We are delighted to welcome Maer Wilson, author of Portals, (Book 2 in The Thulukan Chronicles) whose latest book launches December 14th. Maer shares a little wisdom gained from her experiences in getting published, writing the dreaded query letter and the importance of working with an editor.
So you’ve written a book and your friends all tell you it’s great and you want to get it published. Yay! First off, congratulations for even finishing! That right there is an awesome accomplishment, and you should be very proud of yourself.
Now you should get yourself some objective beta readers. Join a critique group, preferably with experienced writers or at least discerning readers who will be honest with you. Because a common misconception is that if Mom says it’s brilliant then it is. Nope, you want people who will tell you where the problems are. And believe me there will be problems!
I was done with my first book and out querying it to agents. I had a couple friends read it and had worked over a few things. But I got nothing back from agents…zip, zilch, nada. So I went looking for more experienced writers to help with my query letter.
Convinced the problem lay with the query, I went through about thirty versions of it at Absolute Write. Finally, another writer basically said something like “The problem with your query letter is your book. The chances of you, as an unknown writer, getting a book published with a cliffhanger ending are not good.”
Back to the drawing board…or computer…I went. I took out the second half of the book, revised the first half and wrote a brand new second half. My new version could stand alone and tied up major plot lines, while leaving the door open for a series.
I found some beta readers – folks who read the genre, had writing experience and would be brutally honest. I revised and reworked it according to their suggestions.
Back to AW I went and put forth a new query. It took something like 50 additional versions before I finally had a letter I liked. Believe me. Writing the book was far easier than writing that letter!
And after all that, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t even sure I wanted an agent! The more time I spent with other writers the more I discovered about the publishing industry. And going the traditional route takes a lot of time. Even once you have an agent, the agent then has to shop that book to publishers. Once you get picked up by a publisher you go into their queue. You go through a series of edits. It’s an extremely slow process.
Oh sure, there are exceptions, but you can’t count on those. So you need to decide how much time you want to invest. Obviously going the traditional, or trade route, with a Big Five publisher has a lot to be said for it. You can get advances, marketing help, lots of support. But it isn’t all that easy to break into. And even if you do, I have a lot of friends who have agents and contracts and they still work very hard marketing their books. And it seems to me it gets harder every year for authors to break into trade.
I felt a small publisher would be my best bet, so that’s the route I chose to go. I was lucky and got picked up very quickly after sending out new query letters, slanted for publishers rather than agents. The advantage of a small press is that they usually publish a lot faster than a big house will. Some even offer advances and marketing help. Those are the special ones.
Another alternative is to self-publish. That has a very steep learning curve because it’s all on you to get everything done. And I do mean everything.
You need to hire an editor – and yes! Everyone needs a good editor. Self-publishing without getting an experienced editor is a major mistake, in my opinion. Why? Because an author sees what they think they wrote, not necessarily what they actually wrote. And because there are going to be typos, errors, plot holes, and lots of other things that you need that objective eye to find.
You will also need a cover artist, unless you are handy with artistic type stuff. I can’t draw stick people. Working with programs to do even simple graphic tasks takes me forever. Something that a friend can throw together in a few minutes takes me hours.
The next piece of the puzzle for self-publishing is to hire a formatter. Now a lot of people do this part themselves. I just know if I try it, I’ll mess something up. So I hire a professional formatter to get my books ready for publication. That means you have to know where you plan on marketing your book because different places have different requirements.
Marketing is a whole other can of worms that has been the subject of tons of posts, books, etc. So I won’t even get into that here.
Please remember this is just the surface, folks. There’s a lot more involved, but this gives you a little overview for self-publishing.
I’m currently self-publishing some of my work and it’s been such a fabulous learning experience! I’m very fortunate that I have an awesome editor, Jen Ryan at Imagine That Editing, for my self-published work. I also have some great beta readers who catch so many things I miss. Ida Jansson at Amygdala Design has done all four of the covers in my series The Thulukan Chronicles. She “gets” me and what I want and that makes for a great collaboration.
But at the end of the day, you need to decide which route is best for you, or perhaps a combination of them. I know authors who do all three – trade, small press and self-publish, depending on the project.
I’ve only covered writing for novels, but there are a lot of other kinds of writing. And I’m a neophyte still learning my way around. So, as a beginner, I wish much success for those who set out on this wonderful journey. It’s hard work, but it is so worth it.
Thanks so much for having me here. J
To learn more about Maer Wilson and her books visit her website at http://maerwilson.com/ or visit her Amazon Author Page.