Publishing your novel feels a lot like being on Space Mountain, the roller coaster ride at Disney World. First you have the initial high, feeling on top of the world when you complete your manuscript. But then you try navigating the publishing world and your confidence drops. And then you realize how difficult it is to get published so your spirits drop. And then you discover the world of Indie publishing, and you start to feel a high again.

Authors are lucky these days. We have more opportunities for publishing then in the past, helping new and old authors alike to achieve their literary dreams. I’m currently at this stage with my latest project, Code of Reanimation. Just a few more edits and I’ll be sending my manuscript out to be published. I thought I would share my past and present experiences with you, just in case you’re new to the publishing world, to give you an idea of what to expect and what avenues you have available for you and your completed manuscript.

  1. Submitting Your Manuscript to Traditional Publishers

As a new author, it’s difficult, practically impossible, to send an unsolicited manuscript directly to a traditional publishing house and have them accept it for publishing. Most publishing houses won’t even look at unsolicited manuscripts, and for those who do, you either have to be a celebrity, have a million followers on social media, or have the most unique, amazing book ever written.

What’s an unsolicited manuscript? It’s a manuscript sent to a publishing house that they never requested in the first place. However, if you meet a publisher at a writer’s conference and they ask you to send in your novel, then it no longer counts as “unsolicited.” Or, if you have an agent and they are sending in the manuscript on your behalf, again this is not considered “unsolicited”.

Bottom line…for most new authors to get their foot in the door at a traditional publishing house, an agent is required.

  1. Getting an Agent

A task easier said than done, getting an agent is a little like trying to get a publisher. Most agents don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, so you need to sift through the options to find ones that do. Then you have to find the right agent that fits you and your book, ensuring they represent your genre, you like the way their contract is set up, and that they are willing to take on newbie authors.

Some agents will only represent fiction, some non-fiction, some romance, and some sci-fi, and then some will represent all of the above. You really have to do your homework.

This is the step where I’m currently at. I’m using the Guide to Literary Agents 30th Edition: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting an Agent. There are other books out there, and you can find the one that works for you, but I find this one invaluable in my quest to finding an agent. Combing through the book, I have compiled a list of potential literary agencies that could represent my crazy zombie novel. Each agent usually requests your materials to be submitted in a different way, so going to their website to determine their requirements is a must. Rarely will they want the entire manuscript up front; usually they will request a query letter, perhaps a long or short synopsis, and hopefully some sample chapters to get a taste of your writing style. Formatting is essential (double space your manuscript, use proper font and margin spaces). Follow their guidelines to the letter, and you increase your chances of getting your entire manuscript requested.

Another reason to go directly to an agency’s website is that you might discover that they aren’t currently open to submissions or have any available agents to represent your genre. It can save you a lot of extra work, so be sure to check the websites before you submit.

  1. Self Publishing

Finally, a method of getting your book out there without having to worry about getting an agent or publisher. With the emergence of e-books, and self publishing companies, you can have your book ready for purchase in no time. Bookbaby, iUniverse, and Archway Publishing from Simon & Schuster, are a few of the self publishing companies out there, and the list really does go on and on. I used Tellwell Talent for all four books in my Father of Contention series.

There are many to choose from, and each offers different packages and pricing, so again, you’ll have to do some digging. Find what works for you and your wallet. With print-on-demand, and eBooks, it’s more affordable to self publish than ever before, so this can be a great option for new authors.

So, which publishing method do you choose?

There are pros and cons to consider in each category. Getting an agent is daunting for newbie authors, especially if you don’t have a social platform already in place. Ways to increase your chances of getting an agent’s attention include: 1) having a stellar novel that is complete, free from errors, and ready to be published, 2) start working on your platform by writing a blog, or setting up some accounts on social media and build a following, 3) attend writer’s conferences to meet agents in person so they might request your material or 4) write short stories and enter them into contests since contest wins will prove you are a worthy author.

Working with an agent can save you money but it will not save you time. It may take months or even years to get your book on the shelves ready for public consumption, so keep that in mind.

If you aren’t having any luck getting an agent or traditionally published, or just want to have all the control and profits regarding your novel in your hands, then self publishing might be the direction you choose. From selecting the title of your book, to the cover design, all of the decisions are up to you. If you do need help with editing, cover design, or book formatting, options are available, the only problem is that you have to pay out of pocket. And be prepared to do most, if not all, of your marketing, which can be accomplished through your social media, book signings, and tours.

This information might seem overwhelming…even discouraging…but that’s the opposite of my intention. I want you to get your book published. I want you to put your dreams into motion, like I did. I just want you to head into this with all the facts, and know what options are available.

The biggest point to keep in mind is not to give up. Yes, the ride to getting published is long and scary, filled with highs and lows, but you’ve already put so much of yourself into writing your novel, that it deserves to get published, to get into the hands of readers all over the world. You deserve it! And during the times where you start to doubt, where your frustrations start to get the best of you, just remember this quote and soldier on:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

-Thomas A. Edison (1874-1931)

Take care and keep reading!

💋 Lanie Mores

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