You’ll often find that many Indie publishers, like us, don’t have hoops for you to jump through, like the Traditional publishers do. We don’t ask that you have an agent, a PA or an entire team of helpers at your back. We don’t ask for money EVER! and we will pay YOU to give us the chance to put your words on printed paper.
That’s the first key thing to remember – if a publisher asks YOU to pay THEM, before getting published, then run for the hills. It’s probably a scam.
So…here we go:
Why is this important? Because a lot of publishers will NOT accept a book that isn’t finished yet. If you want to put yourself out there as a serious author, you must have your submission completed, before sending it to a publisher. That is key.
Before you do anything else, you need to look into what comes next. Here are a few things you need to think about and research:
What genre is your book? Is it YA, NA or an 18+ only adult novel?
How long is your book? Word counts of < 50,000 are considered novellas or short stories depending on length, while 90-100,000 is pushing the boat and 100,000 or over is too much. These all depend on what genre you’re writing in, so check out this article
Where are you going to submit to? Different publishers offer different royalty rates, services and advice. They also have different submission requirements. You NEED to check this out, before submitting anywhere! Don’t get your story edited to perfection in Times New Roman, 12pt text, with a 1 inch margin, if the publisher you’re submitting to wants your work in Ariel, 10pt, with a 3cm margin.
They won’t even look at your story, if you don’t submit it to their requirements!
This is the most vital part of the submission process. If you don’t get this right, then none of the rest of it matters. You may need to save your story in 3 different formats:
1 – Times New Roman, 12pt, 1 inch margin
2 – Ariel, 10pt, 3cm margin
3 – Courier New, 11pt, 1.5 inch margin
Now, many authors well tell you that editing is the bane of their life. I agree. But, if you do it right, you can turn your book into a masterpiece. Key things to remember: remove all unnecessary words, keep it simply, show don’t tell and do your research.
The one most important thing is about editing, is that you have to edit more than once! You can’t just skim through it, to check for spelling errors, or a spell check on your laptop. You MUST read the entire book, as if you don’t know the story. Look for plot holes, spelling/grammar errors and any instances where things aren’t as they should be. Example: your MC’s eyes are blue, but you state three times that they have ’emerald’ eyes. Or your MC is called Michael three times, but called Mikhail six times. You need to choose between the two and stick with it.
It’s a guarantee that once you’ve edited it once, you’ll have changed something. Maybe lots of things. Now you have to go back and edit it again, to make sure that your changes make sense and are spelled correctly. DON’T trust your computer to point these things out to you. They are smart and can do a lot of things, but they will not spot all of your mistakes. If you’ve mistyped ‘smelled’ and it says ‘selled’ then it will tell you it’s wrong. But if you accidentally type ‘humbled’ instead of ‘humble’ or ‘think’ instead of ‘thing’, then it won’t always notice. YOU are the only person responsible for your work and you need to accept that early on.
Ask for an Impartial Opinion
No one will see your mistakes as clearly as a reader, so if you need more help, before submitting, because something is bugging you and you know something isn’t right, but you can’t find it, don’t worry. You can always ask a friend, relative or even a trusted friend online to help you.
You can easily convert Word, doc or OpenOffice documents these days, into .pdfs or use Calibre to turn it into a Kindle book. You can send this to friends, to read over and make notes on. Or, maybe you just want to do this for yourself, to get a different view of it. Go ahead! Everything looks different in Kindle format – trust me.
Right, now you’re ready to think about submitting. The first thing you want to do is write a synopsis: a brief outline of your plot.
DO NOT be afraid to give away spoilers. If you have a massive twist in Chapter 7 or 10, the person you’re submitting to needs to know about that. Why? Because most stories that end up in the slush pile (the death of all manuscripts that don’t quite make it) are put there during the first 2-3 chapters. If you don’t grab the reader right away, they’re not going to make it to your big plot twist.
BUT, if you include this warning in your synopsis, as only the person you’re submitting to will read it, then they might push through, to find out more about this twist. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read that are flat for the first 5-10 chapters, but really pick up after that. Most of the time, that stuff can be edited out, to make your story more exciting and cohesive. But the publisher won’t know that, if they don’t know to look out for it.
Your synopsis should be to the point and detail all the main characters,t heir role in the story and how the story progresses. Example:
(This is the plot to one of my Works in Progress)
“A young girl, Veronica, is sent back to earth after dying at a young age. She is guarded with the task of looking after a certain number of charges, whose lives she must get back on track. Each charge is introduced with a background as to their problem and how Veronica is going to insert herself into their lives in order to help them.
Her biggest challenge, is college boy Ryan, who she has fallen in love with while in Heaven, watching over him. After a bad break up, he is disillusioned and tries to protect himself by being mean to everyone. Veronica must look after all her charges, settle into college life and fight Ryan’s disillusionment with love.
