A Publishing Journey: I want to publish my novel...now what?
After the editor had given me the thumbs up that my novel was, in her opinion, of publishing quality I now stood at the next doorway to my journey of getting published. Now what? As someone with no experience in this industry I went to the most knowledgeable person I know. Siri, of course.
Siri went to work searching terms like "How do I find a publisher?", "Publishing a book", and "Finding a literary agent." The amount of information that she retrieved was enough to make me decide this was too much for me. Self publish? Get an agent? Go for traditional publishing? Online only publishing or print book publishing? The options were endless.
My journey started with compiling a list of literary agents who took books in my genre, historical romance. I created a handy spreadsheet and worked hard on a query letter. When pitching an agent you have only a few paragraphs to grab their attention and get them to request your book. They want a brief blurb, the word count, and your bio. Wrapping my book up into a paragraph proved harder than writing it. With no publishing credits to my name, I didn't have much to fill out in the biography section. None the less, I did my best and started sending my query letter out to a dozen or so agents. I recieved a few "not what we're looking for right now's", but mostly just no response. It was disheartening and frustrating. How in the hell was I going to get someone to read my book off of just one paragraph. Ready to toss in the towel, I turned to Write On, Door County for help.
Write On, Door County is a wonderful non-profit organization in Door County that helps writers of all types in every area you can imagine. I saw a seminar an author was hosting about self-publishing that winter. I signed up immediately curious about this new publishing alternative. It seems as if more and more writers are choosing this rather than years of query letters and rejections. It was at this seminar I learned about Upwork. Upwork is a website that allows you to find a freelancer for almost anything... the perfect tool for a baby author to get some support. Editors, beta reads, cover designers, blurb writers...you name it and they have someone to do it. It was there that I found the editor that had given me the thumbs up to pursue publishing my novel.. As someone who handles social media for a living, self-publishing certainly seemed appealing to me. Utilizing Upwork, I could hire top-notch editors, cover designers and someone to format the book for me. It was certainly appealing...and seemed very doable to self-publish my novel.
Another WODC seminar I had attended over the winter by a long-time published author had been a bit of an eye-opener for me. She told us that publishing was a different animal now that Kindle and self-publishing was a mainstay. Publishers no longer had big budgets for marketing and every author was expected to do the heavy lifting when it came to promoting. You were expected to do most of your own marketing, schedule and finance your book tours... everything. In my mind, I questioned why I would even bother with a publisher if I was going to be doing most of the promoting for my book. Why take only 7% of the sales after I wrote the book and was going to be doing all the marketing? It was a question that sent me hunting even further.
Of course, it's every writers dream to be picked up by the Big Five publishers. We want to see our books staring back at us from the window of Barnes and Noble, or clutched in the hands of a reader as she sips on her coffee at the park. The big publisher's logo flashing out like a badge of honor for anyone to see. I realized that for just starting out, perhaps finding a giant publisher was a bit of overkill. Perhaps I could find something in the middle. More support than self-publishing, but not as intense as a huge publisher. No driving around on book tours, no racing to meet deadlines for new material... just me, my book online, and the help of some people who know what the hell they are doing while I start out in this world. I needed some bright orange floaties strapped to my arms while I dipped my toe in the deep-end of the pool.
I wanted something in-between. A hybrid publisher. After even more painstaking research, it turns out... it exists! Siri and I went to work to find these elusive creatures. They focus primarily on E-publishing, though print publishing is always an option. Unlike the big publishers, they don't require an agent to get you in the door. You can send them your full manuscript straight away... no three paragraph query letters and crossed fingers. They assist you in editing, cover design, and marketing. It's a traditional publishing contract, not a vanity publisher where you pay them, but the royalties are higher due to them focusing on E-publishing rather than print. Like the big publishers, these publishers are still picky about their selections, but the ability to send them my manuscript right away was something that spurred me on. It was exactly what I was looking for. It turned out though, that even my above average researching skills were having trouble finding them. They seemed to be the wild unicorns of the literary world.
An article from Authors Publish Magazine finally revealed itself to me a solid week into scouring the internet for hybrid publishers. Like a beacon of light, there it was. It was free when I signed up for their newsletter and was exactly what I had been looking for. A list of every publisher who accepts direct submissions in every genre you can imagine. No agent needed! There was descriptions of each one, their guidelines, what they publish, and reviews of them. The romance list had some thirty or so options. Many were the online arms of some of the major publishers like Random House, Simon and Schuster, Harper Collins, and St. Martin's Press. After researching each one, I found ten that I thought fit my novel and my criteria perfectly. They focused on E-publishing, helped with cover design, marketing, and every detail to take my book from a Word document to a bonafide book to be purchased! Just what I wanted for my first time out of the gate.
Now having a solid list of potential publishers in hand, I decided it was time to get my manuscript in the best shape possible. Editing is not my forte. I can read whole sentences with every word misspelled and never even notice. I'm fantastic at those Facebook tests to see if you can read a sentence with every letter out of place. Never trips me up for a second. So, knowing I am not the person for the job, I headed back to Upwork and found a wonderful editor. Her name is Tami Stark, and she has sixteen best-selling romance novels herself. After reading some of her work, I decided she was the perfect person for the job. She spent a week with my manuscript and sent it back all shined up like a pretty new penny. She did a wonderful job with it and her praise and talent have given me the confidence to take the final step and seek out a publisher.
So...now it begins. I'm discovering each publisher has a different criteria for their submissions. One needs 12-point Times New Roman, no header, a two-page synopsis, and a three paragraph blurb. The next needs 12-point Arial, name in the left corner, page numbers in the right, three-page synopsis, and a title page. The next one wants 1500 words, name and manuscript title in the left footer, a five-page synopsis, and the blood of my first born child. LOL I've come to the conclusion they all got together and decided to ensure that no writer could just copy and paste their way through twenty different submissions in an hour. The wanted to weed out the lazy ones and see who really wants it by making you work your ass off for each one. This is the part where I crack my knuckles and accept this challenge.
So... off I go to reformat my manuscript over and over and write multiple blurbs specific to each publisher. It may take me a bit of extra time, but I just have a feeling that the publisher for my book is waiting for me in this list of ten names I have narrowed it down to. With any luck, one of these publishers will be the perfect partner to help guide me into the terrifying world of publishing my book. Wish me luck as I head off to start my submissions!
To get updates for more blog posts and to follow along on my journey towards publishing my first novel, sign up for my Enews here!