Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Are you and your book ready for publishing?

Many writers want to be published authors but simply aren’t ready.

The reasons are many, but very few newbie writers recognize them. The main reason a writer isn’t ready for publishing is he/she hasn’t put forth the necessary effort to learn the basics that good writing requires – an understanding of grammar and story structure, and the skill to make writing interesting. While just about anyone can string some sentences together to tell a tale, whether it’s something the typical reader will want to spend time reading is another question altogether. Learning and honing these skills takes time and effort – two things in short supply for the impatient newbie writer.

The upsurge of self-publishing in recent years has fueled this impatience, and subsidy or vanity publishers have helped make self-publishing appear to be the grand answer for anyone who thinks he has something worthwhile to say and wants to see it in print.

Self-publishing feeds the desires of newbie writers who rush to see their work in print without first taking the very necessary steps to properly edit and package their books to garner the respect and attention of readers. What can often result is a poorly designed book riddled with laughable errors and saddled with a rudimentary or even embarrassing cover. The opposite can also result – the eager author shells out thousands of dollars to a subsidy publisher, hoping to get a decent cover design and competent editing. Oftentimes those hopes go unrealized, and the book is overpriced out of the normal reader buying market.

So how is the typical newbie writer supposed to figure out when his/her book is ready for publishing? A first step generally taken by most authors serious about attaining publishing status is to get an impartial independent opinion of their book’s publishability. A legitimate and trusted writing critique group can provide valuable insight regarding first-reader reactions to a book. If the writer can’t stand the heat from a writing group, then submission to a publisher or agent is out of the question. So getting one’s feet wet by testing the waters of a local or online writer group is nearly essential. Don’t go by the opinions of friends and family as most of these folks will tell what they think the writer wants to hear rather than what they really think.

Once the author has received sufficient feedback to get a feel for what test readers and fellow authors think of the book – and assuming the feedback is favorable – the submission process to a legitimate publisher or agent is the best trial by fire method for determining whether a book is ready for publishing.

The important thing to remember is that rejection of one’s work from for-profit professionals such as agents and publishers may not be based on the perceived worth or quality of the writing, but more on the projected marketability of the work. And each publisher or agent’s opinion can be based on a variety of factors the author may never be aware of – for instance, another book that is similar is already in the publishing process, or the submission load at that particular time is too high and there’s no one available to properly review the book the writer submits for consideration.

It’s also important for the newbie author to realize that not every writer gets a superior publishing contract with one of the big traditional publishers. Sometimes smaller independent publishers are a better choice. The writer’s most important job after finishing and polishing the work is to research and submit to publishers or agents that seem to be a ‘good fit.’

Self-publishing can seem like a quick, inexpensive, and easy alternative to the work of researching, submitting, waiting, and possibly being rejected by publishers or agents. But make no mistake in believing it is easy – if the book is to have the look and feel of a professionally published book, the author must either hire professionals to do the prepress work, or personally be up to the challenge.

And then there’s the marketing aspect. Self-publishing requires the author to be sales rep and distributor and promotion king all at the same time. While it’s true that most authors, even best-selling authors, must take part in promotion activities, those with name recognition already are way ahead of the game. Stop and think about it a moment. Who will buy your book if no one knows it exists? It will be your job as the author to make readers aware of you and your book. Are you ready for that? If not, then think again about considering yourself ready for publishing.


  1. It took me years to learn the basics. I studied writing in college, took several writing courses, and studied nearly ten years under the watchful eye of a professional writing analyst. I now have more than half a dozen books published, will probably have at least three more published by the end of this year, and I'm still learning. It's a lifetime process. Luckily, I happen to love it. You have to, or your writing suffers.

  2. Daveman, most people who start out writing spend about 10 to 20 years learning the craft before they feel they are ready for publishing. A few never get to that point. But there are a whole lot of folks who don't want to put in any time or effort to learn the basics, because they just get a yen to do something and do it, then expect superior results from it. When the results don't happen that they expect they wonder why. We are trying to explain a few of those whys. Good for you in your publishing endeavors, and good luck for future publishing. Keep writing, keep learning!


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