Rewriting & Publishing

After NaNoWriMo, What Next?

You've jacked, full of adrenaline! You've just pumped out the Great American Novel in one month, because you're a NaNoWriMoNaut. Now what? How do you go from manuscript to book in hand?

If you believe the manuscript is in salable form right now, you can try for an agent or commercial publisher. Typically, before a book goes this route, the author (or in this case, the editor [you]) will thoroughly edit the project, often getting assistance from outside or even professional readers. Then the author will often get feedback on the finished product. This feedback should be from sources other than friends and family.

Once the project is the best it can be based on feedback and edits, then you look for an agent or commercial publisher. Some commercial publishers accept unagented work, some do not. You can find publishers that may be a good match by using Writer's Market, a reference source that is available in most public libraries and can be purchased at many book stores. Usually a publisher will want to see your first 1-3 chapters, a synopsis and a marketing plan. However, refer to the publisher's guidelines. Writer's Market and other sources can help you put together a synopsis, effective cover letter, and possibly a marketing plan. (Publishers will want you to take an active role in making sure the book sells.)

Some choose to get an agent. Agents are very picky about the projects they take on. They must believe the book will sell big. In that respect, they're as picky as publishers. Agents will charge you only for incidental fees (postage, photocopying). They make their money off of selling your work. Standard commission is 15%.

If the project has a very small niche audience or is a pet project that friends and family might enjoy but would have limited appeal beyond that, or if you don't have the patience for the world of commercial publishing, you can always self-publish. Stay away from vanity presses like iUniverse, Xlibris, AuthorHouse. Instead, try a low overhead printer like CreateSpace. You do all the set-up work, but your final book cost for a professional-looking product will be about $3.50 per book, and there's no minimum number to order. If you want larger runs with hard cover, consider InstantPublisher.

Rewriting is Love

Some people love writing but hate rewriting. That's like loving childbirth but hating raising one's children. Rewriting gives you the opportunity to really develop and polish the product. The author can right obvious wrongs, like spelling and punctuation errors, but the real real fun is that it gives the writer a chance to take pedestrian prose and make it distinctive, even beautiful.

Backstory can be added or embellished. Dialogue can be examined in order to be made more authentic. Word choice can be scrutinized.

Nothing is more fulfilling than looking at a piece of writing in its fourth or fifth generation and saying, "That's much better."

This is also the make or break area which determines whether or not a piece is publishable. Skimp on rewriting, and editors will be turned off by common proofing errors or cliche dialogue. Of course, we live in an age when ANYONE can be published, due to the boom in vanity presses. However, simply printing a book does not give one a book worth reading. Even in the commercial press, 93% of published books sell fewer than 100 copies. Writing that EARNS readership requires that extra investment.

Nurture your fondness for rewriting. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the results.


When you're done writing your novel, you're not really done

After a year and a half, I finally finished my eighth re-draft of The Book of Invasions, my adult thriller/mystery novel that sends a 25-year-old physically and psychologically beaten loner, Alby Crowe, on a race across Egypt, Germany, and Ireland to find a terrifying, 5,000-year-old scroll ahead of the members of a cult bent on destroying the world order. The hard part is over, right?

Not so fast. Yes, it took time to write and polish the drafts, to enlist the services of beta readers, to conduct research, and so forth. But now that it's time to market the project, there's more work to be done.

Most agents and editors don't really want to see your whole least not right away. They may want any or all of the following, and preparing these documents can pose different sorts of challenges.

SAMPLE CHAPTERS - This is a relatively easy one. An editor will often tell you whether he wants the first chapter, the first three, or perhaps the first fifty pages. Since these are already written, no problem.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY - This is frequently a paragraph on a separate page, detailing one's writing credentials and telling a bit about one's personal life. When a writer has few significant publication credits, this part of the sales pitch can be challenging. Items that might be mentioned: Published works, writing awards, writing programs or degrees completed, experience teaching writing, influences, hobbies, family details.

SYNOPSIS - This is a bugger: a one- or two-page (at most) summary of the novel. Yet, it can't simply be a step-by-step recitation of what happened. A synopsis often focuses on where the main character is at the beginning of the novel, what circumstances shake the character out of his/her current existence and into action (sometimes called an inciting incident), how the major action plays out, how the book ends and where the main character emerges after it all.

COVER or QUERY LETTER - Sometimes, this is all an agency will ask for. Thus, it must be well-crafted and a superb sales asset. A typical letter will include a brief introduction offering the novel to the specific editor or agent, a brief description of the novel, a description of the author's credentials and platform, and a gracious closing.

AUTHOR'S PLATFORM - More editors and agents expect an author to be an active participant in marketing a finished book, so being able to describe one's platform has become a must. The platform includes anything the author can do to get her word out or sell the book. It might include blogging, social media, touring, book signings, teaching workshops, Twitter, radio shows and interviews, etc. You say you have no platform? Then you have MORE work to do.

 ELEVATOR PITCH - This is a term common to the business work, a so-called opportunity to get the attention of Mr. or Mrs. Big if you were stuck in the elevator for thirty seconds from the ground floor to the executive office suite. If you were facing an editor or agent, what would you say in that time frame in order to generate excitement about your novel? Having a standard 100-200-word grabber of a description gives you an answer. Although you may never find yourself in an actual elevator, you can use it when writing your query, or when you approach agents and publishers an writers' conferences.

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Latest comments

04.02 | 16:41

Glad you've enjoyed the book! My email is on the way!

11.11 | 17:19

I'm currently enjoying "Haunted Mukwonago" and would like to send a few comments to Rod Vick. If you can contact me, I'd appreciate it.

15.05 | 12:54


24.08 | 10:42

I can soooooo relate to this, Rod. It's my writing day, too. I am laughing at my computer screen! You are so kind and patient with your fam & interruptions.

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