Now that I have written and published a book and find myself deep into the stage where I am hoping that someone actually buys it, I feel eminently qualified to counsel others on how to do it. Actually, the process of writing and publishing a book is not at all difficult to grasp and, so, I present to you aspiring authors, my tips on how to turn your aspirations into reality.
Step 1: Decide what your book will be about.
You probably already have some idea of what you want to write about, and that’s good. For example, you may want to write a “how to” book on building a solar-powered car or a guide on what to see on a trip to Slovenia. Perhaps you want to write an autobiography, though I would caution that your life may well be too boring to commend this subject. These books would be categorized as “non-fiction” in the publishing world. You could also choose to create your own story, using your experiences and fertile imagination, and bring a new world and new characters to life. Book people refer to this kind of literature as “fiction.” Finally, you could elect to borrow heavily from the works of writers you admire and want to emulate, piecing their words into your book and calling the final product your own. This would be called “plagiarism,” and is not highly regarded in the book writing business. In fact, it is unadvisable in every instance since it will lead to (1) a complete commercial failure of your book and (2) your first published book being your last. It may even lead to a lawsuit and a reputation that would even embarrass a politician.
Step 2: Write the book.
Actually, I recommend several sub-steps here. After you’ve written the book, read it and, once you’ve gotten over the feeling of humiliation at the idea that you thought you had written something good, write the book again. Repeat these steps five or six times and then, if you are an emotional masochist or you have an ego that is impervious to injury, you may want to take the option of:
Step 3: Submit your book to a professional editor.
Okay, so you’ve written your book seven or eight times and you no longer think that its publication will be an embarrassment to you and your entire extended family. Just to be sure, though, you can pay an editor to review your manuscript and critique it. The purposes of this exercise are to (1) identify weaknesses in the book (i.e., problems with plot arc, character development, descriptions, syntax, etc.) and (2) force you to question why you ever wanted to write a book in the first place and to think about joining the Peace Corps. But my recommendation is to take the advice of the editor and re-write the book, incorporating the comments. Then, do another re-write and perhaps one more before you’re ready to go to:
Step 4: Send your submission to potential agents.
Since you completed the very first draft of your contribution to Western literature your ego has been playing rope-a-dope with each reading, each re-write and each red ink mark sponsored by your loving editor being its own body blow. And, if you think that was fun, you’re going to love this step. In order to attract the attention of an agent and convince one to represent you to traditional publishers, you must first write a synopsis of your book and, if it’s not a much better piece of writing than the book itself, you are going to have a problem getting an agent to take you on as a client. As far as how to write a synopsis of your book, see steps 2 and 3 above and Google it. You will also need a writer’s bio, a brief description of you as a writer and why anyone should take any note of what you write. This may be difficult for you if you can think of no reasonable justification for your authorship but, then, you fancy yourself a writer so write something. A Query Letter will be your introduction to the various agents to which you submit your work so Google “how do I write a query letter” to find out how to write a query letter.
Once you’ve prepared to engage with the real world of book publishing, Google (the verb version) “literary agents” and Google (the proper noun version) will present you with sites upon sites identifying agents who all say they can’t wait to hear from you so that they can take your masterpiece and make it available to the world. Each agent has its own rules to be obeyed when it comes to submissions so, read the rules, obey them, and send your stuff to as many agents as you possibly can because, unless you are J.K Rowling, Stephen King, or John LeCarre, you’re most likely to get a “thanks, but no thanks” response, but not before six to eight weeks of nail-biting suspense have passed. After a few months of emotional abuse by people you don’t even know, you decide that the world of traditional publishing will never appreciate your literary genius quite the way you do so you take:
Step 5: Publish the book yourself.
Amazon.com’s Kindle e-book publishing option makes it relatively easy for you to do this. After you’ve hired and paid a book cover design firm that you found on the internet to provide you with the .pdf files for the cover, you simply upload your book to Kindle, following the step-by-step process that even a writer can understand, you hit the “publish” button and, within hours, you are a published author. If you want to make a paperback version available so that you won’t anger your readers when you sign their iPad screens with a Sharpie you bought just to autograph your book, you can use Amazon’s Createspace to have your book available as a print-on-demand version. This means that the book is printed only when it is ordered, relieving you of having to order lots of books and spending lots of money to do it.
So, now you know how to write your book and get it published. Not so bad, was it?
Next: how to get someone to actually read it.