17 Steps to Writing and Publishing a Book

In response to what people think writing a book entails, here are the 17 steps to actually writing and publishing a book!

People think writing a book is the same as getting published. Yet you can see from the fact that the entire beast of writing a book is summed up in a single step.

1. Write the book. (things i say about this)

  • Coming up with an idea
  • Plotting (planning before you write) or Pantsing (flying by the seat of your pants)
  • Writing and writing and writing and thinking and writing

2. Revise the book. (things i say about this)

  • Find and fix plot holes
  • Use beta readers (what are beta readers?)
  • Receive feedback/critiques
  • Improve and change things

3. Edit the book. (things i say about language and words)

  • Fix as many typos as you can find
  • Track things like character appearance
  • Keep an eye out for continuity
  • Tighten the dialogue

4. Polish the first and last chapters. (hook in a book)

  • You really really want your book to shine
  • You also want your beginning to snatch people like flying saucers in the 1950s.
  • You want the ending to wrap things up and leave the reader with good, fuzzy, that was a good book feelings.

5. Write a query letter. (Read the entirety of this Official Sharkly Blog. Do it.)

  • Ever picked up a book, read the back cover, and been instantly interested in the rest? That’s what a query letter is. Write one.
  • A query letter is what you send to a literary agent when you want them to read your book and then hopefully represent you. You also send the first 5 to 10 pages (see Step 4).
  • A query letter should contain: character, dillemma, what’s at stake for option A and what’s at stake for option B, then a brief bio, and then the first pages. I’ll do a post on query letters at some point (probably promise).

6. Write a synopsis. (things i say about this)

  • I’m sorry. I truly am. Most agents don’t request a synopsis, but some do. Synopses are dry, dull, formulaic, and essentially reduce your beautiful ms (manuscript) to a heap of bland factoids.
  • A synopsis is about a page long and gives all the major plot points and main character turning points in a desert of dry sentences.
  • Not all agents want one, but you should still have it for those that DO want it.

7. Revise, rewrite, and edit your query letter/synopsis. (things i say about this)

  • I know you just finished your book and it’s the most bestest thing ever, but wait. Your query letter is MAJORLY important. It’s what will make/break your book’s chances of being published. Run your query letter through as rigorous an editing process as you did with your manuscript (including with beta readers). Revise the crap out of it until it glistens.
  • Read that sharky blog I mentioned. It contains a HUGE archive of query letters with an agent’s commentary on what worked and what didn’t.
  • When you get your query letter to a shining perfection, make sure your ms is just as beautiful.

8. Submit query letter, first pages, maybe synopsis to literary agents. (things i say about this)

  • Advice on this varies, but it’s best to submit to a handful of agents. If you get zero requests, make sure you’re doing it right, and find what isn’t working.
  • Make sure you’re formatting the letter correctly, and that you are meeting all the requirements for each individual agent’s query letter requests. (double spaced, address them properly, have the needed book/bio info)
  • Track your submissions, don’t forget to breathe, and keep working on writing and improving!

9. While waiting for responses… (how to spend time not writing)

  • Take a break if you need one. Typical Agent response time is about 2 weeks.
  • Writers write. So keep writing. It’s tempting to pin all your hopes and dreams on the project as it’s sitting in agents’ email boxes. But unless you only plan on publishing a single book (in which case, agents are less likely to sign you, because they want you to build an audience), then you need to keep crackin’!
  • Look for more agents to apply to. Stalk them on Twitter, and research their other clients. For a schedule, a good benchmark from getting an agent to seeing your book in print is a calendar year.

