Looking to publish my first novel. Need guidance and advice

Hello, Old timers! I have a nearly complete manuscript here ready to be published and I want to get my book as ready to publish physically as best as possible.

My fallback plan is to put it on my current store by the end of January, but I was wondering if anyone here had any experience with seeking out an agent or publisher, perhaps self-publishing, or electronic publishing? What should I spend time researching? What would and would not be a good investment? How can I best pitch my own work?


Smashwords and Amazon both support self publishing ebooks. And there’s another site I always forget the name of that will publish ebooks, and they have a physical copy print on demand service as well…

Edit: Of course once I hit enter I remember: Lulu :smiley:

Write, re-write, expect to re-write 100’s of times and just keep plugging away at publishers.
Also, be lucky.
Those publishers that make an effort to give feedback, embrace them cos no matter how harsh their words may be - they took the time to reply as they see something they like.
Have meetings in restaurants or pubs - booze and food help :slight_smile:
Be lucky.
Get friends and family to give your story to people you don’t know to get some none biased feedback - try not to quit when you get it (or the opposite).
Luck, persistence, and try to keep the balance between paying the bills and your visions integrity.

“I scribble lies on the processed corpses of trees and people buy them”.

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As a published author and publisher/owner of a Spec Fiction press, with award-winning books, I can say this: do your due diligence. Research the industry as thoroughly as you can. Talk to writers who are published. Learn about query letters, dos and don’ts in the industry. So often newbies shoot themselves in the foot because they didn’t know what to expect. They think they can write a book and everyone will be fawning over them. That doesn’t happen. It’s time-consuming, hard work and those of us in the industry are here because we love it.

GET YOUR MANUSCRIPT BETA READ. And not by family and friends. If the ms is not yet finished, it is not ready for publication. It needs to be worked, reworked, read by people who know books inside and out. But do NOT get it edited unless you are going to self-publish. If you decide to self-publish, find the best editor you can afford. If you decide to submit, only do so once it is as polished as you can make it, THEN you can look at submitting it to agents and publishers.

Query Tracker is a good site to find agents and publishers. You need to do due diligence there too. If a publisher says they are spec fiction, don’t send them a romance ms. It will make them cranky. Every press has their guidelines, so be sure to read them carefully. if they say send 10 pages in the body of an email, do NOT send an attachment with 3 chapters. Show them respect by following their rules. Address your query letter (authors hate query letters and most are very bad at writing them. My first one went through eighty incarnations). Send a polished query to the person listed on the site for submissions. Dear Sir/Madam annoys us. I’d rather see something addressed to the wrong person than no one at all. There is tons of little crap like that and it can make the difference between being considered or not. Publishers are people, too. I’m not so sure about agents. :stuck_out_tongue:

That’s the short version of my advice. LOL


Thanks much, everyone - I definitely will make sure it’s well-edited and passes muster before something like this gets a price attached to it. I’m frankly a bit afraid of giving things away because so often people end up working for free for good portions of their lives for publicity or exposure that never pays back.

I’m currently on Gumroad, but Smashwords was my next step up once I had enough things of sufficient length. I was also told I could reasonably afford my own ISBN for self printing and publication, so I would seriously consider that if I wanted no middleman.

I’ll check that query letter work out. The site, as well. If there’s anything else, let me know.

There’s millions of things. :slight_smile: Google is your friend and can be invaluable help. Everyone has opinions and ideas of what works, so you need to find what works for you. Feel free to ask if you have specific questions. :slight_smile:

This is a site that has some great advice for media kits. I do the ones for my authors, so I know what they have going out. Most small presses don’t do that.


I figured that I should probably share my links, for anyone interested in reviewing or giving advice. As I set up the work to finish the manuscript and work on December and January content, I have to wonder what I could be missing that could get me set up to do better and start getting a more serious appearance on my budget.

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Do you have your own website? There used to be several free ones, but if you can, I’d recommend getting your domain name reserved at the least. If possible, use your author name - “authorname dot com.” It makes it easier to find you once you have a base. I do not recommend using anything to do with your first book, as it rather limits you and makes it harder to brand your name. For instance, Stephen King doesn’t use his books in the address for his website. He uses his name, as do most of us.

Also start building up your social media platforms to get a base. It is never too early to do so.

And don’t share your book’s content/excerpts/works in progress. It’s very tempting to do so, but if you want a publisher, it limits you. Especially if you use Wattpad and such. My press no longer takes on previously published work - unless a best seller came to us. I would probably eliminate someone who published their book on Wattpad.

I started thinking about a personal site today. I don’t think have the cash for it year round, but I definitely am able to make it myself. I would need some better photos and some art. It’d be a lot of work. I would probably do that before I go to anyone.

When I am on the fence about accepting a book, the things that will tilt me one way or the other are their website and social media. if they have zero presence, the chances of them selling much is going to be a crap shoot and mostly depend on luck.

If you cannot afford a website, then domain names are pretty cheap ($15 ish a year). You can always use a free site and have the domain name locked in for the future.

I had both of my sites for 4 years prior to my first book being published. But I was doing all sorts of things - I interview other authors and folks, and had new content every week.

I’ve done the Presence thing, and that’s basically how I run the DeviantArt. If it’s cheap year round, I probably should reconsider and put something together. My web skills are kinda old, but I can at least make something that functions. I am unsure if that’s something I want to bang out over two to three months when I could be getting more things written.

I’m on my third year of being unemployed, and the pressures of wondering how I’m ever going to support myself when I have two careers in the trashcan are starting to cause more than just normal troubles. I’m trying to make this work with what I have. I’m not good at shilling myself (I’m not good at shilling at all), and while I’m told I’m productive, I’m not a superstar, so I just want to get steady content published online. A book would be a big confidence-booster and show people I’m serious.

