Publishing a Novel, pt. 1

One of the questions I get asked most since releasing A Package of Moods involves the publishing process. So, that in mind, I figured I’d write a bit about all that. I’m not sure how many parts this series will take, but I also know that I couldn’t accurately portray the process in a single short blog post.  So, that in mind, let’s get to it.

I Wrote the Book First

While it seems a bit obvious, I had to write A Package of Moods before looking into publishing. This involved planning the novel out, writing the first drafts, editing, re-writing, long periods when I ignored the project and then returning to it with fresh eyes. I gave digital copies to friends and family who offered to read. Those who did would talk with me about it, then I went back to the files and edited again. I wouldn’t dare go to an agent or publisher with an incomplete work, but over time as I refined the book I began to hit a wall where I wasn’t sure how else to improve it. Certainly I could have–perhaps should have–found a new group and asked them to beta read for me, but the project was roughly two years old at the time and I wanted to move on to new things at some point…

So I decided to publish.

That day I sent out a few dozen query letters. This, of course, meant that I first needed to learn how to write a query letter. I found a few great resources simply by searching on Google. AgentQuery was particularly useful for that, and I made use of Poets & Writers to find agents, but I drew from multiple sources when going through this stage.

Once the letter was sent to the agents (and the sole publisher I sent to) I took a break from it. The next day I sent off a few more letters, and began to receive responses from a few of the people I emailed. They said a variety of things, but each essentially said “no thanks.” Despite the disappointment of somebody telling you they’re not interested in working with you, I was just happy to hear back and kept at it. Besides, I’m rather sure I didn’t read some of the submission rules correctly, which in retrospect was not a particularly good thing. My advice, re-read the directions. Particularly, when they tell you a page limit, check and see if it’s single or double-spaced.

The Long Wait

Waiting to hear back from all the people you emailed is rather frustrating, honestly. I understand they must receive several submissions each day, but it’s still rather stressful. When Boyle & Dalton responded–the publisher who I mentioned before–they wanted to see the full manuscript. They were the first (and only) to request this, so I happily compiled the whole book into one document and sent it over. Then I waited for two weeks before hearing back.

Trudging Forward

From there the real work began. Contracts, editing, setting up this website and collecting a list of places to contact about the book when it became available. I’ll discuss that, or some of it, in the next part. Until then, if you’re interested in the process or interested in publishing yourself, feel free to check out the resources below. There are obviously more, but these are the few that I can remember using.

  • AgentQuery–Publishing help and database of literary agents. I also posted my in-progress letter to their forum for feedback before emailing the agents, which was a great help.
  • Poets & Writers–Everything from writing prompts and contests to a database of agents.
  • Jane Friedman–A blog aimed at helping writers.

Photo credit: Negative Space

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