Okay, so you’ve finished your first novel (or your first big writing project). Before we go any further, let me say: congratulations! Just think about how many years you spent thinking, “If I could just finish that first book….” And now you’ve done it!
So what’s next?
Part 2: Publishing (or Getting Published) for the First Time
Challenges – Few things in life are as challenging as trying getting published. The frustrations are many, and the victories are few and far between. First, there’s the sheer volume of competition. Trying to land a major book deal is kind of like shooting an arrow at an apple from a mile away, while 5000 other people are aiming for the same apple!
There’s also the “time factor.” Some agents and publishers will take six months to a year to respond to your initial query. If they request the manuscript, it could be another six months to a year before you hear back. And if you’re offered a contract, it will likely be a year or more before your book goes into print (and before you get the final installment of your advance, if you’ve been offered one).
Helpful hints – Well, I’ve painted kind of a dark picture, here, but please don’t despair! There are a few tried-and-true things that writers can do to ease the journey along the road to publication:
Name your genre. This can be difficult for many writers. It was for me! After all, your work is unique, and many books don’t fit into a neat little genre box. But imagine this: You’re selling a car. A prospective customer asks, “What kind of car is it?” If you say, “It’s difficult to describe,” you’ve probably lost your sale. If you say, “It’s a four-door sedan,” you have a much better chance of moving that baby! And it’s the same for readers, publishers and agents. They want to know what it is they’re buying. So study up on genres, find one that seems to fit your work, and then go with it.
And if you’re having trouble figuring out which genre is right for your work, pick a book that is similar to yours and look it up on Amazon to see in which category it’s listed. That will at least give you a place to start.
Work out your “blurb.” There are two ways that writers use the word “blurb.” One is short review that can be used to promote the book. (As in, “I’m so excited! Stephen King gave me a blurb!”) And the other way refers to a short, gripping description of your story. It’s what which will appear in your query letter. It is usually two or three paragraphs. It describes your story, draws in your readers, gives publishers and agents a sample of your writing skill. Read the backs of DVD cases and books to get an idea of how the pros do it, and work your blurb until it’s perfect!
Get your manuscript edited and/or proofread. Unfortunately, yes, this does cost money. A professional editor may charge anywhere from one to three dollars per page (sometimes more). But having a set of experienced, impartial eyes look over our work can prove to be invaluable. Trying to judge which chapters to cut can be like asking yourself which of your fingers you’re willing to do without. You want your manuscript to be as tight, as professional and as ready for the presses as possible!
In later blogs we can talk more about genres and about publishing options for writers.
Do you have any stories (be they mystery, comedy, or horror) about getting published?