With e-publishing, it’s easier than ever to get your book published. The easiest path may not be most appropriate however. The subject, genre, and style of your book as well as your needs determine which is the best path to pursue.
Know your audience
Are you writing for yourself, your family and friends, your colleagues? Clarify your motivation. Do you need the work for a conference in a few months or can you wait, likely longer than a year? Your answer determines whether to pursue self-publishing or a traditional route.
Self-publishing puts you in control of the process, from creating the idea to editing to designing the cover. You bypass piling up rejections and fast track your manuscript to publication. Distributing and marketing your book is solely up to you. This choice works best for books intended for family, select friends, or if you already have distribution channels set up.
Traditional publishing is a lengthy process, possibly years, but it comes with the publisher’s approval, a needed credential for some professionals. This choice gives you access to professional editors, designers, established distributors, and reviewers. Plan to generously enhance the publisher’s marketing plan, which is rather meager these days.
Know the field. Educate yourself on literary forms, style, voice, pacing, conventions, and so forth. Familiarize yourself with work of your predecessors and peers. Get to know past trends and the current market. Know where your work fits, how it sticks with or veers from conventions. In what way are you contributing to the dialog of written ideas?
Use the library. Subscribe to journals. Buy books. Read for enjoyment and with a critical eye. Start or join a book discussion group.
Establish a writing schedule. Get to know the ebb and flow of your inspiration and how best to take advantage of it. Welcome the blank page as well as the structured and impromptu words that long to fill it. Anticipate scintillating language that thrills and dull passages that fall flat.
Take a break. Revise after you’ve written a substantial amount of text.
Get feedback. Learn to evaluate your work objectively. Join a writers’ group or attend a conference or workshop in your genre. Consider all comments, those that support your work and those that don’t. Hire an editor or writing coach to help polish your manuscript and assist you in maneuvering the industry.
Develop a platform
Platform is writer lingo for getting yourself known and establishing an audience. Tweet, blog, attend readings, join forums, publish sections of your book in journals, speak publicly. Become part of a community of writers.
Write a query
Keep it to one page. Describe your book in a concise paragraph or two followed by another paragraph with your credentials. If querying for a novel, memoir, or poetry collection, the manuscript must be complete. For nonfiction, you need not have a finished manuscript.
Your query is your sales pitch. Proof for spelling and mechanical errors. Make your query shine. This is how you get your foot in the door.
Write a proposal
A proposal consists of a synopsis, audience, competing books, publicity plans, completion date, and sample writing. A proposal is unnecessary for poetry. Send it upon request by an agent or publisher.
Determine whether to use an agent or contact a publisher directly. Poets do not need an agent. Big publishers and some medium size houses will only look at a manuscript submitted through an agent. Small houses, literary publishers, and university presses can be queried directly by the writer. Research the agent and/or publisher to match your genre and subject with theirs.
Follow submission guidelines
Agents and publisher outline how they want to receive your work. Abide by them. Do they want a proposal or query? Do they want it submitted electronically or via snail mail? Twenty pages of the book or the entire work? Your name on each page or only the title page?
Wait some more. While waiting, continue to write, read, send out sections of your book, and build your platform. Expect rejection. Persist.