Veronica learns to see past the façade and see the real man inside of Ryan. While Ryan realises that you can only protect your heart for so long, before you face losing what you’ve always wanted. Through trials of patience and love, Veronica find their way to each other, ending in a heartbreaking separation. Ryan realises that he can’t and won’t live without Veronica, after she is returned to Heaven, to look over her charges from afar. When he tries to kill himself, with alcohol and pills, Veronica returns to save him.“
This is a shortened version of a synopsis, which should be around a page or so long, but I think you get the idea. Some places will ask for a 3-page synopsis, some will ask for only a paragraph. This is NOT your blurb. This will not go on the back of your book, on Amazon or Goodreads, so tell them everything you want them to know.
If you want to be an author, you have to have a presence online. This can be on Twitter, Facebook, Google+1, LinkedIn, Wattpad, your blog or many more sites. There are hundreds of choices and it’s up to you to choose what yours will be.
Once you’ve decided, start building from the ground up. Create good content, gather interest, show your work off, choose your ‘brand’, or theme, and work with it. If you’re a crime writer, then post crime stats, funny crime scene photos or crime related items on your feed. Share other authors in your genre.
Sharing is caring. Don’t forget that. If you share another author in your genre, or review their book for your blog, they may see it and thank you. You can build a relationship with them, ask for advice and tips, or ask them to read your work, before submitting.
Everything you do online is about building a brand for yourself and your books. This is vital in being an author – if you want to be successful, you have to learn how to sell yourself and your work. But don’t overdo it. There’s a limit between selling yourself and spamming others. You want to give as much as you take and pay it back. A good way to do this is to read and review others in your genre, impartially – NEVER slam an author in your genre, just because they’re competition. You could do giveaways of jewellery, bookmarks, business cards – anything you can buy that will relate to you and your books.
One of my things is rugby. I’m Scottish and I love rugby, so I use them both. I make my swag personal to me and my stories. Find your thing; use it and build on it. I don’t have the Scottish flag everywhere, but I carefully choose small items that I can giveaway, that mean something to me and my heritage. You can do the same.
I know, this seems stupid. You don’t have a book out yet, but you’re giving away things you’ve spent hard earned money on. Well, that old saying is true – you need to spend money to make money. And trust me, once you start giving, you’ll reap the benefits.
Post some story extracts, make some posters about your book and share them with your audience. By the time your book comes out, you’ll have done 50% of the hard work, by building up fans and readers interested in your work. But don’t start too early. You don’t want to promise that a book is Coming Soon, if it’s not ready to come out until 2 years later.
You can absolutely submit to more than one publisher, but I don’t recommend doing it all at once. There are a lot of publishers, especially in the Traditional world, that don’t like having to fight other companies for you. And this could happen. If you send out 12 e-mails to 12 different publishing companies, then receive 3 acceptance replies, you need to choose between them and you should warn the publishers that you’ve had other offers and need time to consider your options. Some of them may not like this.
My advice is to send 1 e-mail at a time. It can take anything from 6-weeks to 3 months to hear back from them, but in that time, you can work on perfecting your story or working on a sequel.
Also, NEVER send a mass e-mail. Publishers do not want to open your e-mail and see that you’ve sent it to six other, competitive, companies. Yes, it will save you time, but it’s unprofessional and more than one of those publishers may simply close your e-mail without looking at a single word.
Be smart. Not quick.
You should have an e-mail typed out, somewhere in a word doc. Most publishers want the following things, but remember to check their submission guidelines, to make sure:
Introduction – who you are, what credits you have, if you’ve self pubbed or published elsewhere, be personal but profession. They don’t care what ice cream you love, unless it’s a gimmick that relates to your brand and books.
Social Media – they want links, to check and make sure you already have a presence online
Synopsis – something to let them know what they’re looking out for, what they’re buying into. Don’t say it’s a paranormal romance, if every character is human with no magical/supernatural powers.
If you have quotes from reviews, for example, if you’ve published your story on Wattpad or another site for free, then by all means, add in a few, but don’t overdo it. They want to see that you have a following already, not that you’re bragging to them.
Waiting for a reply to your submission is awful! It can drive you crazy. But, it’s necessary. Keep a log of when to expect an answer, based on that publisher’s submission guidelines. They will all give you an idea of when they’ll get back to you – 1 month, 3 months, or a few weeks. Mark it down and wait patiently.
When you get your reply, or that allotted time has run over and there’s no reply, move on. This is when you can start sending to other publishers – again, one at a time.
It took me 10 years to find a publisher, because I didn’t know half of this. I’ve learned how to do things right, as I’ve gone along. This is your cheat-sheet. This is your head-start. Use it!
Once you’ve had that ‘Yes’, the real work begins.
You will, realistically, edit your book again, around 10-20 times, between being accepted and releasing it. Unless you’ve already done that, before submitting. No book is ever perfect. Ask any author out there and I’m betting they’d tell you that there’s at least one thing they’d change about a book that already on your book shelf.
Now is the time that you start looking for cover images, start chopping down your synopsis into a blurb for the back of your book. You remove the spoilers and add in questions, curiosity, mystery.
This is where the fun, the blood, sweat and tears begin…
This post was written by Elaine White for the Write More Publications blog.