by Elizabeth Conte
You have an idea. “A great story,” you tell your family. “It will make a epic movie,” you brag to your friends. Now what? Many writers are stopped cold in their tracks because they have no idea how to get a book from their head onto the shelves of bookstores. They just don’t know how to begin. There is a process!
If you are like me, the journey of writing and trying to get a traditional publishing contract is endless. I did research as I went along to understand the steps in the process: how to write a novel, how to query, how to get an agent, etc. I never realized that there were so many things to do, hurdles to overcome, or the overwhelming realization that this was not an easy accomplishment. What were the steps in the traditional path to publication? This seemed like a simple question, but no one really tackled it. I needed a roadmap.
Write The Book
First, you have to tell the story. Write, write, and write! Joanna Penn gives a step-by-step process to writing a book in her article, Writing Fiction: 7 Steps To Write Your First Novel.
Second, finish the book! It is said that 97 percent of most writers never finish their book. In Finish Your Novel, Timothy Hallinan offers great advice on getting you there.
Lastly, edit. When edits have been completed, edit again, and again. Then, edit again!
Query & Synopsis
When the novel is done, you will submit your book concept via through a query letter and/or a synopsis. A query is a pitch of your book. A synopsis is a summary of your book that helps literary agents understand what your book is about. You need both. Chuck Sambuchino’s article, Tips for Queriers: The Query, the Synopsis, and the First Page will help you navigate the process. Your end goal is to make a literary agent request more.
When an agent is interested in your query, they will request a partial or full manuscript. You are now a step closer. Read all about it in Writersintraining.com. You will be rejected! Get used to it. But keep putting yourself out there. It will make you stronger.
Do you need an agent? The agent’s job is to work with the writer to improve the manuscript through edits and prepare the manuscript for submission, as well as negotiate a deal once the book is sold. Victoria Strauss breaks it down in her article, Why a Writer Needs a Literary Agent.
An agent’s job is to sell your novel to a publisher. Rachel Stout points out in her Query Mastery course, the submission is only as good as the agent’s ability to write a good query. The agent’s query letter is to target publishers who will be excited to publish your book. To learn more about the submission process read Literary Agent Tells All: 5 Things You Don’t Know About Book Publishing at thewritelife.com.
Editors, from publishing houses, will request to buy the book, which opens up the contract negotiation process. Chip McGregor explains it all in his article, Ask The Agent: What Does An Average First Book Pay?
Following each step isn’t going to guarantee success. Unfortunately, there are more unknowns that come up along the way. But knowing where you are going, and having a clear vision of the process can start the writer on the path of their publication journey.
When I am not writing books, tormented with poetry, or inspiring others with my blog at Writerdeeva.com, you can find some of my work published in Lost Coast Review and PennWriters, and I am a regular editor/contributor to Industry News for Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA).