Books are magic, it’s an undeniable fact because held between the pages there are thousands of stories, of worlds and people and adventures to be had. And, they are like magic because when we pick up a book, the story is written, edited, polished to perfect that we don’t see the countless hours that went behind making it. They appear in a bookshop or in the post and you have the finished product.
I remember as a kid, I loved Saturdays as it meant I got to go out with my Grandfather and go to the local bookstore. I never once questioned how the books came to be, I was just grateful that I would be treated to a book that I could read that week.
But how does a book get published? We’ve previously featured how to use crowdfunding to publish your book but what if you want to try traditional publishing methods? How does a book become the books we see on the shelves of bookshops and recommendation pages and featured on beautiful bookstagram accounts?
Within this post, we will be looking into what it takes to get your book published, and vital tips that you should know that might just make the journey a little bit easier for you.
Write the Book You Would Want to Read
It may be tempting to follow trends and what you think is going to get you to become a published writer however, it is important to remember when you are writing your book, write a book you would want to read. Why? Because writing is hard and takes time and passion and if you are writing something just because you will think it’s more likely to get published it’s going to show and writing will probably start to feel like a chore instead.
Even if you don’t think your idea or the book you would want to read in your mind has a chance of getting published, write it down anyway. Stephen King wrote the first three pages of Carrie before he threw them in the bin, but because his wife, Tabitha King, encouraged him to continue it ended up becoming his first published novel.
Write about what you think is interesting, consider ideas that may not seem realistic, and give them a go because you never know what they may evolve into. Published authors C.G Drews has previously written a feature here on Hooked to Books focusing on Creative Writing Tips for beginners which provides great insight for writing, especially if you are interested in getting your book published.
Edit, Edit, and Edit
When writing a book, especially if you are considering submitting it to agencies for representation or directly to a publisher it’s important that you want your manuscript to be as polished as it can be. That’s why after the first draft, even if you take a little time away before coming back to it, you need to go through again and edit.
You can do this by chapter, by printing out your entire manuscript and editing with a pen, or just going through the entirety on your computer. Whatever works best for you but you must edit your work to the best of your ability.
Even after you’ve edited your manuscript and gone over it, some people hire professional editors to have a look but this isn’t compulsory. However, you can invite friends or people you trust to look over your work to because often having a fresh pair of eyes can find out some of the smaller things you may have missed.
Once your manuscript is done and polished to the best it can be, it can be really tempting to just send it out to every agent and agency that you can think of. After all, your manuscript is your baby and if you’re really passionate and excited then it’s easy to fall into the trap of attempting to get everyone to read it.
This is why you should take some time out to research agents and agencies to see who you would want to represent you. Look at authors who you really like or authors whose books may be similar to yours and see who represents them. It’s important to do this research as it will really help when querying but also seeing who you think would be the best match for you and your manuscript.
Another reason why it’s vital to research agents before submitting is that often agents will have specific requirements when submitting to them, or may only open at certain times of the year for submissions or only looking to represent specific genres. Knowing this information saves you time as you know who and who isn’t open to your work, meaning you don’t end up wasting your time and theirs.
Write You Query Letter and Submit
The query letter can easily be considered just as important as the manuscript itself. A query letter acts as an introduction to your potential agent concerning who you are, what your book is about, and why you think it would interest them.
Take time writing your query letters and try and avoid copy and pasting the exact same letter to each agent you enquire with. Having a generic query letter could potentially put off any agent that they might not even end up reading your manuscript because of it.
Instead, and this is where the research comes in, personalize your query to each agent. Some may ask for specific information as well as initial chapters, others may require just a single chapter and single page query letter. Taking the time to focus on this and tune your letter precisely shows how passionate you are about your work and leaves a good impression.
If Your Are Rejected
Now rejection is often a frequent part of most authors writing careers, even the most well-established writers have received knockbacks. Award-winning fantasy writer Samantha Shannon for example, her first novel was completely rejected and still has not been published. That’s okay and something that should be expected.
If you find you are getting rejected then there are two options. If your heart is set on traditional publishing then perhaps writing something else, Stephen King wrote three other novels before Carrie was published.
However, if you aren’t that focused on traditional publishing then you could try self-publishing and publish your book yourself. We’ve written before how to successfully self-publish a kindle e-book as well as how self-published authors get paid guides.
If You Are Offered Representation
However, you may get offered representation or have agents reach out wanting to read the rest of your manuscript. You may only get one offer of representation which makes your job a lot easier and you can hit the ground running and start working with your agent and most likely another set of edits.
But you may get multiple offers which is why it’s just as important not to rush into anything. Most agents will understand and this is an opportunity to get to know them and see who is just as passionate about you and your book as you are.
After all, chances are you’re going to be working with your agent for a long time so it’s best to pick who you feel understands you and what you’re trying to say with your book.
Patience and Writing
After the agent’s edits are done and you’re both completely happy this is when you need a lot of patience as your agent will reach out and submit your manuscript to publishers. During this time maybe brainstorm your next project, focus on a hobby, or even start writing your next manuscript.
However, bear in mind sometimes even if your book is picked up by an agent it might not by a publisher, whether that be it just wasn’t right for them. But you still have your agent and you’ll be able to work on your next manuscript together and that might be the one to be published. Have patience and never give up.
Now for the exciting part, if a publisher wants to publish your work! If they do, they’ll reach out to your agent first who will be able to negotiate a contract on your behalf. After a contract has been negotiated between your agent and your publisher and once you signed then you’re fully on your journey to have your manuscript become a physical book.
However, again it’s likely the editor assigned to your book will want to go over it in detail which means you’re likely to be editing it again for what will feel like the hundredth time. But take it as a good thing as you’re making your novel the best it can be for your future readers.
Remember to take the time and enjoy your journey as you watch your manuscript become a novel and become a published author!
If you’re interested in knowing more about the publishing journey from draft to finish a novel, or are interested in finding out the other pathways that are open to you. Or want to know more about the differences between publishing fiction and non-fiction then check out the Guide to Getting Published course that is run by Jane Friedman.