If you’re a new or hopeful author, even just the word “publishing” can give you anxiety. You have so many publishing questions, you don’t even know where to start: How do you get your book published? What does a literary agent do? What about your contract? And the marketing? How do you make sure you’re writing a book that publishers will want? Oh, and don’t forget to post on Instagram.
It’s no wonder such a small percentage of writers ever actually publish their books. The process can be overwhelming and confusing. So here are a few top publishing questions we get at Find Your Voice, and our advice to you:
Where do I even start?
It’s hard to even count the number of times authors have come to us with stacks of notes, or a hodgepodge of files on their computer, and said, “Okay, I know there’s a book somewhere in here that I want to get published. Where do I start?”
And if this is you, that’s okay! It’s totally normal for writers to just — write. Not all of them focus on organization, at least on the front end. But if you’re hoping to get your book published, you need to start with a strong outline, which can also eventually turn into a book proposal document that you can use to pitch to publishers. Many first-time authors have never even heard of a book proposal document, and many others don’t bother with outlining their content. But doing so will save you hours, days — even months and years — in your process. (We offer our Prepare to Publish content to help authors with this exact process — either in a Self-Study format, or through a one-on-one VIP day with a coach).
Who am I writing to?
You’ve got a strong outline, and you’re making progress on your manuscript. But another question you need to ask yourself before worrying about the publishing process is “WHO are you writing this book for?” Publishers are interested in their markets and what those markets want to read. So they’re going to ask you exactly who will want or need your book. Having a firm idea of your audience will not only help you throughout the publishing process — and give publishers confidence that you’re filling a market need — but it can also help you in your writing process. When you know what type of person you’re writing to, the writing flows so much easier.
Does my platform matter?
We hear this all the time: “I want to publish my book, but I don’t have a big enough platform. Should I focus more on building my social media following before I start to write?”
At Find Your Voice, we believe first and foremost in the power of your writing and your story — social media comes second. The truth is, you can have millions of followers on Instagram or your blog, but if you don’t have a strong book idea, a compelling voice, and a well-outlined manuscript, that platform isn’t going to mean much.
Focus on your writing first — on telling the absolute best story that you can — and THEN you can focus on building your platform.
Should I go the traditional or self-publishing route?
Whatever publishing route you take is totally up to you, and what you want out of the experience. For some, self-publishing is exactly right for them: they don’t have to worry about negotiating a contract or going through editing phases with a publishing house. They don’t have much of a desire for their book to reach a broader audience, and they want complete creative control, from content to cover design. The downside of this route is that you don’t have access to high-level editors (so you’re responsible for any mistakes inside), and you have to deal with the logistics of getting your books printed or shipped yourself.
For others, traditional publishing is the dream. They want to see their books in Barnes & Noble or some of the other huge bookstore chains. They want to sign a contract and have a team of editors and an agent by their side. The upside, of course, is that the reach of your book is potentially far wider with the help of a publishing house. You get access to their creative teams, editors, and marketing help. However, the process to get your proposal picked up by a publisher can be extensive and frustrating, and could potentially go on for months or even years. And even then, if your book is chosen by a publishing house, the success of your book (financially and otherwise) is far from guaranteed.
There are positives and negatives to each form of publishing. But the truth is, only you will know what’s right for you and your book.
Do I need a literary agent?
If you decide to traditionally publish your book, it can feel intimidating to hire an agent. But a literary agent can also be invaluable for you every step of the way. They can connect you with the best editors and publishing houses, they help negotiate your contract, they’re with you through the sales and marketing processes, and they understand everything going on in the market.
When you hire an agent, you get to let them focus on what they do best, so that you can focus on what you do best: write your book.