10. Offer from an agent. (here’s my path to getting an agent)

  • If an agent likes your ms, they’ll request to read more of it (partial where they’ll specify page length, or full where they want it all). This can take days to months. Then, if they want to represent you, they’ll call or email and make an offer. This is the research stage of talking with some of their clients, scrutinizing a sample contract, discussing their editorial style and business methods. Once you select an agent, you’ll start working out contract details of the Agency Agreement.
  • Just like a beta reader but a million times better, an agent will work with you to smooth over anything they found off in your ms. Find an agent you click with on a personal level and who loves your work as much as you do! An agent may be more or less editorial (willing to work with you on your book versus just representing it) depending on their personal preferences, time availability, and client list.
  • Your agent might want you to start building an online presence (Twitter, Blog, Author Site, etc.). This might seem daunting, but if you’re reading this then you already have a basic grasp of The Interwebs. Your agent makes money when you make money, so they have your best interests at heart.

11. Agents send your manuscript “on submission.”

  • After you and the agent agree that the manuscript is ready, the agent sends your manuscript to editors at publishing houses. This is called “going on submission.” When you have an agent, you can discuss with them why they’ve chosen specific houses/editors.
  • The time frame on this varies from days to months, but the hope is that more than one editor wants it, and they’ll offer bids on the publishing rights.
  • Your agent will field these offers and discuss them with you before you choose which you want to accept.

12. Working with an editor.

  • Somewhere in here there is also a contract between you and the publishing house. It determines all sorts of things from rights, compensation, marketing, mutual commitment, etc. The agent is involved in negotiating the contract to try to get you the best rights possible.
  • At this stage, the agent can be as involved or absent as he/she prefers. There might be a lot of independent communication between editor and writer as they go back and forth to polish up the manuscript. You can get an edit letter, phone calls, line-by-line edits, and more.
  • This stage can take (you guessed it) a couple months or more. Longer or shorter depending on the amount of editorial back/forth.

13. In the hands of editor/publishing house.

  • When the final version of the manuscript is done, it gets shuffled through the publishing company where they do everything from trying to scope out those last few typos to formatting the pages and text justification.
  • Somewhere in this stage comes the final versions of the back cover (book jacket) info, the cover design, author bio (and foreword, acknowledgements, etc. if included), and any supplemental materials they need.
  • They shall announce the Publish Date. This will become the most important date in your brain.

14. ARCs, Marketing, and Anticipation.

  • Your agent and you et al will want to get the word out. This might start as soon as the book gets accepted with the publisher. This means plugging your book, shouting it from rooftops, building you online platform, and diving into other marketing schemes.
  • Writing is a business as much as it is an art. Sending ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) out to reviewers and magazines is a good way to garner good press before a release. These ARCs will hopefully gather good words and quotes and reviews in online/print venues.
  • At some point, it’s a lot of waiting and anxiety and anticipation. You have the publication date ahead. It will taunt you like cake superglued to a dangled string, forever horizon-bound.

15. Release date!

  • Explode with anticipation. Explode with anxiety. Skulk about The Interwebs for any words about your book. Or, if your agent has set anything up, attend a release party or a book pow-wow. Or just go grab a shot of your nearest beverage (like Sparkling Cider or Hot Cocoa)
  • Don’t freak out if there are bad reviews with the good reviews. The world is filled with people of different minds who think differently and experience differently. This is OK. This is human. Take a deep breath.
  • Keep working on your next book. Writers write. So write. But take a moment to congratulate yourself!

16. Build a relationship with your audience.

  • Thanks to The Interwebs, places like Twitter and Tumblr and BlogsEverywhereYouLook allow authors to connect with their readers in ways unheard of in previous times.
  • Keep it kind. You want to be as inviting, friendly, and kind as you can to those souls who were gracious enough to read your work and then and then! were curious and passionate enough to contact you in some way.
  • Books are a way for you to connect with other humans. If they try to connect back to you, that’s AWESOME! That’s a community and a relationship! Celebrate it and enjoy it and immerse yourself in its warm fuzzy arms.

17. As always: Writers write. So keep writing. Never stop. If you love it, persist.


2 thoughts on “17 Steps to Writing and Publishing a Book

  1. Pingback: What is a Query Letter — and When To Write It | words — and other things

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