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Publishing a first novel

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by munchausen, May 19, 2012.

  1. munchausen

    munchausen Senior member

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    So I've been working on a novel. Never tried anything like this before but I think it's pretty decent. It's young adult novel and would be a pretty commercial proposition if it's good enough to be published. I was wondering if anyone here who has published or is in publishing could give me an idea about what I should do. For your first novel, do you wait until you have a finished manuscript before shopping it to an agent, or will an agent look at it with a handful of chapters written? I'm guessing the former but I really don't know. Any other advice from people in the know would be welcome.
     
  2. dwyhajlo

    dwyhajlo Senior member

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    I've never published anything, so all I can offer you are maybe a few really basic suggestions:
    -If you're new to the game, it's probably a good idea to find yourself a good agent who knows what to do. You don't want to send your stuff in unsolicited, only for it to end up in a slush pile (or a trashcan), just because you sent it to the wrong person.
    I'm not totally sure how to get a hold of an agent, but a good starting place might be to get in touch with the English (or whatever) department at the local university/college, or to call or email writers' unions. (Incidentally, English departments and writers' unions are probably full of people with advice about getting published.)
    -If all that fails, try reading some of the articles on places like The Millions about publishing. You could even try soliciting advice from some of the contributors there, as a lot of them are published writers.

    I'm working on a few things myself, so let me know what ends up working for you.
     
  3. grit

    grit Senior member

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    Wait until it's finished and perfect. Before you shop it around, I'd pay your local MFA student for a critique, and if you can afford one, an edit. If it's a halfway decent program, they'll know enough to get the job done.
     
  4. Blackhood

    Blackhood Senior member

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    Not done it but read some sage advice:

    Seems like a sound way to approach it without getting "Precious" about your little baby, which is not something publishers can handle well.
     
  5. Odd I/O

    Odd I/O Senior member

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    Based on what little I know about the publishing industry and really the emphasis is on the little part, publishers seem to only want the 'sure thing' . This means they're mostly interested in books by established writers written in the genre in which they've had previous success in. Or a tell-all book from someone famous or really controversial.

    The majority of book buyers are female so if the subject matter of your book won't appeal to them forget about it.

    There's always self publishing but that would mean you front all the start up costs. I'm sure some small printer would be happy to print out X copies of your book. You can then pack them in your van and hit all the local book fairs or conventions to hawk your book. You may be able to get it listed for purchase on Amazon.com too. If you're a master of social media that would be another avenue to pursue to get your book out there. Selling electronic versions of your book might be cheaper if you decide to self-publish.

    Good luck. And keep us posted on your progress.
     
  6. munchausen

    munchausen Senior member

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    Thanks everyone for your advice. This book is definitely written with an audience in mind. Specifically young female. My 11 year old daughter, who reads all of the popular ya series, was my consultant on the book. One of the two main characters is a 14 year old girl.

    Not going to self publish because while I am enjoying writing it a great deal, my goal here isn't really to become a famous writer. If it isn't going to make me any money, I would be ok with just my daughter and her friends reading it and wouldn't really consider that a waste of time. I realize publishing is probably a long shot, but on the other hand all of these established writers did get their start somewhere.
     
  7. Blackhood

    Blackhood Senior member

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    Go for it man!

    Just remember that many people have to send copies to 100+ publishing houses before anyone even looks at it. Don't be disheartened when in 6 months no one has accepted it, its just part of the game.
     
  8. passingtime

    passingtime Senior member

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    Getting published is a huge amount of work. You have to chase down publishers, continually re-edit, try and find an agent who will return your calls,...

    If you don't want to do this, and really it doesn't sound like you do nor would I, then consider electronic publishing which you can do for yourself and has no real costs.
     
  9. munchausen

    munchausen Senior member

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    I don't really mind the leg work. I just don't want to sink a bunch of my own money into it. Electronic publishing might work though.
     
  10. lefty

    lefty Senior member

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  11. Infrasonic

    Infrasonic Senior member

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  12. Jackie Treehorn

    Jackie Treehorn Senior member

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    Submit to agents before you submit to publishers. Your odds of making it out of the slush pile as an unsolicited submission to a publishing house are infinitessimal. (Same with agencies, tbh, but the odds are only near-infinitessimal).

    As with anything in life, it really, really helps if you know someone. If you don't, consider networking at workshops, conferences, etc. Try submitting some essays and short stories to journals, competitions, and mags. Join, and actively participate in, some online writers' communities that specialize in YA. Fellow scribes are generally a helpful and hopeful lot. There's a lot of value in working together in the trenches.

    A longer, though possibly more succesful path would involve getting a gig at a magazine and putting out solid work for a few years. Maintain a blog and churn out good shit on a daily basis, too.

    Probably 99% of the work of getting a book published takes place after you've written it.

    Finally, and this probably goes without saying, get lots and lots of feedback and critique before you submit anywhere. I mean, serious, tear-down critique. Make sure your work is as good as it possibly can be. Make sure your story is well structured, your characters are interesting, your pacing is tight, and your prose is flawless and unpretentious. Know your target market -- not just a few anecdotal reviews by your daughter and her peers, but actual research.

    If you decide to self publish, make sure you've spent some solid time building up a presence in online communities, the way a startup clothing maker would want to have been firmly embedded in a place like SF before flogging his wares here. Try to be the Ed Morel or Kirby Allison or Mark Cho of an online fiction community or two. Be helpful. Be willing to read and crit a lot of other people's work before expecting others to do the same for you. Then, when the timing is auspicious, consider Kickstarter as both a pre-sales tool and a marketing technique.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2012
  13. hellomynameis

    hellomynameis New Member

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    Once you are confident in your manuscript what you need to do is draft a query letter. Basically a cover letter briefly introducing yourself and the plot of the book. A paragraph or so each. This letter should be in a consistent voice with the narrator of the book (especially for YA). It doesn't need to be IN the voice of the narrator, but you'll want to grab the attention of the reader and give them a reason to actually read the manuscript. Research literary agents within your genre (YA - and if you have a specific type such as Paranormal, Dystopian, Historical Fiction, etc) and send your query letter to each of the agencies. If they like what they read, they'll contact you asking for a copy of your manuscript. If they like that, they'll offer to represent you.
     
  14. Reynard369

    Reynard369 Senior member

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    Munch, have you done any work on finding an agent/publisher since the last post?
     
  15. SD1

    SD1 Senior member

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    Just saw this. Though I write non-fiction, here are some pieces of advice I've accumulated over the years regarding publishing that apply to fiction as well:

    1 - You don't need a full manuscript , but you need at least 3 fully formed and polished chapters (the first three are the 'norm' in fiction). you also need a fleshed out synopsis of the rest of the book.

    2- You should try to find an agent that specializes in the kind of book you do. Look at other authors in the genre and see who represents them.

    3- First move is to send a potential agent a query letter. It is a 1 (sometimes 2) page pitch letter. Make it pop, make it sizzle, sell yourself and the book.

    4- If an agent is interested they'll likely want to see a proposal- query, first three chapters, synopsis of the whole book, and sometimes market research (what other books are out there, how do hey sell)

    5 - Publishing is a slow moving machine. All the cogs in the wheel churn at half time. Don't be surprised if it takes a very long time to hear back.

    6 - An agent should never charge reading fees. Do not ever submit a query to an agent that wants up-front fees.

    7 - Self-publishing print copies is becoming archaic, self-publishing e-books is becoming bigger.

    And in the spirit of SF camaraderie, send me a PM and I will see about getting your query to my agent.
     

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