Writing and Selling Your Novel: Tips and Misconceptions

These days, I like to think I understand the publishing world pretty well. Of course, this hasn’t always been the case. Years ago, when my husband first suggested I use my writing skills to pen a novel, I knew so little about the process that I dismissed the idea as ridiculous. I reconsidered, obviously, but for a while, I maintained some pretty far-fetched fantasies about the publishing process. It took some time, a lot of research, and big helping of hands-on experience for me to learn everything I needed.

We all have to start somewhere, but the abundance of confusion and misconceptions out there doesn't make it easy for new writers. If you’re embarking on your own publishing journey, here are a few things you need to know.

1. You have to write the entire novel before you submit it to agents or editors. Seriously. The entire thing. You have to edit it, too. Yes, established authors can sometimes sell books based on a synopsis, but you’re not an established author yet. You have no track record. So write the book first. Then worry about publishing it.

2. Your first book might not sell. A lot of first books don’t. Mine didn’t. (That’s a good thing, too.) But please, don’t think of all that work you put it writing it as wasted. You learned so much, and you second book will be better because of it.

3. Your second book might not sell, either. Or your third. Or your fourth. And so on. If becoming a published author is your dream, you’ll stick with it.

4. You can get a book deal without any connections. I constantly hear people say this isn’t true, but I know from my own experience as well as the experiences of countless other authors that it is. You don’t need to know anyone. You just need to write a great book and a stellar query. Okay, maybe “just” isn’t the right word.

5. A bad agent is worse than no agent. Once you have an agent, your book is in that person’s hands, so those hands need to be amazing. Don’t settle for an agent who doesn’t know publishing. Look for someone with a good sales track or a new agent at a successful agency. And do NOT pay your agent upfront fees. Legit agents earn commissions when they sell your work.

6. Likewise, a bad publisher is worse than no publisher. You don’t have to hold out for a deal from one of the big five publishers, but you do need to hold out for a good publisher. If you’re considering a small publisher, make sure it produces professionally edited books with beautiful covers that can be found in bookstores. Books published by ebook-only publishers won't be in brick-and mortar-stores, obviously, but make sure the marketing and sales are good. Beware of publishers that ask you to cover the costs yourself.  

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