Sunday, February 12, 2017

WRITING YOUR NOVEL: Part 5- Giving Birth to Your Masterpiece

Seeing your book finally published is the fulfillment of every
author's dream
You've conceived it. Gestated it inside you. You nurtured it with all the care you could muster. Now it is time to birth your novel out into the dangerous world.

Welcome to the final post in my blog series, Writing Your Novel. So far we've covered the value of building a believable world, the necessity of plowing through your first draft, the ruthless slash and burn tactics required of editing, and the hows and whys of platform construction. Now it's time to move on to the best and hardest part: publishing.

I can't lay claim to being an expert on this topic, though I've spent obscene hours researching it, dreaming about it, and strategizing ways to make it happen. The disappointing fact remains: I have never published a novel. I'm afraid self-publishing will damn my hard work to a life of mediocrity at best, and as of yet I haven't had success with the traditional approach. I have, however, had somewhere around 100 short stories, non-fiction essays and poems published in various journals and magazines and have worked as an editor for two literary journals and an internationally syndicated magazine. While quite different than a novel, these experiences shaped my understanding and approach to watching an unpolished idea pushed through to the printed page.

There are two main avenues to get your novel into the real world: traditional (professional) publishing and self-publishing. Each comes with its own unique advantages and disadvantages:

Self Publishing
Advantages- Self-publishing is a seductive option. You could publish tomorrow and spare yourself the tedious process of courting agents and editors. Vast markets will, at least in theory, be able to reach your novel at the click of a button. You maintain control over the entire process and collect a greater share of the revenue. 

Disadvantages- The elephant of marketing rests entirely on your shoulders, and if you are anything like me you are a writer, not a business person, and would prefer to spend your time working on your next book than selling your last one. As an indie publisher, soliciting great reviews from major publications (like the New York Times Book Review) will be nearly impossible. It is immensely difficult to get your book to stand out among the tens of thousands of others now in circulation. The curse of the "Friends and Family 50" (the 50 books bought by your friends and family) is difficult to break.

It is true, some people have success with self-publishing. Andy Weir's The Martian started out as an indie novel, after all, but became so popular that it was eventually optioned by a Big Five publisher (a division of Random House) and given a movie deal. However, this is not reality for the vast majority of self-publishers, most of whom will never sell more than a few hundred.

Self publishing strategy- There are many companies who make publishing your own book a breeze. A little knowledge of formatting and boom, it's on the market stand. But to give your book a truly professional finish, one that can compete with any professional publisher, it would be crazy to do everything all by yourself. In my opinion it is still necessary to hire a professional editor. Here is a great article about the need for professional editing for ALL manuscripts. If you don't feel like reading it, the essential message is this: you may think you can't afford a professional publisher, but if you wan't your book to be a success than you can't afford not to have one.

The rest of your strategy will revolve around platform. Platform, platform, platform. You need thousands of people eager to hear what you have to say, or no matter how good your book is odds are nobody is going to read it. Again, there are heaps of books and articles about platform construction. My message here is simply that no matter how daunting and unpleasant it seems, you have to do it. Welcome to the 2010's, writer.

Traditional Publishing
how to publish your novel
Let's get your book to the printers
Advantages- There is no doubt that traditional publishing offers opportunities that you just can't match on your own. Access to vast resources for marketing, professional editing by industry leaders, advances, signing bonuses, exposure to top-notch critics. Pretty much every book that reaches the bestseller list is traditionally published, so for those of us that dream big this is the only viable option. Remember, once you have self-published many agents and editors won't even consider your book. 

Disadvantages- Finding an agent, not to mention a publisher, can seem as hard as trying to win the Super Bowl. Agents receive countless queries and reject more than 99% of them. Even if you are accepted and you get a good agent who finds a good publisher, your book will be largely out of your hands. It will be tweaked, cut, changed, maybe even maimed from your perspective, and could very well flop on its face nonetheless. Not to mention that your agent will rake in a stiff 15% of whatever profit is left after your publisher takes their share, leaving you with just a few meager scraps of what was once your heart and soul.

Strategy- If traditional publishing is your choice, get ready for rejection. Even a great success story like J.K. Rowling talks about how many times she was rejected before someone took a chance on her. In online forums, I've read tales of writers being rejected more than 100 times before finally securing an agent. And rejection hurts. Each one is a devastating blow to your ego. How many times can you be told you aren't good enough before you just give up and want to quit? Skin like treebark is a must for the brutal gauntlet of traditional publishing.

To get that agent, you need a fantastic query letter and a bombproof first chapter. There are great articles about the art of the query letter, but essentially it needs to be character-driven, original, and busting emotional appeal. And it needs to land in just the right hands at just the right time for it to be successful. This link takes you to a useful website with forums where writers share their successful queries and agents post advice and wishlists for queries they would like to see.

So that's it, the end of my five-part blog series on writing and publishing a novel. Writing a novel is the most foolish, frustrating, terrifying yet exciting and rewarding thing you can do with your artistic energy. You just might pour your soul into it only to find ultimately no reward, no audience and no money. Or you might write the next bestseller that will change the world in some surprising way. I hope to see your name on the the cover of a beautiful book someday soon.

As always thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it, found it useful, or just plain want to hate on me, consider commenting below or signing up for my weekly mailing list. Not only will I love you forever, but I will reciprocate by reading, signing up for and actively commenting on your blog as well. I use this space to generally blather on about everything from the novel writing process to Giant Redwoods, the Fountain of Youth and more.

All posts in this blog series:

find us on facebook

All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions

No comments:

Post a Comment