Saturday, 7 November 2015

An Amateur's Guide to Publishing

Last month, I mentioned that an agent had asked for my full manuscript. Friends and strangers alike squealed in delight—yes, sounds transmit quite well through email J—and they congratulated me profusely on my accomplishment. It was then that I realized that I have a whole passel full of non-writers who read my blog and that, perhaps, I should take some time to review the process of moving toward publication.

While a request for a full manuscript is terrific, it is but one step on a very long journey in the world of a writer. I did not start out writing with an eye to publication. I began because a story kept percolating and bubbling into my consciousness and I was curious about whether or not I could get it down on paper. Two and a half novels and three novellas later, it seems that I can.

As I refined my writing through beta feedback, multiple edits and endless revisions, it was inevitable that the thought of entering the competitive world of publishing should enter my mind. After all, it's a lot of work to simply tuck away in the proverbial drawer. My betas (for the uninitiated, these are folks who read your manuscript and tell you, either in a broad or narrow sense, what works for them and what doesn't) are strangers and have no vested interest in humouring me. They give constructive feedback and assure me that they like my stories, enjoy my writing. So, between the hours of creation and the stroking of ego, I decided to enter the business side of writing.

In this day and age, there are basically two options: traditional or self-publishing. Now, self-publishing is filled with success stories and certainly has proven to be lucrative for many. As an added bonus, you don't have to jump the often-defeating hoops of traditional publishing. I won't say any more about it because, quite frankly, I haven't explored it in great detail. I am old fashioned enough to want to make an honest go at the traditional route. So, this is what that looks like:

1.       Agonize, fret, gnash your teeth and pull your hair out…that's the writing the novel part.

2.       Build an online presence so, if you are ever published, people can find you. This blog is part of that. You can also find me on Twitter @roserambles1.

3.       Search far and wide and create a list of agents who are interested in your genre, who seem like a good fit (you stalk them on Twitter and their blogs to make this decision) and who are actually open to looking at new authors.

4.       You query the agent(s) of your choice. Now, the query is your talent in a nutshell, disguised as a business letter. In 200 or so words, your letter must grab the agent's attention enough for him/her to want to see what you've got. Keep in mind, in any given week, this letter hits that agent's inbox along with a hundred or so others.

5.       Agonize, fret, gnash your teeth and pull your hair out…waiting to hear back from agent.

6.       Odds are in favour that you get a polite, usually kind, form rejection. You don't know if said agent has even read your query or if an assistant has decided it's a "no go." (A no response means no interest is the worst of these. Did they even receive the query? Are they just behind in reading their emails? Not even being worthy of a standard rejection does make one feel like the lowest of the low.) Now, if you're lucky, you go to #7. If you're really lucky, you jump to #8.

7.       Agent likes your query and requests a partial, which is literally a piece of your manuscript—30 pages, 50 pages; it depends on the agent. You go back and hang out at #5, hoping it won't take too long and that you'll be able to move on to #8.

8.       Agent likes your query and requests full manuscript. You ship that puppy off faster than you can shout "Yahoo!" and then you go directly to #9.

9.       Agonize, fret, gnash your teeth and pull your hair out…waiting to see if you actually have an agent.

10.   This is the best stage of this part of the game or the worst. Either you get a rejection on your manuscript, that baby you slaved over and love oh, so much, or you get a phone call offering representation. If it is the first, you go back to #4 and start all over again. If it's the latter, you pull out that special bottle of champagne you've been keeping just for that moment. (Well, you pull out a bottle of champagne because the first ten you've saved for that moment have already been consumed because you keep stalling at #6, #7 or option one in #10. J)

Then, my dear non-writer friends, you know what happens with your book? Absolutely nothing…yet. This process starts all over again, only this time you have a partner in agony—your agent—and you both get to work through the pain of finding an editor who wants your work. And, do you know what happens when you hook an editor's attention? You got it, they have to present to the acquisition board and it has to pass muster to move into the publishing process…which is a whole other blog. And, I haven't even touched upon the potential rewriting that occurs between agent and acquisition!

The road to publishing is not an easy one to travel. Writing is my happy place and I hate leaving it to make the journey. Self-doubt hides around every corner, discouragement sits waiting at dead-ends. But you, dear readers, with your interest and your curiosity, are part of the fuel that fires the dream. I thank you for dropping by each week, for sending me emails, for making me feel like I am someone worth reading.


  1. Rose, as a fellow forumite I knew that the road to publication is a long and windy one, but I had no idea that it is that long and that windy. Please know that I'm really happy for you that you were asked to send in your full manuscript (is that Raven's Path?) and that I have my fingers crossed for you that you will jump directly to option #2 in point #10 ;) I know you will be successful, and you most definitely are worth reading! I'm off now to celebrate your partial success with some chocolate ice cream and I have my fingers crossed for you that you can open that bottle of champagne for the full and big success real soon.

    1. Nicole,

      As someone who has shared part of the journey with me, you deserve (and I hope you enjoyed) that ice cream. :0) Thank you for the support.

  2. It is a long and agonizing process. One often filled with extreme emotions, black despair to ecstatic joy, but one we cannot replace with the easy road. Here's hoping for good news for each of us in the process.

    1. Spesh,

      Fingers crossed that we become seasoned published writers who can exchange rejection stories and laugh about them. :0)

    2. Well said! From another Forumite on the same, long and twisty journey! Good Luck, Rose!