It goes without saying that, first, you have to write the book. But if you are at that glorious stage where the book is actually written (and edited, and redrafted) then you might be asking – now what?
So, here is some handy info to help you answer that question:
Stage 1: Submission
- Read the subs guidelines! I know they’re annoying and it’s a pain to have to format (I submit too, so I have a lot of sympathy for the never-ending task of re-formatting things) but it really does make reading easier.
- And on the same note, please send the amount asked. If the guidelines wants 10,000 words, a little under or over is fine…but don’t send your entire manuscript.
- Having a synopsis is nice; it gives the reader some idea of how the story unfolds. They often won’t have time to read the entire thing, so the first 30 pages and a synopsis is excellent.
- Tell them something about you; you don’t have to seem quirky, but just some insight into who you are is nice. However, your work will speak for itself, so if (like me) you’re fairly self-conscious when it comes to showing off, you won’t miss out by not giving a huge bio.
- And lastly (again) – read the guidelines! You want to make the publisher’s job as easy as possible – and that means sending what they’ve asked for. Yes, it sucks when every single submission wants a different style and set of information, but them’s the breaks. Just do it.
Stage 2: Waiting. And waiting. And more waiting.
However, there is quite a lot going on behind the scenes…
- Slush-pile read; this is simply someone working through the submissions. At this stage, if you get rejected then you’re likely to get a form rejection. It sucks, but take it as a learning opportunity. Was there anything you could have done better? Did you submit to a publisher who might not want your genre or type of story? Are there better forums for your work? Or, put bluntly, does your work stink? (Most awful writers seem to believe they’re amazing, so if you’ve got a healthy dose of self-doubt then you’re probably fine.)
- The deafening silence. If you don’t get an immediate rejection, take heart; they’re considering your work. Most publishers will have guidelines for when you can bug them; please do remember that reading takes time, and the publisher might have 50 or 100 things to read!
- Request for a full manuscript. Yay! They liked it!
- Acceptance or rejection! You may get more feedback at this stage; most publishers are too busy to go into much detail, but they won’t lie – so if they say they liked it, then they liked it. Usually the choice simply comes down to tone or style. Again, treat it as a learning opportunity; was there anything you could have done better? What could you improve?
Stage 3: Editor’s read
Your story will get read by The People Who Matter – usually the editor(s). The manuscript may come back to you with comments; you might need to change a lot or a little, and then it goes back to the editor. This could be repeated multiple times, and you might find that it’s a repeat of your alpha- and beta- process…but this is up to the individual editors, and up to you how much you want to change your story. Again; you are the author, and you have the final decisions on changes. Take their comments into consideration, and weigh up how much you want to be published against how much your story is changing. Hopefully, your story is good enough that the edits will be minor!
Stage 4: Book creation
This involves quite a lot of administration, usually involving external services. The big publishing houses will have in-house copy-editors and cover-artists, and it’s rare that the author is involved here. With a smaller indie press, more of this work is done externally, and there’s more chance for the author to be involved.
- Copyedit & proofread (again!).
- Typeset – and you’ll usually get a PDF proof at this point to check on the typesetting.
- Cover produced.
- Manuscript sent to printers, and – if you’re doing hard copy – a proof is produced.
Stage 5: Publication!
Hard copies get distributed to shops, and records get created in electronic stores. You’ll be given a release date and whatever copies you’re entitled to; you may get paid at this stage if it’s a flat fee, or if you’re getting royalties then they will trickle in. And you get the wonderful satisfaction of seeing your book in print or on the screen; it’s out there for everyone to read.
And if you’ve got this far, congratulations! You’ve got a piece of your writing published.