My Publishing Process
There may be other ways to publish, but this has worked for me. If it helps you, great.
Of course, first you need a manuscript. Nothing happens until this is complete.
1. I put the MS through ProWritingAid. It helps find repetitive words, weak verbs, grammar, and a ton more. So far, it is the best software that I have tried. I used Grammerly for one year, but much prefer the PRA—watch for the big sale where you can get a lifetime license for about $150 - 200 Canadian. Best way is to do one chapter at a time.
2. I then put it through a free writing to reading software. Listening to someone reading your MS will pick up errors and grammar easily.
3. I then read the MS at least two (2) times. You may print it out or you may create a pdf file and read it from your phone or tablet. By using different fonts and devices, you trick your brain into seeing it differently, so you end up finding errors easily.
4. Beta Readers: Now it the time you need to get it in front of other people (Not Mom or Dad or the lady next door unless she is a famous writer) You need to find someone who knows about writing (preferable in your genre) that will point out ALL the mistakes in your MS. They are not looking at spelling or grammar, but rather at the story. Things they should watch for are:
· Character development
· Plot holes
· Story arc
From the marking and notes that your Beta Readers give you, you can now start the 2nd draft. You should have at least three betas done for each draft. These can be hard to find at first. It is a lot of work, so don’t wear out your people and don’t hesitate to reciprocate. If two or more repeat that something is wrong—pay attention. If only one person points a particular item, consider what they have said, but as a writer, it is your call.
Once all your corrections and rewrites are made, repeat #1-4. To make it less painful, have your beta readers concentrate only on those areas that you have re-written. Or get new beta readers.
The main formatting that I use are:
· Chapter headings are on the 6th line set in the center of the page—press Enter twice—then return the margin to the left side of the page. Note: The first sentence of a chapter should start at the very far left of the page and then each paragraph is indented thereafter. You set this with the ruler tabs at the top of the page, rather than using the Tab Key.
· Scene breaks should have one space—one the next line center three *** and press Enter. The page will go wonky but just hit the back button to clear, then move the curser back to the left and continue. Note: Scene breaks are for changes in either setting or Point of View (POV). So if the story is told through Jane’s POV and you want to have Fred as the lead, you must have a scene break, so the reader understands that someone else is viewing the action. You need to let the reader know whose eyes they are looking through in the first sentence.
· Page Break—after you finish the last line in a chapter, you must insert a page break and begin the formatting rules as mentioned right here.
I don’t care how much work you put into editing; you are going to miss something. The last thing you want to hear from a reader is: “The story was good, but the typos were too distracting.” That person will more than likely never buy another of your books.
This was the main reason Self-publishing got such a bad rap. When it became possible to publish your own work, people dumped all kinds of garbage onto the market that was full of poor grammar, spelling, and typos. Readers do not like to waste their money on crap. Neither do you nor I. So ensure they never do with your books.
Find an editor. Usually, you get what you pay for. The average novel will cost between $1500 to $2000, but there are cheaper and more expensive services out there. What you want is someone who actively tries to better your work and there should be a good back-and-forth partnership.
Types of Editing - https://blog.reedsy.com/types-of-editing/
You need to determine what type of editing your MS requires. At the very least, it should be line edited, but a new writer might need to look at the big picture or structure of their story. There is nothing to be ashamed of. This is a great learning opportunity because we rarely make the same mistake twice. I was lucky enough to have an acquiring editor from a small press tell me that my story held promise, but the structure needed help. The developmental edit helped me fix the structure and my story, HOMEGROWN, was later published and has been enjoyed by many readers.
Moving forward, I will never send my books out without a professional edit. It’s not worth the risk, shame or disappointment of hearing readers complain. For some readers, it might be the only chance you have of finding a repeat fan.
Regardless of which route you choose to publish your story, please remember one key item. Any publisher or agent that asks for money to publish your book is not a real professional. Agents only get paid 15% at when they sell your book to a publisher. Their job is to sell it for the best deal and the most money they can, because they represent you, the author.
The publisher will pay for the cover, editing, distribution and some marketing (this is changing daily). The author puts forth no money. Their worth is in the creative book they have already developed.
If either an agent or a publisher, ask for money—RUN!
There are publishers that the industry calls Vanity Publishers. They will charge you to print your book. Someone who only wants a small run of books usually uses this service, like a family history which is printed and distributed to family members or industrial training manuals. I have known authors who have gone through these types of publishers, and they have paid $10s of thousands of dollars, which will never show a profit. Some to be aware of are: Tellwell Friesen Press Austin Macauley Publishers Tate Publishing Always investigate: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/
The rules for submitting to either agents or publishers are similar. Remember, for most publishers, you require an agent to submit. We sometimes refer them to the gatekeepers. Gaining an agent is not impossible, but it is very difficult. There are smaller publishers that allow submissions without agents. For both, you will need three to four unique documents.
