Steps to Getting a Book Published (Part Two): Cali Style

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Yesterday I wrote a post describing the steps I’ve taken so far to edit my manuscript. If you haven’t read the post already, click here. Ok, if you’ve read that then you’re ready for todays post: Part two of Steps to Getting a Book Published (Cali Style).

Before I start I’m just going to mention that I would like to get my book traditionally published, which means that I want an actual publishing company to buy the rights to my manuscript. This is why I want a literary agent (I’ll explain more about what a literary agent does later in the post). With one of the big publishing companies they will generally help with marketing and cover art ect., but that’s generally only the big publishing companies. There are also much smaller publishing companies and there is also the option to self-publish. At the moment my plan is not to self-publish, so I don’t know exactly what goes into it (not that I’m any sort of expert on traditional publishing, so take everything you read with a grain of salt). Anyway, back to my steps to getting traditionally published.

After editing and polishing your manuscript, the first step towards getting your book published is to:

1. Write a query letter! Or hundreds… depending on how long it takes to pique an agents interest. A query letter is a one page letter that is meant to sell your manuscript. It is supposed to grab an agent’s attention and tell them exactly why they should, why they need, to read your entire manuscript. It also introduces the main characters as well as the main plot points. A good query letter should showcase the author’s writing ability and show agents why the author’s story and characters are unique and exciting. Many agents also ask for the first five to ten pages of your manuscript along with the query letter, which is why it’s essential for those first five to ten pages to be amazing. They have to show the character’s voice and excite the agent enough to keep reading. If the agent is interested then they’ll ask for the next few chapters, or even the entire manuscript. Just because an anent requests the entire manuscript doesn’t mean they will represent you. They may still reject you, but at this point you are at least on their radar and sometimes those agents will be interested in the authors’s next project(s), which is good. But sometimes after an agent reads the entire manuscript they are interested, which leads me to my next step.

2. Find a literary agent! Literary agents are the people that work with authors to get their manuscripts ready for publication and they generally take 15-20 percent of any money earned from the future sales of the book. They read through hundreds of query letters, searching for manuscripts that they would be interested in representing, and when they find one then they offer the author representation. Sometimes more than one agent will offer representation for a manuscript (which is amazing and wonderful. Dream on, Cali) in which case the author will have to decide which agent is best for them. Authors work very closely with their literary agents during the entire manuscript to published book process, which can take over a year, so it’s important that the agent is someone you trust and can get along with.

3. Work with agent to further prepare manuscript. When you’ve found a literary agent and have been offered representation you can celebrate, but only for a second, because having a literary agent doesn’t guarantee that your manuscript will be sold to a publishing company and published and become the next big thing. Nope. First your agent will go over the entire manuscript with you. Some agents actually edit the entire book for the author, requesting extensive revisions as well as minor changes to things like the title or character names, others will have an outside editor look at the manuscript. Once the agent believes the manuscript is completely ready they will get their fancy clothes on and start networking. Ok maybe it’s not always that glamorous, but I like to picture the agents and the acquisition editors from the publication companies all dressed up drinking cocktails in fancy New York restaurants.

4. Literary Agent finds a Publishing company that’s interested. So once all of the glamorous networking and lunches and dinners and cocktails are over and the agent has found a publishing company that’s interested then you can celebrate. Once an author signs with a publishing company then the company owns the rights to the manuscript. This can be scary for some authors and is the reason that many authors choose to self-publish. Also once the author has signed with the publishing company they generally get an advance to secure the book deal. This doesn’t mean the manuscript is all finished and ready to go though. At this point the publishing company will have either an in-house editor or a freelance editor go over the manuscript again and work with the author to complete more revisions. The big publishing companies will also help with marketing and cover design ect.

5. Manuscript becomes a real book. There are a million other steps that happen once an author has gotten a book deal with a publishing company, but I am not as familiar with everything that happens at that point. I don’t think anyone really is until they’ve either worked at a publishing company OR actually had a book published by a big publishing company. I hope that someday I will get the opportunity to go through those steps myself, and if I ever do then I will share those steps with you 🙂

So right now I am writing query letters. I have a list of agents that I am interested in querying, and each query letter should be a little different for every agent. Not every literary agent represents every genre, Some specialize in non-fiction or mystery, so it’s important to find an agent that wants to represent the type of manuscript that you’ve written. Most literary agents have websites that specifically mention what they’re looking for and how to submit to them. I am currently experiencing query itch a wonderful term that I learned from Veronica Roth’s Blog (Veronica Roth wrote Divergent Insurgent and Allegiant and is someone that I admire). If you’re interested in reading her blog post about query itch or pre-query woes (the title of her blog post) click on the link. Basically query itch means that I’m not ready to send query’s yet because I’m still revising. But I really really want to. I’m ready to start querying, even if it means that I’m going to get lots of rejections. Ok, I know I’m not ready. But I really want to be! So I’m just going to keep trying to make my query’s as perfect as possible and keep researching literary agents and when the time comes and my manuscript is completely ready then I will also be ready.

Ok, right now I have a dog staring at me and whining incessantly (see picture below). So I’m going to go. But happy Thursday!

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