I got an email from my girl A (she’s my top reviewer and publishes her own book review blog) about a friend of her’s who knew a guy who wanted to know how to get his book published. It’s a question that is three times removed from me, I have no idea how good his book is (not sure that matters, really) or how committed he is to getting published but I responded nonetheless. I’m not a big wig author so getting this question is awesome. I slip on my professor glasses and happily climb up on my soap box and learn him some publishing things.
In the course of writing my email to A to send to this waiting-in-the-wings author I said some things I couldn’t believe I’d really say. As in, “I recommend traditional publishing…” WHAT?! Did I just say THAT?? Yup, I realized as I had to sit back and think about it, a lot of folks don’t like to give up their day job and write books, sure everyone wants to have their book be on the NYT Bestseller but the reality is if you asked the average person who has a novel hidden in their desk drawer if they’d be willing to be broke for years, decades even, to be a devoted writer? They’d say no. Maybe even a fuck no. Most people DO want the notoriety though of having been published through [Enter Big Named Publisher or Any Publisher For That Matter here]. They don’t want to push it along through social media, they don’t want to sell it, market it or distribute it. They don’t want to find an editor, a cover artist or format it in expensive software. They just want it to be accepted by Publisher and well, published. Maybe even work on another one as they while away at a day job that affords them the lifestyle they’re accustom. Bravo!
Then there’s the mildly insane. We self-publish. Sure it’s a vanity press but you know what? What I pump out at the end is 100% mine (and the small army of individuals that I command). No one says, “Hey B! I hate the middle – that’s where John should fuck Jane against a tree because the market we’re selling this to likes it there.” Or, “We’re trying to sell more safe sex so your sex scenes now have to have the man put on a condom.” That one, that last one is true. Romance author’s fictional characters were pressed to put on condoms as a public service. WTF?! That’s a topic for another day.
Either way, writing is hard and getting started is even harder. Here’s the email I sent to A, it’s not life changing advice but at the beginning writers are at a loss for steps one through three. After that things kind of fall into place. The entire process from beginning to end is excruciatingly long for the first novel and it’s best to just see three steps at a time, not the 148 total. Here’s the good bits:
Ah, I’d say the first step is for him to figure out what genre he’s written his book in, then find readers (not authors of the same genre, we make shitty reviewers) who are willing to give him a chance and give him kind and honest feedback. Next step is to apply changes the feedback warranted then find an editor who will give it a rough edit. Only after a rough edit – at least a copy edit – would you want to send it off to publishing houses if he’s going the traditional route (they get a million manuscripts, one typo will round file his entire work). Note, I recommend the traditional route if it’s just publication he’s looking for. Though if he’s planning on making a living and is mildly insane, self-pub’ing is the way to go. All in all he shouldn’t even think about publishing until he’s 1) identified what genre he’s written 2) had avid readers (think: friends or coworkers or blogger) of that genre read it and give feedback 3) had it roughly edited.
I should give a warning to your friend’s friend #2 and 3 will be painful. Even if he’s written the best book in the world. Hearing any feedback for the first time on your first book can be crippling. He’ll be on the right track and will be a great writer if he can get past the sting and objectively apply the feedback to his story. Let him know I wish him luck and the fortitude to see it through to the every end, there’s nothing so intoxicating as seeing your hard work in bound print and your name scrawled across the bottom of the fancy cover.
If there are other waiting-in-the-wing authors out there, you now have my recommendation. Also, remember to believe in yourself. Don’t seek publishing to have someone else validate your writing, first believe in yourself then seek the publication path that best fits you and your writing style. Will it be the blue pill or the red?