One step at a time, I guess. I am getting extra content in the the book and finishing out what I wanted, and then I’ll find someone to smoke test it.

I hate to say it but if you write to make money, it’s very chancy. It takes tons of luck to make money. Not hard work. There’s tons of crap out there making a fortune. There are tons of brilliant books out there few have heard of. It is a complete and total crap shoot, with no rhyme or reason as to why a book takes off. Aside from established best-selling authors who write and automatically have sales.

Write because the voices in your head are demanding you tell their stories. Because to not write is painful. :slight_smile:

Be prepared for years of work with little return. That is what most writers experience. And then if a miracle happens and you take off, you can take the gift and be thankful. LOL

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Seems to have been my life experience at this point. I personally feel I made the best decisions I could for myself professionally and personally with the aim of supporting myself but I don’t think it’s going to happen with this world. It’s beyond frustrating and confusing, and it makes going forward very hard. (At least I can put that into my stories.)

What I think is, if it’s based upon luck more than my own talents, then I’ll just keep trying - that’s all I can do. I’m not in my early 20’s anymore, and I don’t want to act like it except in the fun ways. I try to show the best of myself, and if it’s not good enough for others, that’s not something I can dwell too much on.

Anyways, more content coming. If it’s okay with the guild I might make a separate thread to show my work off and maybe invite comment or discussion.

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Doing a lot of editing and revisions today - hoping adding everything by the end of the month, where I’ll finish that and start drafting query letters.

I did some formatting to see how long it’d be in a proper book format - I got a ballpark of 324 pages. I wrote all that! XD

Aside from the slowly expanding and refined manuscript, I’ve started to work on the draft for a first query letter and bits of pieces of media content. Once I run through the next two weeks of revisions, I’d be 100% on a top-to-bottom set of revisions and additions to my own satisfaction. I’m unsure if I can meet my own 1/31 deadline, but I can’t be sitting on this forever and want any further changes to be the exclusive request of an editor.

Well, January has been rough, but I’m slowly making progress to perfect the manuscript and prepare to start contacting agents. I have a letter prepared, I’m on about 15/22 chapters fully revised, with only some additions here and there to be added. I’ve already added several thousand words, but I don’t wanna jump the gun until I’m personally satisfied. Since the novel’s events tick back to 2020, I hope to get it out this year.

I refuse to let this thing sit around.

Very close, now. A few more days of work and I feel like there’s no more I can add or correct or revise. I’ll leave it to an editor, who has an eye for making it awesome.

So, the goal is a final pass by the 21st, settle it the 22nd, and start looking for agents and firms.

In a proper book format, this thing is past 400 pages.

Hopefully, by the 28th, I’ve have started sending out queries and requests. Going to NYC isn’t a huge deal for me (still expensive), so schmoozing it up isn’t off the table.

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Have you had it beta read by other authors? That will increase chances a lot, rather than expecting an editor to fix the remaining issues. If there are too many, they simply will not look at it. if there are any in the sample pages (other than tiny ones), they will not look at it.

FYI - It is not the editor’s job to make a book awesome. It needs to start that way. It is the editor’s job to make the book the cleanest version it can be. No book is perfect, even after editing, so the cleaner you get it, the better your chances are.

Also we do not use page count. We use word count. You can find that in the lower left hand corner in your Word docs.

No one travels to meet agents, except maybe for a big appearances and such after an author is signed as a lead title (super rare). We do not schmooze. I have met exactly one of my authors. And that was at a book conference in her city.

I strongly suggest you do your due diligence on this industry, so you don’t have expectations and ideas that are not consistent with how things work. Read everything you can on the mechanics of the industry and not just on writing. And join author groups. Preferably ones who have published authors who know how things work and are willing to share honestly. Rather than wannabes who will also not know how things work.

I recently saw a new author make some huge mistakes because they were listening to friends who were clueless, rather than those who actually knew the score. It cost them time, effort, and they lost respect before they were even out of the gate. No one wants that “author behaving badly” tag attached to them. But this person now has to work three times harder to regain their previous good reputation. All because the person had unrealistic expectations and refused to listen to those in the know.

You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make it count. :slight_smile:

Good luck with your queries! :slight_smile:

No, sadly, I don’t know anyone that’s trustworthy and literate enough to help me with that. The only person I’d consider is someone I’ve known a long time and likes to mess with my style. (imagine someone banning all contractions from your book)

I meant “make awesome” in the sense that cutting things can improve the product. For example - the soundtrack to Alien was magnificent, but was largely cut from the film, which infuriated the composer. I was cautioned by friends to allow editors the freedom to hand me back something otherwise mangled for the good of “making it better/more awesome”

I used page count because the people I’m around have no idea what word count means. Sorry. It’s 67,000+ and will probably settle just short of 68,000 by the end of the week.

I’m reminded of Sylvester Stallone’s story to get Rocky produced and filmed. I imagine I’ll have to suffer some of the same.

My minimum expectation is to be thrown out and self-publish it. I’m depressed and self-loathing, but on good days I feel like I did a pretty good job compared to other things and feel the thing is marketable, relevant, has a space as a product and a story. Even through the silence - I know my players and readers like my stuff enough to express interest in it.

At this point, I’m not sure what else to do other than make it as easy job to handle and turn into a product as I can. I’m nearly done and reaching the end of what I can do by myself.

If I’m not good enough, I’m not good enough. I’ll have to be good enough for myself and publish and print it myself if I’m not good enough for anyone.

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Well, I wish you the best. It’s a tough industry these days, but a worthwhile one. :slight_smile: