10 Things I’ve Learned from Trying to Publish a Book

My goal this month was focused on trying to get the book I wrote officially published.  Here are 10 things I’ve learned along the way….

Longest Process Ever – Publishing a book takes years.  Years, I say.  If you want something overnight then you should definitely self-publish.

It’s Like Applying for a Job, but Worse – You know those amazing seasons of life where you’re applying for a new job and you spend days, weeks, or months of your life polishing your resume only for it to go into the abyss that swallows resumes and no one ever contacts you back except spam emails about sales positions in your hometown where you no longer live?  Trying to publish a book is kind of like that, but you submit a lot more words and no one cares about your community service or how much you saved your company through continuous improvement efforts.

You Need an Agent – Last year, I had an editor at one of the largest publishing houses interested in reading my manuscript.  This came about after I pitched the book at the New York Writers Conference.  I submitted it.  No response.  I submitted it again.  No response.  It’s like a bad break-up where you can’t get your favorite t-shirt and mixed CD back but you keep calling like the psycho they always thought you were.  In the publishing industry, you really need to have an agent.  There’s that super small percentage of aspiring authors that get their big break by somehow coming into magical direct contact with an editor.  These are the people who never intended to write a book and some editor randomly sought them out after their blog was booming or they made some killer recipes on Pinterest and now they’re a famous cookbook author.  They’re likely related to the those 15 1/2 year olds that have no make up on and beach hair and some modeling agent “discovered” them at a gas station and now they are all over Vogue.  I hate those people.  I have always wanted to be those people so bad.  Anyway, you need to get an agent….of which….I do not have – but I spent this month trying to find one.

They Won’t Know if You Don’t Tell ‘Em – One thing I learned last year in NYC was how people really won’t know what your book is about if you don’t tell them.  I think we (“we” meaning the author community….”we” meaning I just called myself an author again and used a trendy word like “community”) hold ourselves back a little because we don’t want to give it all away.  But if you’re pitching your idea to an agent or to an editor directly, you cannot assume people know your entire background, what inspired the book, and what they might love the most about it.

Dedicate Time to Pitching – If you want a publishing house to publish you, then you need an agent to pitch it to them.  If you need an agent, then you’ll need to set aside time dedicated specifically to pitching your book to agents.  This is done by writing a query letter, researching agents who would be interested in your work (agentquery.com) and then sending the letters on their way while you pull out a rabbits foot and do some sort of fancy lucky voo doo.  If you’re a writer, you probably just want to write and not deal with all this stuff…but…it comes with the territory so you might as well dedicate a fair amount of time to it.

Use Beta Readers – If you followed my posts this month, you read about my experience with BookHive Corp.  They provided approximately 9 beta readers who read my book and provided feedback.  And while one specific reader hated it so bad I’m pretty sure she is throwing darts at a photo of my face while she calls me self indulgent, the whole experience was worth it.  The nerves and anxiousness and excitement and all the other fancy words I felt knowing that 8-10 people out in the world had a copy of my book and were reading it was kind of cool.  If you’re writing a book, I would highly recommend using BookHive or any other beta reader company that could give you an I’m-not-related-to-you type of opinion of your work.

Read the Directions – Every agent wants authors to submit their query letter in a different way.  Some want a letter, most don’t want attachments, some want sample chapters, some want specific things stated in the subject, some want you to give them your first born baby and a luxury car.  I would recommend taking a weekend to list out all the agents you want to pitch to, what their guidelines are, and their contact information.  I did this in a spreadsheet so when the time came to finally send my pitch in – I didn’t really have to spend too much time per day submitting after my initial half day session of research.

Don’t Take it Personal – Yeah, right.  But try.  My month was filled with rejection letters and phrases sounding something like “I don’t feel enthusiastic enough about your project…” after I’ve spent a year writing personal stories.  It’s all about what publishing houses feel is marketable and what can make them money at the end of the day.  They can only publish so many books in so many genres, and random outside factors that you’re unaware of may reduce your odds.  If it’s an election year and publishing houses have a chance to publish your book or the next Presidential candidate’s…well….

People Do Actually Get Published – This process can feel like it’s never really going to happen (referring to traditional publishing…I am still considering self publishing).  You send letters and everyone tells you no and then you can easily just walk away because you’re so over reading all the chapters you thought of, wrote, edited, re-wrote, re-edited, made your friends read, and read again.  But people really do get published.  The process (apparently) does happen for some.  I’m not giving up, that’s for sure.  But if you’re in the same boat as me – I mean, people really do get agents and get published.  Right?

There’s Never a Good Time – There’s really never a good time to write a book and spend time trying to get it published.  Apparently, work and life don’t go on hold while you chase your dreams of book tours and possible book-to-movie deals.  Work was still in full swing as were my personal commitments but this blog has taught me to refuse to let that become an excuse.  I can tell you that as I’m typing this I have a long list of to do’s that aren’t related to stalking literary agents, but if you don’t do it now….when will ya?!


I did it