“Writing and publishing a book can’t be that tough. I can definitely do it.”
Writing a book really isn’t that hard. I mean, writing a good book is pretty challenging, but really anybody can knock out a coherent story if they want to. It turns out that’s the easy part. The hard thing is getting anyone to actually care that you did it.
At first I thought the book I wrote, A Hero Forged, was in fairly decent shape. I knew it needed the touch of a skilled editor, but otherwise I was ready to send it out the door. The story is done. Time for the sequel. Then I started researching all the rest of the steps involved in the process, and I got super sad. It turns out that publishing a book is hard freaking work.
That’s where I was a few months ago. Since then I’ve done a ton of research and broken the whole process down into three phases:
1. Get the stupid book ready. I mean, I thought it was…but boy howdy was I wrong. First, books are generally professionally edited by people who will catch all of your dumb mistakes and imperfections. Next, a book has to be specially prepared for different reading formats (ebook, paper, audio, pirated version from a questionable Latvian website, illuminated gold-leaf copy for the Smithsonian, etc.). And finally, you need a cover. It turns out there aren’t people begging for the opportunity to draw your single-most important piece of marketing for free. Those people want money, and at least a vague notion of what you’re looking for. Or you could do it yourself.
2. Start letting people know you exist. I mean, you’re reading this, so you know I exist. I really appreciate that. But I also don’t think my friends and family are going to be able to single-handedly (multi-handedly?) support my writing career. I could sell my book for $1,000 each, but I think even my mom would be like, “Look, I love you, but…” So I need a bunch more people to give a flying fig. That means marketing and meeting people and doing things other than existing in my own imagination. That’s what I’m doing now. I mean right now, as you’re reading this. Now.
3. Decide how you’re going to make this thing happen for real. This one is so important that it physically hurts me to think about. It used to be that self-publishing was a last-ditch thing that people did when they had no other options. Now, thanks to Amazon mostly, publishing your own book is totally a viable thing that can make your career. I’ve met a few authors who have been really successful this way.
Or obviously you can go the traditional route and try to get published by one of the big houses. For that, you need an agent and a whole bunch of patience. It’s how you get into actual bookstores, and it’s still seen as cooler and more prestigious…but it’s way, WAY harder. Your book has to impress a successive line of people who really know what they’re doing, and sometimes it comes down to an individual taste preference that you can’t control. Just getting an agent is difficult enough that most people can’t make it happen. Self-publishing a $.99 book on Amazon is totally different than rolling out a nation-wide release, so agents have to be extremely picky about representing only the best quality stuff.
Where am I now? Well, my book is ready to hit an editor’s desktop, so I’m waiting for the right one to come along and sweep me off my feet. I’m starting the whole marketing and online presence thing, so we’ll see how that goes. (Tell your friends!) And I’m querying lots of agents. (Querying=sending out letters and chapters and pieces of your heart) The hope is that my queries will get some interest, and I’ll go on to land an agent and get a publishing deal and retire to a private island/be able to make a living as a writer. If that doesn’t happen, then I’ll self-publish and make it happen for myself. There are tons of options and shades of gray in between each, so while I still have a ways to go, it’s all open field from here.
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