done no matter what publishing house your book sells to or how big your marketing budget from them is. Because think about it—if no one knows about your book, they will not buy it. And really, with literally millions of books available on Amazon alone, it will be very difficult for your book to stand out if you resist doing them. It’s important to embrace your inner sales/ marketing persona and do the following…
10 Steps to Selling A Book
- Create an author website so booksellers, librarians, readers, and educators can find your book.
- Become active on social media so that you can connect with people around the world.
- Provide your publisher with a list of connections that you already have—people who may wish to read an early copy of your book and review it on sites like Goodreads, NetGally, and Amazon.
- Create a book trailer. Even though this is optional in many cases, if your publisher doesn’t create one for you, create one yourself. People are visual and a visual representation of your book that can be shared by people who want to help your book succeed (like family, friends, and critique partners) will make a big difference.
- Do an ARC giveaway. Making your advanced copies available will help create interest in your book—and who doesn’t love sharing books with people who might be interested?
- Do author events at bookstores and schools. Again, if no one has heard of you or your book, they probably won’t buy it.
- Plan a launch party. What better way to celebrate your achievement and generate interest in your book than having a party in your own hometown?
- Reach out to local bookstores and libraries. Offer to do a reading or volunteer in some other way at author events. Book buyers will be more likely to buy your book if you’ve made a personal connection with them.
- Promote the books of other authors or team up with other authors to do a cross promotion. Help each other out. Don’t think of other authors as your competition. There’s more than enough readers for all the great books out there!
- Don’t try to sell your book. You’ll come across as a slime-y salesperson. No offense to salespeople. Most are not slime-y! Instead, create relationships with potential readers. It’s okay to hide in your writing cave some of the time. You are a writer after all! But it’s important to be out in the world too, meeting people the old fashioned way and through social media. Remember, if no one knows you, or knows your book is even a book, they won’t ever get to read it. And isn’t that the point of all this, to tell our stories and share them with other people?
It may seem daunting—and it is! But if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already done the hardest part. You’ve written a book! So whether you’re deep into revisions, deep in the query trenches, deep in the submission stage, or deep in the black hole of promoting your book, just know that you have readers out there waiting for your book. That alone should motivate you to keep going…keep writing, keep making connections. Only then will readers be able to hold your book in their hands and turn that first page.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful. I’m always trying to make sense of this publishing mystery. If I’ve helped you unravel it in some small way as well, then yay!
Thanks for checking in, my friends. It’s great to connect with you all. Good luck with your writing endeavors, whatever they may be. I’m deep in the promotion hole right now for Spin the Golden Light Bulb and just I finished up edits for its sequel. It’s been a little crazy going through this process for two books with staggered release dates, but I’m figuring it out as I go! This weekend I took a break to read a fantastic MG for one of my critique partners. It’s been great to step away from my own work and immerse myself in a story completely different from my own—and an amazing one at that!
Let us know what you’re working on and even what stage in this process you’re at. It really helps to hear from other writers who are working their way through this publishing journey too.
Have a great week and I’ll check with you guys again soon!