So, you wrote a book. Congratulations! You would be surprised that most people who decide to write the novel that has been banging around in their head for years, never actually finish it. You did, so be proud of that.
With that said, what is next? There are a few things you could do. You could get an agent or enter into an open call for submissions at a publisher or self-publish (I go a little more in-depth about self-publish vs traditional publish HERE).
Some of you reading this have already published many books and are thinking you don’t need to know where and how to publish, you’ve already done all that. Well, this post is so much more than that. It is a post not just for brand new authors, but a great post for tips and reminders for experienced authors too. So, stick around and read for a while, you might learn something you didn’t know before.
You are at the computer looking at your basic query letter and about to type: Dear Sir or Madam…let me stop you right there.
Let’s get back to where to publish. You may want an agent because you want to be published by one of the Big 5 publishers and only an agent can get you that contract. You are at the computer looking at your basic query letter and about to type: Dear Sir or Madam…let me stop you right there.
Do you know anything about the agent you are querying? Do you know what they like/don’t like? Do even know what the word query means? If you answered no to any of these questions I need to you step away from your form letter and not revisit it until you do. This also goes for submitting directly to a publisher for an open call.
Don’t be Jon Snow.
Don’t be Jon Snow. You need to know something. In fact you need to be so knowledgeable about your genre, what the agent/publisher likes and their clients, and authors who write similar type stories/style as you that you can point to them and let the agent/publisher know that your book(s) has the potential to sell that many copies as well.
I am going to go a step further and say you need to have a fan base already. This is what agents mean when they talk about your platform. They don’t mean if you use Microsoft Windows, they want to know how many people are signed up to your newsletter, how many hits does your website get daily/weekly, how many Facebook author page likes/Twitter page followers do you have, etc. Basically, if a publisher decided to publish your book, how many potential readers will run out and buy it.
I know what you are thinking, “But I just wrote my first book, how can I have fans or a platform yet?” My answer to that is: “Then you better get started.”
If your goal is just to write a book and you don’t care if people buy it, then don’t get an agent or submit it to a publisher. These people need clients that can help them get paid. Just like you, they need a roof over their heads and food on their table. They don’t have the luxury of publishing books for the hell of it. No publisher or agent ever said, “You know what would be fun? To help authors publish books as a hobby. Like taking up knitting, I think I might just take up publishing.”
If you are still not getting it that you need to have something to show them that will make them money, not just a manuscript, then let me put it to you another way. If you go to your boss with a great idea for the company or department you work in, something that may make the company lots of money and he/she asks, “How much money and how will it make us that money?” You wouldn’t answer him/her with, “I don’t know. I just came up with the idea, it’s now your job to make that money.”
Almost no one will buy a book from someone that has never published before, has no reviews, and they have never heard of.
Some of you are saying, “Yeah, that makes a lot of sense but I don’t plan, at least for now, to go with an agent or publisher. I want to self-publish.” Then the same thing applies to you. Who is going to buy your book with the millions and millions of books out there? Especially if it is your first ever book. No one has heard of you and I don’t care if your book is like the next Great Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice, if a reader doesn’t stumble upon it, intrigued by the cover to click on it, and then wowed by your book description then they won’t buy it.
So, I ask the self-published authors or soon-to-be self-published authors out there, do you have a fan base? If you answered yes, then that is good but how big is it? How many readers are in your street team/fan/reader group? Do you have a newsletter (I really hope so) and how many have signed up? Social media likes/follows? Do you post once a day/week/month on these sites/groups? Figure all this out. Look at the self-published authors in your genre that are successful and see how many members/likes/follows they have and how often they post. Then you know what to strive for.
Before you ever hit publish on your first book you should have started building your platform for 1-3 years before it ever becomes live. Get to know the genre community/author community you write in. Make friends and become trusted. Almost no one will buy a book from someone that has never published before, has no reviews, and they have never heard of. You will be lucky to get one person buying it a month if you do nothing. Trust me, I know from what I speak of, click HERE to see what I am talking about.
Don’t put any aspect of your business in someone’s hand that you know absolutely nothing about.
The same applies to finding an agent/publisher. You should spend a year or two building your platform and researching the agents/publishers to find the right fit. This is your baby. You poured your heart and soul into this book that took you months/years to write, so how can you expect to pass it off to someone you know nothing about? Would you do that to your actual child? No, you would call all the references and look into the background of the daycare or babysitter. You should do at least that with an agent/publisher.
Publishing is a business. It needs to make money. I am assuming you want to make money off your book, so you need to look at it like a business. Everyone is a potential client or business partner. Work hard to earn their respect and they will work hard for you. Don’t put any aspect of your business in someone’s hand that you know absolutely nothing about (graphic designers, editors, agents, marketers, publishers, etc.).
Research not just your book but every aspect of being an author. All this applies to authors who already have published books. As your sales/fan base/business grows, so do your needs. You will have more on your plate and therefore, need more people to help you. Take the time to research and talk to other authors for advice and tips. This industry is always changing. What was true for marketing and publishing ten, five, even two years ago, is not necessarily going to work today. Stay on top of the market and industry, but most of all treat your career with the respect you want others to treat it.
That was your cup of joe for today.
What was something that you learned about publishing or being an author that has helped your career?
As an indie-author I was wondering what I could do to help get my books out there. So, I looked into it and that's when I realized I had a lot to learn. These posts are to help my fellow authors learn how to market and publish their book. I pass on what I found out about making a book a success.