Friday, May 13, 2022

Where Do You Dream of Publishing Your Book? And What It Might Take

Where do you dream of publishing your book? How realistic is that dream? What are you willing to do to get there?

I am fortunate to know writers who are great manifesters. By that, I mean they clearly envision what they want with their writing, and they do absolutely everything to make that happen. It comes down to making themselves available to earn this gift. Which might sound odd to some. They also know that they can only control their side of things, not what actually happens once they release their book to the agent, publishing, or reader world.

That limit doesn't stop them. Not in the least.

They have stamina, these writers. They are educated about the real world in publishing. Which takes quite a long time, for some, and a lot of work. Their stamina keeps them in the game longer than others. If their dream doesn't come about right away, or even in several years, if they receive many rejections, they still recover and go on to try again.

From all this, I've seen it's not usually talent or great idea or writing skill or who you know that makes publication a success. Or even more important, a satisfying experience.

If we take just one aspect of this creative stamina, it's realizing you are a beginner and you need to learn stuff to play the game well. So you don't believe you can shortcut your education about what's out there, where your book fits in, what's possible and what's not.

How you gain such experience (I get this question all the time, phrased in many different ways)? You read. You might subscribe to industry publications like Publishers Weekly or an online forum to keep current with what's hot and what's not. Like any business, publishers try to run on profit. Or you might check out agents' via their blogs or Twitter feeds or Manuscript Wish List. You take classes on publishing or read books about it. You might make doubly sure that your work is ready by collaborating with a professional editor and getting feedback outside your circle of friends or writers group.

Most important: You give it time.

That's one thing new writers may not automatically understand: that learning about publishing and how your book might best succeed takes time.

But you already know this, right? You're patient. You don't send out submissions before they are really ready. And maybe when you've done absolutely everything you can, you don't give up, not even then. You try other avenues.

Today there are a lot more options for writers who are ready to learn about the publishing world.

Jane Friedman's chart of publishing paths (if the link doesn't work, google her name and "publishing paths") tells you the range of options. As a friend once said, We all want the big houses, the three-book contract, and the juicy advance, but this is rare. Not impossible, but not all that likely if this is your first book. Better to start lower on the ladder and work your way up.

I've worked with small presses and enjoyed the process--it's not big exposure, you do a lot of the work as a writer, but often you get an excellent editor who personalizes the experience. I've also worked with indie publishers, who are essentially a DIY option. Again, you do a lot of promotion. It's not a bad thing. Instead of the publisher fronting the money to produce your book, you do that. You get much more control over how it looks and that can be exactly what a writer wants.

Jane's chart is an objective look at the options, without saying one is better than another. Read it this week to get more education about what's available now to writers, if you haven't already.

A former student wrote me this week asking about next steps. She's finished her memoir and has queried agents for a while but the response has been much less than she'd like. When do you stop one avenue and try another, she wonders. Should she keep going or head towards one of the other options, such as indie publishers?

I would do both. Average number of agents to query before a positive response these days is about 40. And about a year's time I tested this out myself and found it true. If an agent is what she wants, meaning she has chosen the path of agented manuscripts to larger publishers, then it depends if she's closed in on that magic number of 40. If she's way shy of it, she could use her stamina to keep going. Not easy, but that's one option.

If the thought of this just makes her tired, then it's time to examine why she aimed for an agent in the first place. And is that need still there. If it's changed, as often it can, maybe it's time to shift to a different avenue on the chart.

Whenever I'm considering this, I research. I ask around--as she did when she emailed me--and hear reviews of different indie publishers. There are a lot out there. I've personally gotten great reports from past students for Epigraph and Wise Ink. So that might be a place she could start.

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