I wrote a book. Now what?
Answer: Read EVERYTHING on this blog, of course!
Joke aside, yet it is my mission to provide in-depth answers to questions regarding all things writing and publishing, so please subscribe to never miss a post.
First off, there are questions you need to ask yourself.
What did I write?
Niche factual book or broad fiction? A children’s book? Poetry? Knowing what you write is important since the answer to what to do next won’t be the same. If you want to go with a traditional publisher or an agent, you need to know what you’ve written to be able to find an agent or publisher that matches. If you decide upon self-publishing, then your sales platforms won’t necessarily be the same as other genres. The sales and marketing strategy certainly won’t be the same as for other genres.
I mainly work with fiction, so we’ll continue this as if you answered “I wrote an awesome fiction book”.
Know your genre, know your “competition”, and know what your readers like.
I put competition in quotation because it’s really a dumb way of looking at other authors. Readers are often ravenous, and you can’t spit out books fast enough to fill their hunger, anyway. Instead, see other authors as colleagues. They can even be your best marketing buddies or advisors.
Was this the only book I planned on writing?
If you just wanted to say, “Yes! I did it!” then going for an agent or a publisher may not get you anywhere. Considering that most authors don’t get a break before book 3 (preferably in a series) is released, then it’ll be an expensive uphill battle for a publisher to take on a one-off author. It’s a business, and an author is an investment to secure future products that the publisher spends time and energy building your name and brand for.
I won’t deny there are one-hit wonders out there, but statistically, that’s like winning the lottery. The rest of us are in for a grind until we succeed. Or give up. Those are the options.
If this is where the train stops for you, and you don’t want to mount it into a career, then only your personal level of perfectionism decides whether you want to go through the whole shebang. Which will be described under the next points.
Am I planning on being prolific?
(Read famous and rich and fill out ten feet of shelf space)
This is where you dig your heels in and decide to stand firm and become aggressively patient.
One thing is writing your book, the next is watching it grow and stumble around, dangerously close to the edge sometimes, and too close to sharp corners on other occasions. I’m a parent. My boy got his goose egg sized buboes. It’s a part of it, and it hurts parents, too. It’s much like that when letting the first outsider critique our book.
Remember, you dug your heels in. This is where many fails in getting farther.
Before your baby is ready for any professional eyes at all, get a beta reader. This is someone not your mother or sister or the kind lady next door. And especially not your English teacher (personal experience here. Please don’t). The best betas are not someone you know. It’s difficult to get beta readers, though, and it’s been seen that some steal our work and do a quick publication with a bad cover on Amazon. More on that under this beta reader link.
Once the baby has been polished to the best you and the beta can, the next step is to figure out the following question:
How hands-on do I want to be in the process?
Some people don’t have the capacity or the desire to build their own business and brand from scratch, so if you have no interests in spending hours a day for months, maybe years, to do that, then going the traditional route may be the path for you. It’s competitive, but it’s possible.
If, however, the idea of digging into the corners of it all and hold all reins when steering your project toward the finish line and beyond, then self-publishing is for you. If that’s the case, congratulations, you’re no longer a writer—you’re a business, and your product is writing.
This mindset will demand a personal paradigm shift, but if you like a challenge, I’ll show how to do it. The blood, sweat, and respect will be yours to give and earn.
There are other roads, of course. A new kind of publishing house is emerging. A hybrid publisher. It’s not a set formula, and I call caution to anyone finding one, if you don’t already have publishing experience or a network that counts people with experience whom you can ask.
Here’s why. Vanity-press was the first kind of vultures as the indie publishing market began to expand. In the really bad cases, what they do is present themselves as a publisher, sign you on if you pay for the editing and cover and stuff, and then they dump your book at the corner of the market and spend your money on everything but marketing it and trying to sell it. They probably didn’t even edit it or only went over it once with a standard spell check extension, and that’s it. But the book is then bound by contract, so you can’t do anything, and they published it like they said they would, so they’re not even in breach of contract.
The danger with hybrid publishers is that the business model is very similar to that of a vanity press since you, the author, pay for editing and proofreading and covers—either up front or through royalty share. It’s not a once-size-fits-all kinda deal, though.
There are qualified teams who’ll publish your books for you under similar parameters, and then there are the ones who’ll stiff you and leave you to write your next book, while your debut is rotting in a corner somewhere. The devil is in the details.
Other than the vanity I ran into at the beginning of my career (2007), I’ve stayed pretty much clear of anything but small press, agents, and self-publishing, but I have launched an investigation, and I’ll be doing a thorough walk-through of contracts. I’ll be getting that information verified by a lawyer before publishing it here, though.
In short, the golden rule is that you never pay for publishing, they pay you when you also contract the rights to the work! Then you’re sure not to end up with a vanity press.
What’s the bare minimum I need to do?
No matter what route you choose, authors signing with small press or agents or big five are expected to do some marketing, too. The reasoning behind this from the publishing house/agent is: If you don’t believe in your work enough to invest in it, why should we?
If you choose the route of self-publishing, then it’s all on you to find marketing strategies. Remember, self-publishing means you’re now wearing a boss hat, too. If you sign with an agency and/or publisher directly, they have competent help to guide you. At least, they should have.
Social media has shifted the way people look at each other, and it’s almost a requirement today that people are online.
Pick your platform and build your tribe. It’s quite rewarding, and it can spur creativity. You can even begin to build your tribe long before the book is done.
Many like reading what they also write, so finding readers among your favorite authors’ fans is a good place to start. Building that tribe early on can also help you build the necessary trust to find beta readers that you know are interested in the genre or topic.
The bare minimum is you spending time building an online presence as a creator. Does that sound scary? If not, then you’re made for this! Go conquer the world! If it does, then…Yeah, that never really goes away. But, there are tools to the mindset of the public face, and I focus on that in other articles.
There are a lot of great books by people I follow and learn from. I highly recommend “Crushing It” by Gary Vaynerchuk. The man has a great way of looking at how to promote oneself online without being a salesy creep.
That book will help with the needed paradigm shift in your mentality from meekly stating “I’d like to be a writer” to boldly stating “I’m an author!” to confidently being able to introduce yourself as: “Hi, I’m [name], a successful independent author”.
Here’s a hint. If you already finished your book, then you’re already the latter. Most stop after the first chapter, so I salute you for the dedication and perseverance of seeing this through. It’s a success to get there.
Depending on the route these questions helped you decide upon, let’s go figure out what else you need to do to get your book whipped into pristine condition to be enjoyed by readers. Look through the “toolboxes” here or send me a question on contact AT martinsvolgart.com.
If you found this post interesting and know of someone who could benefit from it, please share it.
Suggested further reading:
Beta readers (Who are they and where do I find them?)
What type of editor do I need?