Thursday, March 25, 2010

Publishing in Five Easy Minutes

After an unscheduled (though happily brief) absence, mes auteurs, PMN is back! Thank you again for your patience and understanding.

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, e-couponing, &c. The larger your presence, the better your odds of selling well.


  1. Great job and good to see you back! I recently acquired and agent and she asked me for a laundry list of things (marketing plan, outline for book two, short one-page descriptions on books three and four, list of similar work w/publisher and editors). I scrambled to get it all done in a week and she's been a whirlwind getting my full MS out.

    I never knew about the similar book angle until she asked and reading it here just confirms it's a stellar idea. Keep up the great work!

  2. Darn, and here I thought five minutes and all prayers would be answered. ;-)

    Thanks for the info!


  3. Glad you're back. Excellent post!

  4. Some very good info. I'd point out that you don't "need" an agent until after you have a deal (although even then, you could just hire a ip lawyer), but I do think the majority of folks are better off having one.

  5. Glad to see back!

    Very helpful. I did not know, the might-not-knows.

    So impressed with the Bullet-O-Vision.

  6. Too bad there's no magic formula to getting from submission to editors to once you have a book deal!!

  7. Welcome back.

    I sent my ms out last week after a request to see it in full and as an exclusive. So, now what the he-ck do I do with my time? Can't edit it. Can't write more submissions. Can't do much except look at my e-mail account and hit refresh every five minutes - when not sleeping and working, of course.

  8. @Elaine: What? Write something else.

  9. I love this post. Very informative. Thanks! Welcome back.

  10. @Elaine - as atsiko said: Write something else.

    The urge to refresh every five minutes does eventually pass, though the background nagging never really goes away.

    The only thing to do is to try to take your mind off it, and for most of us that means writing.

  11. ... any banner ads that might appear on major retailer websites (think Amazon or, e-couponing, &c.

    Uh, huh? Future post topic perhaps? I don't know what e-couponing is. It sounds simple enough and I think I should know, but I don't. Thanks for considering.

  12. Great post!

    Congrats C.J. and thanks for the insight and insider point of view -- get used to it!

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