Writing a book is a tremendous first step toward publication. It shows you have the perseverance necessary to carry a dream from the first stage to the final product. Writing a book shows you have something to say and believe in it enough to devote hours, weeks, and even months to share it.
But now that you’ve written a book, what’s next? The next right step for you depends on the way you choose to put your book out into the world. In this article we discuss two separate options:
In this article, we separate them out so you can clearly see both paths and choose which one is best for you. Whether this is the first book you have written and you want to self-publish, or you’ve written several books and decided to traditionally publish, this article covers the steps you need to take.
If you’re not sure which route is best for you, spend time reading through both options. You may want to create a pros-and-cons list and compare them before making a final decision.
Let’s dive in!
The Process For Traditional Publishing
The process for traditional publishing can be broken down into multiple steps. Many of today’s publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. This means you will need to sign with an agent before you have access to the bigger publishers.
A great way to get exposure to agents is by attending writing conferences (whether they are virtual or in person). You may also want to browse the internet for reputable literary agencies and query several agents. Twitter is also a great way to connect with agents. Twitter pitching festivals help you get noticed and many writers have begun conversations with agents in this way.
Whichever agency you choose to pitch, make sure you follow their guidelines exactly and that they represent the genre you write. Make sure that your query does not have any typos. Remember, your query letter is your first impression with an agent, and you want to make a great one.
After you sign with an agent, you will need to write up a book proposal. If you write fiction your proposal will include your:
- Elevator Pitch
- One Sheet
- Extended Synopsis
- Author Bio
- Extended Author Bio
- Format and Deliverables
- Marketing Plan And Promotion
- Target Market Endorsements
- Author Platform
- Competitive Works
- Writing Sample
If you write nonfiction, your proposal will include a chapter-by-chapter synopsis instead of an extended synopsis, along with the above points.
- Related Resource: Chad Allen's Book Proposal Academy
To Edit, Or Not To Edit?
Make sure your writing sample is free of errors, represents your writing style, and is written by you, the writer. While it may be tempting to hire a professional editor to edit your writing sample, the publisher is offering a contract based on your writing, not an editor’s. Additionally, when traditionally publishing, the publisher takes all the financial risk. Upon a signed contract, they will hire a professional editor for you to edit your manuscript.
Remember, in traditional publication, you do not choose the publisher, the publisher chooses you. This means you will likely want to shop your manuscript to many publishers to speed up the process and give yourself as many chances as possible to land a contract.
Working With A Publisher
After you sign your writing contract, you will begin the process of publishing with a traditional publisher. The publisher will assign a professional editor to work with you and make your writing the best it can be. They will also begin work on marketing, cover design, and anything else the particular publisher does with their authors. Typically, once you make up your advance in book sales, you will begin receiving royalties.
Don’t forget that while the publisher takes all the financial risk and plays a big part in marketing your book, you are the author and play a major role in the success of your book. The more involved you can be, while understanding you’re working with professionals who do this for a living, the more likely it is your book will succeed.
The Process For Self-Publishing
While the process for traditional publishing has quite a lot of work on the front end, the process for self-publishing has quite a bit of work on the back end. Before starting the traditional publication process, a writer must write a book, query agents, sign with an agent, the agent must pitch to publishers, and then if offered a contract, the process begins.
For self-publishing, a writer can skip querying agents, signing with an agent, and pitching to publishers. Note that while it is not essential to write a book proposal for self-publishing (since you do not need to pitch to a publisher), the process of writing a proposal can help you understand your project at a much deeper level. It may be worth considering.
Reaching Out To Editors
After you draft your project, you will likely want to hire a professional editor. Do your research, know what you are comfortable investing, and connect with other writers who have worked with editors previously. Reach out to several editors, get to know their personality, the genres they enjoy editing, and read some of the books they have edited. Working with an editor is a very collaborative process, so it’s crucial to work with an editor you connect with. Take their suggestions seriously and always be open to their feedback.
Creating Your Marketing Plan
After you finish editing your book, or even during the process if you’re feeling adventurous, it’s time to create a marketing plan. Because you are self-publishing, you have 100% say over what you market, when you market, how you market, and who you market to. If you feel more comfortable sitting behind the screen and writing books and not as comfortable navigating social media or interviews, you may want to hire a marketing professional to help you launch your book. Scour the internet and do your research just as you did with your editor to make sure you hire the right professional. Research their previous work, especially sales and analytics, to ensure you hire someone who can help you succeed.
Designing a cover that captivates readers and portrays your story is essential. While we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, the fact is, we do. You wrote a book because you are creative. You probably even thought about cover design at some point. However, chances are you are an excellent writer but are not as equipped in graphic design. Even if you do have a background in graphic design, it helps to have a fresh pair of eyes.
Choose your top favorite book covers and note the illustrator. Reach out to your author friends and ask them if they have worked with designers before. Browse the internet and do your research. Your cover design is the first impression readers have of your book. Take the time necessary to find the right graphic designer and create the best book cover for your story. It’s crucial it stands out.
Putting Together A Launch Team
A launch team, or street team, is a group of people dedicated to helping you promote your book before launch day. Often, launch teams are created in a private Facebook page and members are added via an application process.
While it may feel a bit overwhelming wondering where to find potential launch team members, reaching out to online writing groups is a great place to start. Create an application process and tweet it out (don’t forget to include the hashtag #WritingCommunity). Post it to your writer’s Facebook page. Create a reel and post it on Instagram. You’ll likely be surprised how quickly you can form a launch team.
A press kit / author media kit can be extremely helpful when scheduling interviews as you near release day. A press kit is simply information about you and your book that will be helpful for those who want to know more. Think of it as a calling card—a way to show you are a professional writer who should be interviewed.
Ideally, create your press kit as soon as possible so it’s ready when it comes time to book interviews. Create a list of TV stations, podcasts, influencers, etc., who share your audience and would consider interviewing you.
Presales are crucial whether you choose to self-publish or traditionally publish. Your launch team can help by spreading the word about your book and encouraging potential readers to pre-order. Interviews raise awareness about your book, and the stronger your marketing plan is, the higher your presales are likely to be.
Remember, presales aren’t just about selling books but help you land on bestseller lists. Hitting these milestones will not only help with the marketing for this book but set you up for success as you release future books.
Thanking Your Village
As the old proverb goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Your book is your baby, and it does in fact take a team of committed individuals to help your book see success. After you’ve written your book, take the time necessary to show your team appreciation for their help. While your team did not write the book itself, the reason they helped you is because they are passionate about stories as well. Show your appreciation and genuine thanks. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to release a book.
Congratulations! You wrote a book and now you know the next steps to take. Whatever avenue you choose, self-publishing or traditional publishing, go for it with the passion you had writing your book. Passion spreads. Word of mouth is still one of the best marketing tools to this day. Never underestimate the power of passionately pursuing your book’s publication.
Writers usually write because they simply love writing. But if you are a writer you are also a storyteller. Storytellers share their stories because they love the power of story. Sharing stories takes forethought, dedication, and grit.
Many dreamers dream of writing a book. Many writers begin writing a book. It takes a special person to take the dream to draft, then to edited manuscript, to publishable material, and finally, to launch day. But you made it. When release day comes, celebrate the success of making it!
Then, pour yourself into your marketing. Whether you’re self-publishing or publishing traditionally, you have to keep marketing your book if you want continued sales.
Remember, your first publication will likely be your most difficult because you have never done it before. Be encouraged that the next time you publish a book, you’ll understand the process just a little better. Enjoy it!