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Publishing for First-Time Authors

Most people have been taught the basics of writing: sentence structure, grammar, spelling, and how to string everything together to form a paragraph, then a page, then a chapter, and so forth. As much as we like to dog on Millennials and our social media generations for believing that they can do anything with 140+ characters, we have to admit that there is some truth to this and to the fact that our age demographics (among others) behave in such a way that we think our words are golden tickets to a better—or at least changed—life. Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty too. Even with this blog post, there is the belief that these words will matter and that someone out there will be changed, inspired, or at least influenced in some way by my words. But does that mean that anyone can write a book? The short answer is yes. Does that mean everyone should? That answer is a bit more nuanced.

Let’s imagine that you’ve written what you believe to be the next Great American Novel. Now what? How does one go about publishing their first masterpiece? This post will give you a few tips, tricks, and resources to help you get your book baby into the right hands and onto the shelves. As anyone familiar with publishing will tell you, publishing itself is a process: it starts with acquiring the book, performing a developmental edit and then several copyedits, designing the cover, formatting the interior design, marketing the book, planning the book launch and related events, and so on. Most of this is handled by the publisher, but any reasonable publisher will keep the author well-involved. The first step—and the most vital—is to get your book acquired by a publisher.

There are a few ways an author can go about getting their manuscript acquired. One option is to self-publish with a program like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Unless you have the right connections and are willing to put a ton of time and money into your own marketing, self-publishing is not a recommended route. Another option would be to submit your book to a hybrid publisher like Acorn Publishing. Acorn Publishing functions like a traditional publisher while giving you the control you find with self-publishing. This route gives you the best of both worlds, however, there are not many hybrid publishers out there, so it might be hard to get picked up by them. Another option is to try traditional publishing. Most publishing houses or presses follow the traditional publishing model, as laid out above. They take care of most of the production and marketing and allow you to help make the decisions.

If you choose to publish your book using any option besides self-publishing, your next challenge is to find the right publisher—one that fits your genre and style of writing, your subject matter, and helps your vision of your book become a reality. Websites like Duotrope, Writer’s Digest, or even Poets & Writers can help point you in the right direction. Duotrope even helps you search by genre, writing medium, and free or paid submissions. You could also try connecting with a literary agent to help connect you with the right publisher. One perk of having an agent is that they can help fine-tune your manuscript and vet potential publishers and offers to ensure that you’re getting the right fit. Agents act as advocates for you and your book, so there are definite benefits to having one on your side throughout the publishing process. Duotrope can also help connect authors with potential agents. Most agents and publishers will require your manuscript, a proposal, or a query letter—if not all three—in order to determine if your book is the right fit for them. It is advised that you take time to look over the submission requirements for any publisher that you would like to submit to in order to ensure that your book meets their requirements. Doing so will save both you and the publisher valuable time in making sure your book gets into the right hands, on the right shelves, and into the hands of the right readers.

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