Back to another writing post this week. Updates on the rest of my projects – my skin looks pretty good, though I wouldn’t say my life had changed just yet. And my flat is slowly but surely getting decluttered. I think I’ve gone a bit mad with it as I just took my curtains down and put them in the washing machine….
Today I want to talk about getting ready to be published. Because some of you are going to sell your books this year. I promise it. It may seem like an impossible dream, but I’ve seen so many friends and acquaintances get book deals in the four years I’ve been writing professionally. It COULD be YOU. As they say. But don’t let it catch you unawares, as it does so many writers. Don’t be that person who’s all ‘umm….do I really want to be published after all?’ If you want it, grab it when it comes. Here’s how to be ready.
-Do you have a website, Twitter presence, and/or are you findable online? Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. If someone has heard your name or seen your submission or competition entry, they want to find you easily and fast. A simple website and/or being on Twitter costs nothing and makes you look 100000 times more professional.
-Do you know how to format a novel correctly? This really isn’t hard. Pick up any published novel. Copy it. If there’s something you’re not sure of, ask (you can ask me if you like!)
-You are submitting to things, yes? If no one can see your work you won’t get published. I know it can be terrifying to finally start sending it out, but once you’ve done it two or three times it’ll be a breeze. The more seeds you scatter out there, the more chance of one germinating. Enter competitions. Submit to agents. Go to events. Every single one will help you learn about deadlines, formatting, and the industry.
-Do you know what you’re writing next? Yes, you need to know this now. Publishers and agents want to take you on as a going concern, not just a one-book wonder. It doesn’t need to be detailed, but have an idea what your second book is, and ideally where your career will go after that. Book three. Book four. They come around FAST (she says, staring down the barrel of book 10….)
-Are you ready to take serious feedback? Cue Eye of the Tiger montage… Once an editor buys your book – and maybe before this, when an agent signs you up – they will ask for changes. Maybe massive sweeping changes, from the title to the characters to the structure. Can you cope with this? Ask yourself.
-Do you have time to do the work? It might be a lot more than you’ve ever had to do, and likely in a very short space of time (six weeks for edits is usual for me though you might get more time from an agent pre-submission). If you took five years to write that first novel, have a serious think how you will manage edits and also book two.
-Do you understand how you’re and when you’re likely to get paid, how much money it might be, and what you need to do with taxes and so on? This is fairly complicated so I won’t go into it now (plus tax, gah, it makes me want to barricade myself into a book fort and never come out). But you might get a nice chunk of money once the contract is signed, which could be within a few weeks. Or it might take months. Or years, if you don’t sell the book right away. Publishing is a bit unpredictable like that. But bottom line is, it’s not unreasonable to think you might make a fair chunk of money fairly soon (note the word ‘might’).
-Are you prepared to fail? Every time a book goes out on submission – even with a big-name agent behind it – it might not sell. This is a reality. There’s also a chance you won’t get an agent for this particular book. Question is, do you have a plan B? Another idea you’ll carry on with if this book doesn’t work? A strategy for staying confident and hopeful? Tissues? Booze? Cake? People who cling to the same idea, or can’t accept when a book isn’t working, are generally ones who don’t get published.
-Have you wrestled down those demons? It’s not uncommon to have a negative reaction when you get an agent or sell a book. You should be delighted, but sometimes you just feel drained by the length of the process, or scared that you won’t be able to deliver, or anxious that real live people have to see your work now, and maybe they won’t like it. This is all normal, but do your best not to let it hold you back. No one else has to know you feel like this.
GOOD LUCK! And do tell me if you have something that’s ready to go out, or need any questions answering. Fire away.