So, you’ve got to the end of all the writing and editing and your manuscript is complete. Now you have to decide what to do next. And as we are now in the 21st century the great news is that you have options – lots of them.
Option 1 – you can do what authors for centuries have been doing and try to bag yourself a literary agent. If an agent likes your book enough to want to take you on and try to sell it for you then this may be your way into a publishing contract, although there’s no guarantee of that. Plenty of writers have an agent but no book deal. However, having an agent does help and many of the big traditional publishing houses are unlikely to accept your submission unless it comes through an agent.
For many people this option aligns so closely with their dreams that it really is the only one that they want to consider. And that is great. An agent is likely to be a valuable member of your team, maybe helping with editing, negotiating any contract on your behalf, pushing for marketing and generally being a good egg on your behalf. You will then pay them 15% of what you earn as their commission and that is likely to continue even after your relationship with the agent has come to an end, so that is something to bear in mind.
The important thing to remember here is that agents are generally swamped with enquiries, so you really need to take care that yours doesn’t fall at the first hurdle. Make sure your book is in the best state it can be and follow their submission instructions to the letter or you may just get dumped without anyone ever reading a word of what might be a bestseller.
Option 2 – you can submit your manuscript direct without using an agent to do it for you. The proviso here is that not all publishers allow this and those that do sometimes have limited windows of time when they will accept unsolicited manuscripts direct. But if you keep your eyes open then there’s nothing stopping you from having a go.
As with option 1, make sure that you comply with all the instructions properly. Using the wrong font or the wrong document type can be enough to send you skidding into the reject pile.
Option 3 – do it yourself. Self publishing used to be called ‘vanity’ publishing because it was the realm of people who were unable to get a publishing house to appreciate the merits of their book and so decided to press on and publish themselves anyway. Mark Twain, Beatrix Potter and Margaret Attwood all started out this way back when there was a stigma attached to it and they didn’t do too badly!
But these days, publishing your book yourself is generally the result of a definite decision that the author makes themselves rather than because they have been rejected elsewhere. By publishing yourself, you are able to keep control. You make the creative decisions on your manuscript, choose your own cover, decide where and when you would like to published and control your own pricing and marketing strategies. (For the avoidance of doubt, whilst you can create your own paperback and hardback versions of your book, the majority of your sales are likely to be of the ebook because of difficulties in getting your books into bookshops as an independent author.)
The internet is awash with sites that will help you through the process. I find The Creative Penn and The Self Publishing Formula to be the most helpful but there are many many more and you just need to find somewhere that suits your style.
Now here’s the hard word.
None of these options are easy. Catching the eye of an agent and then securing a book deal is difficult in such a highly competitive marketplace. Publishing yourself is much easier, but then making your book visible enough to sell takes a wide range of skills, including mastering advertising on sites such as Amazon and Facebook. There doesn’t appear to be a quick or easy route whichever way you choose.
It does happen. People do find success through all three paths. My own story is a case in point. Being of an independent mind and also quite scared of rejection, I made a business decision to publish my first book, Postcards From a Stranger on my own. I did the courses and learned what was necessary, and published the book myself on the 9th of June. I was delighted. My book was out there and it was selling to people that I didn’t know.
Then on 7th July I received an email from an editor at Amazon Publishing. She had read the book and wondered what else I was working on. Five months later I had signed a three book deal with them. Postcards has currently sold more than a quarter of a million copies and has been number 1 in the UK and Australian Kindle stores. I had no agent and negotiated the contract myself. That contract led to others and now I am earning my living as a full-time author.
So, it can be done. A very well-known editor once said to me that all books can get published in the end. It’s just that writers give up before they get there.
I hope you have found these posts helpful and that they have given you a taste of how my books are produced from initial idea to publication. Of course, everyone does it differently and what works for me might not suit you but as a parting word of advice I would say have courage. Be brave. Commit to your story and your process and just keep going!
Still got questions about me? Then please join me on my Imogen Clark Author Facebook page, on Instagram and Twitter. Join my Readers’ Club to keep up to date with behind the scenes of my life and work and exclusive offers. In the end, please get in touch whichever way suits you best.