Although the title of this post might lead you to believe otherwise, it takes more than five minutes to publish a book. (Hopefully it will only take you five minutes to read this post, but since I tend to go on at length, that's rapidly becoming less and less likely.) In brief(er): the logistics of getting a book published (at least, from a writer's perspective) can seem overwhelming, so I thought I'd pen a quick guide to the process.
In the inimitable Bullet-O-Vision™:
· What you know: You'll need an agent, which means after you finish writing and polishing your manuscript (fiction) or your sample pages and proposal (non-fiction), you'll need to write a stellar query letter and query as widely as possible (keeping in mind the sorts of titles the agents you're querying represent).
· What you might not know: Agents often don't read their incoming queries before anyone else; they usually have an assistant who screens out the queries that are awful, describe books that are too long, too short, or aren't in the genre the agent represents, or flat-out don't seem interesting. (This is not true of all agents, but even for those who read all their queries, why risk getting form rejected?) In order to get into that one to five percent of queries that makes it on to the final round, you must write a killer letter. Have a hook. Get to the point. Talk about the book, not yourself. Don't use a creepy subject line in your e-mail. Do format your query properly. Follow any guidelines or instructions you find to the letter.
· What you know: Once you have an agent, he or she will work to secure you a contract with an editor at a publishing house.
· What you might not know: You can be involved in this, too! Now, caveat: absolutely talk to your agent before you do anything, but if you have friends with agents, book deals, &c, or better yet, know a few editors personally, definitely consider reaching out to them. Make a list of editors or houses that have published work you find similar to your own and share it with your agent. Don't be a nuisance, but don't be afraid to pipe up if you think you have information or connections that can help sell your book.
· What you know: Once you've got a deal with a house, it'll be about a year before your book hits the market. You may be expected to do an author tour, book signing, &c.
· What you might not know: In this digital era, authors have more options than ever for selling themselves and their books. Blogging, tweeting, and other e-activities are definitely options, but keep an eye on the big picture, too: ask your agent about e-book rights with the publisher, any banner ads that might appear on major retailer websites (think Amazon or barnesandnoble.com), e-couponing, &c. The larger your presence, the better your odds of selling well.