A ton of people have reached out with this question, so I thought it makes the perfect premiere post for my new series "You Asked"!
You asked--How can I go about getting published and did you want to self-publish at first?
Before we even get to the publishing aspect, let's talk about what has to happen before you start to consider publishing your book. First, and perhaps obviously, you need to write it! There is no use daydreaming about a bestseller until you have actually finished your novel. Otherwise, the daydreaming might takeover the actual writing--I know a ton of people with half-written books they never got a chance to finish.
Second, you need to read, re-read, polish, edit, and perhaps re-write your book! A lot of writers might suggest you scrap the entire first draft all together, but I believe that depends on your writing style. I personally do a lot of editing and reworking as I go, which can make the writing process longer, but the end result is a much more polished first draft.
Third, give your manuscript to beta-readers, close friends and an editor if you can afford it. This is the most nerve-wracking step, but also the most crucial! Now, I say use an editor if you can afford it because for the Midnight Fire series, I was just starting out and could not afford editorial services. For my new series, I did hire an editor and I believe it made a huge difference in the quality of my book--but that is a decision you should make for yourself!
After all of that, and probably a few more steps I didn't mention, you need to decide if you want to traditionally publish or self-publish.
So, did I want to self-publish at first?
The short answer is sort of. When I finished Ignite, I reached out to a handful of agents but didn't really believe anyone would bite--mostly because paranormal was trending down in the traditional publishing world. But I knew that paranormal was still a strong trend in the self-publishing world. When all I received were rejections from the agents I reached out to, I decided that self-publishing would be the best way to get my book to readers. In the back of my mind, I think I was truly curious about self-publishing and really wanted to try it, but felt like I had to try going through agents first. I only reached out to about 15 people, which is really a non-effort as far as traditional publishing is concerned.
However, this whole story completed changed when I decided to self-publish my next book, The Shadow Soul. I wrote an entire post discussing the pros and cons of traditional and self publishing, and described why I made the more definitive choice to continue self publishing rather than test the traditional waters.
Now onto part two--broken up by how you want to publish!
How do I go about getting traditionally published?
Let's face it, this process is a monster! I only tried it the one time, but I worked in marketing at one of the big publishers in NY for a while so I know a bit about what is involved.
Basically, it boils down to one thing--you need to find an agent and hopefully a good one!
First, put together a list of all the agents you want to reach out to. Find names by looking at your favorite authors, popular books in your genre, and online searches. The Writer's Market is a great purchase too--it is a book which lists all of the major agents and what they are looking to represent. Then, I would break this down into three levels--top agents, mid-level agents, and new agents (everyone has to start somewhere, including agents!).
Next, craft an ingenious query letter! A query is basically a one-page or shorter letter explaining you, your book, and why they should represent it. Make it intriguing and think of the perfect opening line, because agents get about a million of these every day and probably don't spend too much time unless they are interested.
Then, go through your list of agents and personalize the query to each one--not only by using their name, but also making sure you include all of their requests. Some allow electronic, some only accept paper queries. Some want the first chapter, some want the first 500 words, and some will ignore you if you send anything more than just one page.
If an agent responds, great! If not, continue the process. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat!
Even if an agent responds, you are not done! They might read your full manuscript and decide not to sign you afterwards. But if they do want to sign you, the next step is the agent will shop your book around to editors/publishers--it is in their hands mostly! This step is where having a great, experienced agent proves invaluable--but like I said, every agent has to start somewhere. Stephanie Meyer's agent was an unknown before she sold Twilight, and look what happened there!
How do I go about getting self-published?
Here's a topic I could talk about forever, but this post is already ridiculously long, so I'll keep it short and sweet! The amazingness and danger of self-publishing is its ease! So even though it is easier to become self-published, a lot more is on the author's shoulders.
So first, before thinking about publishing, really comb through and edit your book. Without the help of a major publishing house, it is on you to make sure your book is high quality! Then, think about a marketing plan--create a timeline with all of the different techniques you want to test (most of this will be implemented post-pub, but it is still great to have a road map). If you have design experience, you can create your own cover like I do, or hire a cover artist. If you are planning to print paperbacks, create an interior file or hire someone to do so. Create your digitally sound word doc for your eBook file (this Smashwords guide is a great resource--I find it easy to follow and have never had trouble). Try to build a social media profile and get on all the major sites--Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Pinterest.
Now, after alllllll of that, choose your publishing platforms. I personally publish digitally through Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook Press, and Smashwords. KDP is really the only way to get on Amazon, and you need to be on Amazon. Smashwords is great for a bunch of various retailers--and I'm personally very excited about the new pre-order service offered through Apple and Kobo! I recently, for the Complete Midnight Fire Series and for my new series, decided to publish through Nook Press rather than use Smashwords for B&N. Mostly because you can fine tune the posting--write a longer description, add reviews, insert up to five store categories rather than the two Smashwords allows.
For A Dance of Dragons, I am also publishing printed books for the first time! I decided to use CreateSpace because I find KDP easy to use and trust Amazon's systems since they are such a large company. But there are some other services, like Lulu, which you can explore.
Really, all you need to do from here is create a login and follow the dozen or so steps--and voila, you're published! Make sure to really use every previewer allowed to ensure all of your files look the way you want them too--sometimes the digital conversion can make your styles go wonky if you didn't create them the correct way.
The hardest part of self-publishing is what comes after--the marketing! But that will be a different post for a different day!
If you have a "You Asked" question, feel free to email me at KaitlynDavisBooks@gmail.com and insert "You Asked" into the subject line somewhere.
Have a great day!!