The key thing I will recommend is that you follow all submission requirements to the letter. This is actually a test to ensure you can follow the rules, and each agency or publisher has different requirements, so read carefully.
Always investigate the agent or publisher you plan to submit to. There are fraudulent people out there. http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/
The Query is a business letter, and it is the first contact you will have with an agent and/or a publisher. Most writers dread writing a query letter because it usually makes or breaks you. Do not submit until your MS is perfect. If an agent or publisher requests either more or all your story, you will not have time to clean it up. It needs to be ready to go! Key things you need to show is your genre, word count, title, one to two paragraphs on the plot and what is at risk to your hero if they fail. There are many samples online on how to write one. One of the best sources I have found is:
https://queryshark.blogspot.com/ - Query Shark with Literary Agent, Janet Reid. She is a harsh taskmaster, but she teaches what you need to succeed.
Literary Agencies get hundreds of submissions per week! So, they look for any reason to reject. Spell their name wrong–gone. Spelling in query letter or sample–gone. Take the time and make it perfect.
https://manuscriptacademy.com/ - This is a great resource and allows you to speak with an agent prior to querying. Although you must pay for their time, the information you can learn will serve you throughout your writing career. Some of the services allow you to get feedback on your query letter, but you can also get an agent to look at your first 30 pages, which is critical.
https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/ - This is a list of literary agents and the genres they represent.
https://querytracker.net/ - This is another search engine to find the right agent.
Different agents and publishers ask for the dreaded synopsis, so it is best to have it ready and polished before you begin querying. The best guide to writing this one-page summary of the synopsis can be found here:
Each submission will be different. Some agents ask for as little as the Query and only if the query piques their interest do they ask for samples. But normally it is up to 30—50 pages and you better have it super polished.
You should have a bio ready if asked. Keep it simple. If you have writing qualifications, you can add them, but if not, do not worry. We all have to start somewhere, and the professionals know that.
Finally, you need to start a new book, because if you get a call, the first question they ask will be, “What are you working on now.” It will take you months to hear back from these representatives, or it might be minutes. You need to give them time to get through the hordes of other submissions to find your gem. The average wait time is three (3) months, but I did have one send me a letter of rejection a year and a half later and after I had the book published with a small publisher.
Pitching—There are several pitch fests on Twitter at different times of the year. Pitchfests, such as #PitMad, are great opportunities to fast track your query to either agents and/or publishers. Using only the allowed 280 characters in a tweet, you try to catch the attention of an agent and/or publisher. If they like your pitch with the heart symbol, you go to the top of their submission pile (slush pile). You still need all the items listed above and follow their submission requirements, but you can save months of waiting back for an answer. For more info, check https://jenifferthompson.com/pitmad-the-basics-and-why-its-worth-a-shot/
Live Pitching—This exactly what it sounds like. These opportunities usually happen at literary conferences, but it gets you right in front of an agent or publisher. Of course, you should have your pitched practiced and memorized so you use every second of the session for the best presentation. Research these types of pitches online. They normally cost per pitch, per agent, but are tremendous opportunities. The issue might be to travel and pay to attend the convention, however, these are learning and networking opportunities. https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/7-tips-for-pitching-to-an-agent-or-editor-at-a-conference
This type of publishing has become commonplace, but it started with a bad rap. As mentioned above, they could have avoided it with proper editing. However, in self-publishing, the writer is in charge of everything, and new writers do not know all the steps and mistakes happen. Do you due diligence and ensure your book gets its best for success.
The process can be intimidating, but after moving through the steps and trying different processes, it can be very exciting and rewarding.
Of course, you need to follow all the same steps mentioned above, dealing with readying your MS with all the self-editing, beta reads, rewrites, and professional editing. When your book is at the stage where you might submit to an agent, you will be ready to look at self-publishing.
You will need a cover. You can search for a graphic artist that does book covers in genre or purchase a ready-made cover. What is most important is that you find something that will be an eye-catcher. Although the say goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” we all do just that.
First you should be studying other book from your genre and see what the top sellers look like. Now you have something to compare. Pay attention to colors, title and Author’s name placement. Example-thrillers normally use Red lettering with someone running away from the observer.
The graphic artist will for the price, as the author’s name and title on the cover and spine of the book. They will include the back cover blurb, which you must have ready. They will also add the bar code with the ISBN to the back cover. Usually, the artist will offer a PDF file for printed book covers and a Jpeg file for eBook covers. You need both.
I have bought covers from the website mentioned above, both pre-made that fit my stories and worked with the house artist to create a more custom cover. I have had no issues with either and have enjoyed the process.
There are a ton of services you can use. Amazon owns KDP, which will publish both print and eBooks. Ingram, which is the world’s biggest distributer of books, also does both. Amazon is free while Ingram costs $65 U.S. per book. Both have different distribution markets. Kobo also has a publishing company which I have yet to publish with but have been advised to investigate, as they have another, different distribution market that does not mirror the other two. The choice is entirely yours.
This is my publishing plan—feel free to use some or all of it, if you plan on self-publishing.
I take my completed and polished MS in Word and submit it to Draft 2 Digital or D2D for short - https://draft2digital.com/ If you have formatted your book as suggested above, there is very little more that is required. You enter the word document, the JPEG of your cover. It has you fill out a form with the basics, like your name, the title of the book, if it is part of a series, etc.
Once the MS is submitted, you are able, depending on genre to add small artwork on chapter pages and scene breaks that reflect the genre (ie. Fantasy might be a scroll surrounding the chapter name or number with crossed arrows for scene breaks) This really dresses the interior of the book nicely. You will have to determine your printed book size. Canada normally prints books at 5 X 8 inches, while the U.S. market is normally 6 x 9 inches. On this page, you can view or download a PDF copy. I would suggest that you go through the sample page by page to ensure the formatting is perfect, because once you okay it, it’s done. You can go back as many times to your original word document to change things, so it looks as you want it to in the PDF. At this point, you have what you require to print copies of your book—a PDF of your book contents and the PDF book cover with back and spine.
The next pages allow you to set price and market. I suggest accepting all markets unless you plan to join KDP Select which gives Amazon your book exclusively to their site for a minimum of 90 days. Investigate this before agreeing. There are pros and cons. For price, check out newly released books in the same genre so that yours are neither too high nor too low.
Once published, the eBook will be pushed to the markets that you agreed to. This can take a few days. D2D charges 10% per sale, so there is never any money asked of the author. Amazon takes 45% to list, so when a book sells, you will get what is left of Amazon’s cut and D2D deposited directly into a bank account. For tax purposes, Canadians do not have to fill out U.S. tax forms.
Your eBook is now published.
Because it is free to set up, I publish my print version through Amazon’s KDP. The form is fairly self-explanatory. You will have to upload your PDF content (book) as well as your PDF cover and ensure it fits the proper book size template. Once again, you determine the price. Amazon takes 45% of all sales and will send you the funds after extracting the stocking fee and the printing fee from the sale.
I also publish the print copy through Ingram, and there is a similar setup. Note: If you publish exclusively through Amazon, you cannot publish elsewhere. As mentioned, both organizations have different markets, so I hope that over time, I will make more through both (and in the future the KOBO print) than through Amazon exclusiveness.
But this is your choice.
Audiobooks are one of the biggest growing medias available. As above, there are many ways to get your book converted to audio format. I am using https://www.audible.com/ep/ACX
ACX stands for Audiobook Creation Exchange and is owned by Amazon, as is Audible. (As you might guess, Amazon makes the most money in the Literary world—definitely not the writers.
With ACX, you can have your files produced by one of hundreds of producers (narrators) either by paying an upfront fee—each producer charges differently due to their own demand, or through a royalty sharing process. You can listen to samples before reaching out to those producers from the AXC site. The money is split 60% for AXC and 40% for the author. If you use the royalty sharing process, rather than paying the upfront money to a producer, you split the royalties with the producer, so each earns 20% per sale. It is a convenient way of having your stories in the audio format with no upfront money.
There is a downside though.
1. The contract is for seven (7) years.
2. The way Audible works is that they give away one free book to subscribers each month. If the subscriber choses your book, you do not get paid.
3. If the Subscriber returns the book without listening to it to the end, they get their money back and you do not get paid.
4. Audible can change the price at any time and you only make the 40% on the sale price. You have no say.
I will admit that there is no huge payout for audio books, but it is another additional cash flow. What it does, is gives readers a chance to find you, their next favorite writer. As independent authors, getting your story to new readers is your biggest hurdle.
As mentioned earlier, there are other ways of publishing. There is no right or wrong way, regardless of some of the more snobbish writers out there. This works for me, currently. It may change in the future. I hope this information helps you.