I’m by no means an expert and what I’m saying here isn’t groundbreaking but I can share insights based on my journey. Every writer finds his or her own way but some of these insights I believe are universally helpful.
2. Be Open to the Unexpected The path to publication can take all sorts of directions. In my case, becoming published meant skipping print publication altogether. All the time I worked on becoming a published author, I imagined that my book would be bound and printed and available at bookstores. But once I realized that e-books are the preeminent format for new authors, I, as an emerging author, embraced them as a springboard to an audience that doesn’t purchase books in the same way they once did. Content-wise, I allowed my agent and publisher to make recommendations on the structure of the book, the flow of the story, and, especially the title. Pieces of Tracy started out with another title. I can’t take the credit for it since my agent coined it, but if I had insisted on my original title, I don’t think it would have been good in the long term. I had to be open and able to accept the unexpected.
3. Keep Re-Writing and Editing The final edits on Tracy were completed about two months ago. That’s right: editing and re-writing are never over. Even now I’m sure I will find things I could have improved or written better. The most I can do is approach the process of re-writing and editing with a critical eye and a fresh perspective. I look at the changes in my manuscript from the time I submitted it to agents to the final edit (we’re talking at least a dozen full revisions) and I know it’s improved about 200%. Chapters, names, dialogue were all changed, polished, adjusted, tweaked. The process can be arduous, but, with the right guidance (thank you again, Melissa, my phenomenal agent), the finished product will reflect the best you have to offer.
4. Invest in Yourself Don’t cut corners! When I took art classes in school, one of my fellow art students asked whether it made sense to purchase a synthetic brush or buy a sable one instead. My art teacher’s answer? “Your art deserves the benefit of the best materials. Don’t diminish it by cutting corners.” I applied this to my process of becoming a published author. If it means buying a new laptop, using the latest apps and software, hiring a proof-reader, paying a professional photographer for headshots, or even buying a domain name that will be recognizable and easy to use, invest in yourself. If you don’t, nobody else will. The result will be professional grade work and a polished look to your brand (yes: that brand is you) that will be appealing to your readers around the world.
5. Make Your Opinions Heard At the end of the day, it’s your name on your book. As you work with your agent, your editor, your publisher, your publicist, make sure you stand up for your ideas. As we developed the cover for Pieces of Tracy, I had to chime in on various elements. Was the font working? The background color? Did the cover image look right? I rolled up my sleeves and made sure I got involved. The same will happen on every step in the process of being published. If an agent is sitting on your manuscript too long, send another e-mail asking about its status. Schedule a call with your agent or editor to go over any concerns. Review your contracts before you sign them and make any changes you feel are necessary. If you want to fight for your title, your character’s name, the reader of your audio book, even the way someone crops your headshot, that’s your prerogative. When the end result is to your liking, you’ll be glad you did.
6. Reward Yourself Writing is hard. You spend hours and hours alone, listening to the voices of characters in your head, researching, pondering, re-writing. You can alienate your friends, your spouse, your family, in the process. But once you’ve scaled the great mountain to the summit of publication, make sure you take a moment to appreciate your hard work. Part of this process for me also involves gratitude. Thank those who’ve helped make your dream a reality but also thank yourself. Treat yourself to a massage, a new shirt, or even just a nice dinner. Now that you’ve made it this far, take a moment to savor your accomplishment.
I wish I could offer a foolproof guide to publication for every aspiring author out there and although I can’t, I can offer the above as advice that I hope will help you along the way.