“I am pleased to confirm the publication of your book.” A trip to space would have been less euphoric than the rush of emotions those words—that my would-be publisher conveyed in a single-line email confirmation—triggered in me. In fact, I’m still trying to absorb the fact that I am now a published author.
I started exploring publishing options for my spiritual memoir in January 2010. Just seven months into the process, I struck publishing gold…like they say. Nine months thereafter, my book was in print. With the book on the market, my concerns about acceptance dropped away. They were immediately replaced, however, by a whole new set of challenges connected to the marketing process—an issue I will capture in detail in a future post.
Every writer aspires to be a published author. And why not? A compelling story you’ve written has you utterly convinced of its publishing appeal and Harry-Potter-like potential. You contact publishers, only to receive rejection upon rejection. You question the authenticity of your talent; you examine the effectiveness of your storytelling; you lament on your bad luck. But what writers often fail to understand is that most publishers—and bookstores—are in it for the money. Publishers and bookstore owners want something that will sell, in terms of number of copies, and frequency and longevity of sale. Sustaining the business is their bottom line and as the publishing industry reassesses its future in the digital age, works that don’t meet their revenue projections get chucked down the rejection chute.
The first thing I acquired when I thought I had a somewhat-complete draft manuscript was the services of an editor. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and, upon a friend’s referral, I contacted the Bay Area Editor’s Forum (BAEF)—an association of in-house and freelance editors from a variety of publishing and publications settings. A posting on their jobs line generated over thirty responses in just forty-eight hours. Then came the challenging task of narrowing the selection, followed by interviewing the individuals to determine the editor who was right for my manuscript and fit my budget. Buying membership at a local writers’ club and attending their meetings is also a way to access the editing circle.
Heed my advice and hire a professional editor as their feedback is worth its weight in gold. My editor did a meticulous job, scrutinizing every word and sentence formation, correcting erroneous and inconsistent syntax, examining the logic of my argument, highlighting glaring gaps, and providing suggestions for improving my prose—all while retaining my original voice. Overall, her input enhanced my writing and gave it a professional polish.
When the second draft was ready, my editor advised me to seek “wise reads” on my manuscript from subject matter experts in the community. As a result, I was able to connect with two outstanding individuals who willingly provided “wise reads” for my manuscript, free of charge, in a very timely manner. As an extra bonus, my editor shared a template to help me develop a book proposal, and then she reviewed my draft proposal. May be this is just her, but my editor also supported me during the entire “publisher hunt” process. She’d checked-in with me from time to time, offering a subtle tip or two that would change the direction of my search. She consistently made herself available to answer and/or redirect my questions. She genuinely rejoiced when I informed her of my finding a publisher. When I needed a read for my “About the Author” and “Author Bio” blurbs for my book jacket, my editor once again jumped right in, at a moment’s notice, and offered her insight. The bottom line is, get an editor!
So, the manuscript is now professionally edited, reviewed by subject matter experts, and ready to be moved forward. The next step is to either find a literary agent or explore publishing options on your own. A literary agent is the way to go, especially for works of fiction. The big publishing houses—Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, to name a few—work almost exclusively with agents. A search on the Internet for literary agents should yield a list of agents. The Literary Market Place (the LMP) is a reference guide that contains a listing of literary agencies, available for purchase at any bookstore and for checkout at any library. Authorlink is another source for information. The Writer’s Market directory at www.writersdigest.com is yet another resource. Personally, I didn’t use an agent. I wanted to explore the industry on my own, but would have sought an agent had things worked out differently.
Last, but not least, a point worth addressing is Copyright Registration. The author is the copyright holder of his/her work(s). Retain your copyright privileges for a small fee by registering your work(s) with the US Copyright Office.
Good luck with your publishing process!