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The Road to Publishing Your Book

The 5 Steps to Publication (traditional or self-published)

Once you’ve finished that final draft of your manuscript, you’re probably wondering,


So, let’s break down the next steps you should be taking before setting your book loose in the world:

  1. Analyze your manuscript and get one last round of feedback.

    You should have already done this in the revision stage, but you need to do one final look through your story. Once again, make sure you have a solid:

    • Plot
    • Character arcs with Goals—Motivations—Conflicts
    • Theme
    • Voice/Tone
    • Appropriate main character age for your target audience
    • A book that intentionally meets or intentionally defies the genre’s audience’s expectations

    Then after you’re done looking at your work, you need one more set of eyeballs on it before you either start querying or give this to your freelance editor. You should certainly ask your final reader(s) to look for big picture problems like plot holes, but for all that is holy, please have someone proofread the text too.

  2. Decide how you want to publish.

    This is a long, serious discussion you need to have with yourself. Basically, you need to decide if you are going into business with yourself or if you are going to bring this book out with a partner. The business of publishing is always a business. If you prefer to maintain complete control and have the money to afford all of the upfront business costs (editor, illustrator, graphic designer, possibly the printer), then self-publishing is going to appeal to you. If however you don’t have the money or don’t want to make every single decision, then partnering with a traditional publisher might be preferred. There also is greater social capital and access to some markets with traditional publishing that you may not be able to duplicate on your own. Either publishing route is a valid choice. You will just need to choose which one for your particular manuscript.

  3. Start marketing.

    Gone are the days when publishers will do this for you. Unless you are one of the few frontlist authors your publisher is pushing that season, you will need to be doing almost all of your marketing yourself. This is everything from putting together your own book tour to working with other authors to arrange to speak on panels at trade shows and conferences. That means that even though you haven’t even started sending your manuscript out yet, you have to start working towards that marketing now. You need to be building your social media platforms and creating networks of not just potential fans but also of your peers. You only need to spend 15 minutes a day on this to make a big impact!

  4. Force your story to take its first baby step out into the world.

    For self-publishers, this means hiring a freelance editor to do a developmental edit. You want one that has both line edits and margin comments as well as some sort of detailed analysis, usually in the form of an editorial letter. These people aren’t proofreading at this point. They are looking for all of the big picture things right now, similar to what you did in step one. However, they are bringing a trained eye and years of experience with the exact market you want for your book. Expect their assessment to be different from yours. Also, expect to hire a proofreader once you have your final draft in place.

    And for those going the traditionally published route, you will want to write your query letter and one page summary and polish those first fifteen pages of your manuscript. You need to be researching agents and figuring out who you think will be the best fit for your manuscript. Then determine who should be queried first.

  5. Start Publishing!

    This is when stuff gets fun, when you get covers, and release dates, and all the good stuff!

    With self-publishers, this is where you hire the illustrator/cover designer and your graphic designer to do the interior layout. You write the jacket copy, and blurbs, you start sending review copies to people for reviews. You ramp up the marketing and have the book available for pre-orders.

    For people traditionally publishing, this is after an agent has accepted you as a client and has sold your work to a publisher. At this point, the publisher takes over. While you are working with your editor to produce the best possible version of your book, other teams in the publishing house are creating your cover and starting to talk about your book to the trade. Once a final version of your manuscript is agreed upon, it’s sent to be laid out and review copies begin going out, both to trade reviewers and influencers and book stores. Throughout this process, you’ve been viewing proofs and helping catch any last minute mistakes. Finally, your book has its release, and hopefully, you’ll be able to find it on your local bookstore’s shelves!

Publishing, like writing, is not for the weak. It’s an endurance race, like a marathon, to get those books around every curve and into the hands of your readers. But, it is so worth it. That first person that comes up to you to tell you how much they love your book and how much they want a sequel? Pure magic.

Curious to see where you are on this journey? Take my Publishing Diagnostic here>>