5 Truths About Publishing A Book

Publishing a book is a learning curve. Everyday, I learn something new about the process and myself as a writer. 


I started my middle grade fiction novel Candy Sky Tells A Lie as a Camp NaNoWriMo project, three years ago. Since then, CSTAL experienced several rewrites, feedback from multiple editors, revisions from proofreaders, and suggestions from critique groups. I’ve also hired a book coach, Colleen Mitchell, to keep me on track with my goals and teach me about publishing based on her experience with her own book. 


Here are five truths about publishing that I learned along the way:


1) Writing your book has an end–editing is endless. At some point, after months and even years of writing your novel, you dot the last period of your draft. You lean back in your seat and laugh or cry or call your best friend to let them know you’re finally done! The pride and relief you feel resonates in your bones. You are one step closer to your publishing dreams. Now, it’s time to edit.


Unlike drafting a novel, editing doesn’t come with a concrete end. You can spend just as much time, if not more, on reconstructing your plot, adding or deleting content, fleshing out characters, and fixing grammar and punctuation errors. Even after so many editors and proofreaders, I still find something that needs tweaking.


Your writing will never be perfect. In fact, no one’s writing will ever be perfect. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can continue forward with the publishing process. By no means am I implying you should skimp on editing (after all, a polished book will make or break your sales), but you might want to consider moving on if you’ve edited the same sentence over twenty-two times.


2) Your published book looks nothing like the first draft. You’ve probably heard Terry Pratchett’s saying, “The first draft is you telling yourself the story.” It’s supposed to be, frankly put, garbage. The key is picking out what can be recycled and refurbishing them into something readable for your audience.

 

Allow yourself to write bad. As my first developmental editor, Brooke Adams Law, taught me, "Being willing to rewrite makes you a good writer." So, get into the moment of a scene–the heart of your characters. Worry about readability and mechanics later.


3) You are in charge of marketing your book. Writing and publishing a book is half the battle–the other half is marketing. As an indie author, no one will know your book exists if you don’t spread the word. Thus, you must be willing to put in the marketing leg work if you want to achieve whatever goal you have for your book. 


Some writers simply want friends and family reading their book. In this case, marketing is less cutthroat. You still have to reach out and hype your book over the phone, on social media, and in-person with your friends and family. You might even want to create a private group chat with the specific people you want reading your book.


Other writers envision their books in bookstores and classrooms–perhaps even earning an award. If this is your dream, you will have to spend a tremendous amount of time connecting with writing communities, creating free extra content and swag, building a social media following, contacting bookstores and anywhere else you want your physical book, running promotions and giveaways, and dedicating hours each week to marketing. This is not a deterrent, but instead a reality check. Authors do it everyday–and so can you! Just be prepared.


4) Professional editing is crucial. Writers who pitch to agents must present a pristine manuscript if they want a chance of being chosen for representation. Similarly, writers who venture into the self-publishing route require polished, nearly error-free novels if they want to escape the slush pile of poorly written indie works. For both routes of publishing, professional editing will channel your vision of a story into something absorbable for the reader.


Because we are the experts of our stories, we know everything there is to know about the plot–what will happen next, which character will get with who, and so on. When we translate our thoughts onto a page, we sometimes miss adding details that the reader needs because our brains subconsciously fill in the blanks. An editor can pin-point which areas don’t make sense or need clarification, as well as direct you in a stronger direction regarding plot and character growth.


Furthermore, professional editors will be completely honest with your work. Many times, beta readers and family and friends sugar coat their opinions. This can lead to missed errors and plot holes in the final manuscript. If an agent spots too many errors in the first fifty pages, they will pass onto another author. Likewise, too many errors in self-published books will stop readers in their tracks. Your book deserves the best, so hire a professional editor.


5) Comparing yourself to others kills your writing. Every writer compares their work to others at some point during their noveling journey: My best friend and I started writing at the same time, but she has already published two books while I’m still struggling with a first draft; my critique partner’s work is phenomenal, whereas mine is a pile of garbage; and Jane Doe has been writing longer than me and knows more about the process, thus her work is better than mine. All of these negative thoughts grind our motivation to a stop.


In one of my latest group coaching calls with Colleen Mitchell, she described the first draft as a baby. Each time you edit, your baby grows a little bit more. The second draft is the toddler, the third draft is the kid, and so on. You continue raising your WIP until it’s a beautiful adult. You wouldn’t expect a baby to automatically know how to drive–just like you shouldn’t expect a first draft to have the development of your teenage third or forth (or fifth) draft. Raising a novel takes time and discipline and your own pace.


One of my favorite quotations about children can also be applied to novel writing:


Popcorn is prepared in the same pot. In the same heat, in the same oil, and yet the kernels don’t pop at the same time. Don’t compare your child to other children. Their turn to pop is coming unknown. (Susan Colton)


Your time is coming. Don’t even think about quitting. (I'm looking at you, Christy.)


Hopefully these truths help with your understanding of the publishing process. If you have any insight about publishing, share your experiences and tips in the comment section.

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