The Path to Published

After an author writes a novel, reads it, throws it away - they may decide to take it out of the trashcan and rewrite it several more times.  They then read it, rewrite it again, have their friends read it, and edit their work a final time.  From here, they start a new journey that, in some cases, is far longer and more challenging than the actual writing of their book. 

This new journey is one that all authors take to get their book out to readers.  In the ever-changing world of publishing, there are currently three roads to take.

These publishing paths are Traditional, Hybrid, and Self-Published.  Each of the three is considerably different, but all have the same result of putting the manuscript into book format so that readers can enjoy it.

The best way is to publish is by far the Traditional path because this road requires no monetary investment from the author, and they may end up earning some money.  It is as follows:

1.     The author polishes their manuscript to make it the best it can be. (They may also spend their own money for a professional critique or edit.)

2.     The author researches agents that work for literary agencies.  They find an agent that is looking for the genre of book they have written. Here is one of many sites an author can use to research literary agents.

3.     If the agency accepts submissions, the author submits a 1-page query letter and all other materials requested, which could be the first 5-10 pages of their manuscript, an author bio, or 1-page synopsis.  Many times, the agent will not respond to the query because they are too busy to read every query letter they receive.  Or the people that work for them, reading query letters, throw many of the queries into the trash.  Also, many agents suggest that the author only submit a query to them, and to no one else.

4.     If the author is lucky, they will get an email rejection thanking them for their submission, but saying that their book is not what the agency is currently looking for. (Stephen King and many other bestsellers have all gotten rejection letters.  Here are a few of the famous author rejection letters.

5.     If the stars are aligned, the author may get an email or phone call requesting the entire manuscript be sent so that the agent can read it.  (The author sends their manuscript and dances around in the kitchen, with our without clothes, all night long.)  Then nothing happens for six months, and they don't know whether to email or keep waiting.

6.     Finally the author gets the call.  The agent reads their book and loves it, and offers representation.  The author signs a contract and now will pay their new fabulous agent 15% of all net proceeds they receive going forward.

7.     The agent guides the author through one or more rewrites of the manuscript in an effort to make it more marketable to publishers.

8.     Sometimes the agent gives up on selling the book and drops the author at this point.  Or they keep trying to sell the book.  Or suggest the author write a new book to sell. I’ve also read about authors who sold a manuscript to a publisher via their agent only to have the publishing company go bankrupt.

9.     The agent sells the author's book to a Big 5 publisher, and there is more dancing in the kitchen.  Contracts are signed, and the author gets a cash advance, which they shouldn't spend until their book is published and sells enough to pay for their advance.  (Most advances for first books range from $1,500-$5,000.  The author, after having their book published, will receive approximately 8% of net profit.  They have to sell enough copies to net the amount of their advance before that money legally becomes their own.  Fortunately, at this point, many authors are hopefully under contract to sell multiple books, and they can keep the advance.  Here’s an example of possible book sales and earnings for a book:  (Sales equal $10,000 – (15% to their agent) equals $8,500.)  The publisher keeps 92% of the proceeds, although they are also paying for editing, formatting, book covers, and marketing.

10. With new authors, some publishers do a limited run of physical books.  E-books provide the best profit for publishers since there are no printing or bookbinding costs.

The second path is Self-Publishing.  In this case, the author makes all of the decisions for better or worse.  They hire a professional editor, a formatter, a proofreader, and work with a book cover designer.  All of this can be as expensive or as cheap as your budget allows, although the better the book is prepared, the more a chance you will sell a few copies.  There are many companies that sell complete self-publishing packages, but they can be costly.   Once the book is released, the author pays for all marketing.  Many self-published authors sell fewer than 50 copies.  Some sell 500 or more copies but still don't make a profit on their book sales.

The third path is Hybrid.  This is where an author like Hugh Howey, Amanda Hocking, Black Crouch, or Chuck Wendig write and self-publish one or more terrific novels.  They sell hundreds of thousands of copies via Amazon or elsewhere. Ultimately they are so popular that agents and or publishing companies approach them and sign a publishing contract with them.

Thus far, I've taken path number two for my novels. I've also been hired to publish short fiction by two different international companies. I also wrote serial fiction for a NY-based company back in 2018. So for my short fiction, I’m on the Hybrid path.

In addition to writing my 4th novel, FLIGHT, and sharing it here in the newsletter, I'm doing another rewrite of my 3rd book, which I previously submitted to three publishers that take un-agented submissions.

Most of the authors that I know that got agents and sold their books to publishers via their agents quit their day jobs and were writing on a full-time basis. 

Over the past couple of years, there has been a bit more help coming out for authors seeking representation. Under the hashtag #MSWL, which stands for Manuscript Wish List, authors can read what agents currently want to represent. There is even a website here:  manuscript wish list where editors and agents are showcased, and they tell what they want to read and sell to publishers. 

So, now you know a bit more about the Path to Publishing.