There are many methods for getting published these days. Traditional publishing with major publishing houses. Publishing with a small press. Independent publishing (publishing through such outlets as Amazon Kindle or Smashwords). Self- publishing (aka paying someone to publish your book).
We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking these publishing options are worlds apart and have nothing in common. We are mistaken when we fall into that trap.
There are, in fact, many things in common across the board. No matter how you choose to publish (or be published, as the case may be), there are some things the savvy writer always does.
1. Finish a manuscript. That seems self-evident, I know. So self-evident that it need not even be mentioned.
But I mention it here because too many new writers begin the writing process by thinking about the publishing process. It never hurts to look ahead, but searching for publishers before you have finished—or even started—a manuscript is putting the cart ahead of the horse.
Way ahead, if you ask me.
2. Find crit partners. People who understand your writing, what you’re attempting to say, and how you say it. This will take time and going through a lot of crit partners. The best way is to join a writing group (online is easiest and quickest). Sort through all the people who read your manuscript to find the three or four who best understand you and are genuinely helpful.
This may sound like a lot of trouble, but it’s worth it, how ever long it takes. The help you get from three or four good crit partners who know writing and with whom you can build a trusting relationship is invaluable.
3. Listen to your crit partners… as seems advisable. Make changes as you see fit and discard any advice that is counter to your vision for the book. Remember, crit partner comments and suggestions are not written in stone.
A good rule of thumb is that if two or more of your crit partners point out the same problem, it’s most likely a problem. If only one does, it could be a problem but it could also be opinion.
4. Find a couple of beta readers. The same process applies to beta readers that applies to crit partners. The primary difference is that crit partners are fellow writers. Beta readers should be readers. You want the perspective of a reader, not a writer. It’s best to get the responses of readers who might pick your book up off the shelf.
5. Submit your manuscript to beta readers. Make changes as you see fit. The same guidelines apply to beta reader comments as to crit partners.
6. Hire an editor. This is a MUST. If your crit partners are good and your beta readers are good, and if you’ve done a good job self-editing, the amount of work an editor will have to do will be minimized. It will still cost, but costs will be reduced.
Editors edit on several levels. The least you should do is a Big Picture edit. That’s also usually the least expensive. The editor will tell you whether or not the book hangs together well and will look for major problems, but will not get into a line-by-line edit, punctuation, or anything else.
NOTE: Traditional publishers do edit manuscripts, but you cannot count on that to see you through. There are so many steps between your finished manuscript and the publishing committee that decides whether or not to publish your book that if you don’t make your manuscript the best it can be, you’re hurting yourself.
7. Make the changes the editor recommends. Again, these are not written in stone, but at this stage, most of the changes are worth making since you paid money for a professional’s opinion.
From This Point On….
After you reach this point, roads diverge. Indie publication goes in one direction. Traditional publication goes in another. Indie authors have to hire book designers, for example, while traditionally published authors leave that in the hands of the publisher.
If this sounds like an investment of time, you’re right. It is. Depending on the length of your manuscript,d the speed with which crit partners and beta readers turn your work around, and the amount of time it takes you to do edits, it could be months.
But if you really want to publish the absolute best product you can—and who doesn’t?—all of those steps will pay off when it comes to finding an agent and landing a contract with a traditional publisher.