Whether you are interested in traditional publishing, indie publishing, or both, the world of publishing feels like a mysterious alternative dimension to those on the outside. Everyone knows it exists, but not all are well-versed in the details of how we get from point A to point B. A finished book is much like an iceberg. What you see on the shelves is just one piece of the bigger puzzle. And, as often recommended when embarking on any journey, it is best to know before you go.
I am not an expert. I made several mistakes, and I expect that I will make many more as I continue to grow. Through my publishing journey up until this point, there are a few things that I wish I had done right from the start. Hopefully sharing my mistakes will help someone else avoid the same pitfalls – all of which were totally avoidable by the way.
Start by researching the industry. There is lots of information out in the world about the process of publishing, both traditional and independently, you just have to go looking for it. Thanks to social media, you can find authors who are open and honest about the process on their platforms. There are Q&As, interviews, live events, workshops, conferences, seminars, and more, all dedicated to the craft and career. Develop a basic understanding of the process of publishing, the steps that should be taken, the different stakeholders and generic timelines involved. Had I dived deeper before starting out, I would have likely done things differently.
Firstly, I would have set better, more concise goals for myself. When I first decided to publish, I just wanted to complete a book. If I could make a little money on the side, awesome. Which is not such an awesome goal considering just how much time and effort goes into publishing. I was in way over my head. I might have discovered earlier that this was a career path I enjoyed. Perhaps I would have treated it as such right from the start.
Though, honestly, I made this initial goal out of place of insecurity. I didn’t believe I was good enough. I still feel this way sometimes. Every writer does. I could have combated this insecurity had I understood and followed the proper procedure of creating a book.
I skipped corners, oftentimes out of ignorance. I do not believe there is a right way to write a book when it comes to the writing process. Nor is there a certain timeline that you have to adhere too. There are, however, certain steps that you should go through to create a quality book.
Forming relationships with strong beta readers is one. After you’ve done a draft or two after your mom/dad/best friend/book soul mate has read it and given generic feedback, seek out that critical eye. Someone who will be honest and specific with you about what needs to be improved (Thank you to my fairy godmother of writing Katelyn @writing_is_hard) and her Writing is Hard Blog.
Being able to take and apply constructive criticism is a big part of the job. Your book should be properly edited as critically as you can on your own before querying agents and publishers. If you are going to indie publish, then have a professional editor go through it as many times as you can budget.
These are the key mistakes I have made, that I have learned from, and hopefully will help me as I move forward to make new achievements and find new mistakes. I hope this helps anyone considering publishing. Even if you’re not interested in writing, the advice still stands true. Know before you go. Set goals. Believe in yourself. They all feed into each other and can help take you to the next level (and also reduce stress - that is always a good idea).