I have stolen this picture of Tia the Majestic for your enjoyment. It seemed appropriate, considering she was hard at work seeking attention and interrupting the female’s ability to write books.
This post is meant for authors, but readers are more than welcome to follow along. (Readers, scroll to the bottom for an announcement, if you please! Otherwise, you’ll find out in another post at another time. Eventually.)
For experienced authors, this is really basic. You probably don’t need most of this information. If you’re new and are considering either traditional or self-publishing, you may want to read this. This is a really quick and dirty introduction to the general process of publishing a book. There is a lot more to it than this. This does not cover release strategies, advertising strategies, or anything of that nature. If anything, this is a light foundation on what’s involved from writing a book to uploading it to a vendor for sale.
As the female has found herself answering these questions numerous times lately, she asked us to help! So, we’re helping. Here we go.
What is an author? What is a writer?
If you write, you’re a writer. Period. If you write, you’re probably an author, too. It doesn’t matter what you label yourself. We of the Furred & Frond Management don’t believe you should be worried about whether to call yourself a writer or an author.
Worry about writing.
Traditional vs Self-Publishing: What’s the Deal?
Definition: Traditional Publication: This is when a book is published with a publisher, who is responsible for editing, marketing, providing the cover art, and all other expenses for your book. They pay you a royalty for each sale of the book, and they take a cut of the royalties as their profit. Many traditional publishers will offer an advance, which is an amount of money you’re paid as part of the traditional publisher agreeing to publish your book. You must earn back your advance through royalties, and you will not be paid any additional royalties unless your advance ‘earns out.’ Many traditional authors hire an agent to help them with contract negotiations, and they pay their agent a percentage of their earnings in exchange for their expertise. Agented authors typically make more and have better opportunities. (And some of the better traditional publishing houses will not accept manuscripts from unagented authors.)
Definition: Self-Publishing: The author decides to publish their book on their own, and they are responsible for paying all of their expenses.
Which should you choose? Good question. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. The female is a self-publishing author, although she is traditionally published in audiobook with Tantor for the first three Royal States stories. The female has also been traditionally published in short story format in one semi-pro market, which is now since defunct.
The female would consider traditional publication if she was solicited by the publisher or a legitimate agent, but she is generally happy doing her own thing.
At the end of the day, you need to pick what works best for you. Traditional publication typically takes eighteen months for a book to reach the market, which requires patience on the author’s part. (Someone like the female, who is constantly tossing numerous projects up in the air, will probably not work well in the constraints of traditional publication.)
Writing the Book
Before you can publish a book, you must write the book. Your first book will probably be crap, and it should be treated as a learning experience.
The female wrote about a million words before she started writing words she could be proud of. She is a firm believer in the phrase of “It takes a million bad words to write a good one.”
With a caveat, of course. You have to actively be trying to improve your writing while writing those million words. If you’re just willy nilly flinging words at the screen, you’re not going to get better at writing the words. You will still be flinging them willy nilly at the screen, even a million words later.
So, always try to improve your writing.
Learn your Craft.
Definition: Craft. Craft is the art of stringing words together to create a book. Craft includes every element of writing, from grammar to characterization to plot. When someone starts talking about craft, they really mean “everything to do with writing.”
Writing is complicated, and new hopeful authors out there? You have a lot to learn.
But how do you learn your craft? Read other books. Study books. When established authors (who are good at their job) give you advice, maybe listen to it.
How is a book published?
I can hear the female screaming into a pillow that I even typed that question. Apparently, she gets asked this often. Come on, female. You are seriously being sad today. Stop screaming into the pillow, calm yourself, and go have a cuppa tea. There you go, good female.
Anyway, it’s a process. Generally speaking, if you do these things in roughly this order, you will be able to publish a book. (Probably badly. Seriously, this is an overview, not a user’s manual for writing a book successfully.)
Write the book.
You can’t edit what you haven’t written.
Edit the book.
Send it to beta readers, hire professional editors, hire professional proofreaders. There are a lot of good books out there, so you really don’t want to be that person who releases a book that has obviously never seen an editor. (There is no such thing as a perfect book. Don’t sweat a few typos. Fix them as you find them and move on with your life.)
Now, editors. Here’s a brief definition list of the types of editors and why you should hire them:
Developmental Editors: these people go over the structure of your book from top to bottom and help you strengthen it. There are various types of developmental editors, but if you are inexperienced, you should hire one of these people. They’re expensive, but they’re worth their weight in gold and then some. Developmental editors can be seen fixing characters, story structure, identifying plot holes or canyons, and spanking plot bunnies and putting them in their place.
Content Editors: These people also help with characters, structure, and so on–but their job more involves making sure your sentences are properly structured, everything makes sense, and you’re still writing a good story. The content editor is a really important one. Content editors may also be line editors, who do… the same thing except they’re more focused on making sure your grammar/sentence flow is the best it can be.
Proofing Editors: they make sure you’re not spelling the like teh, your commas have not run away with your ellipses, and that you have no actual errors in the book before publication.
Betas: These are either paid or unpaid people who help do any of the tasks listed above or are there to just give you general feedback on the story, such as if they liked it, what they thought could be better, and so on.
On Preparing Your Book for Publication.
Generally, you need the following to publish a book:
- Your edited book, formatted for publication. Your book should have a Title. Like, that’s kinda needed. Series name if applicable, too. (Please have your book edited. Please.) (Formatting is the process of converting a book to a format type suitable for upload to vendors. Formats include PDF, .mobi, and .epub. There are other types, too, but typically, vendors will convert any documents that aren’t mobi or epub to a mobi or epub for distribution.)
- Cover art. (Please hire a professional. Your cover is your first line of offense for hooking up with readers. Unless you’re super famous, then people don’t care what your cover looks like.)
- A description (a short summary of what the book is about, without heavy spoilers.)
Wise people look into having a marketing plan, but this is the bare minimum you need to bring a book to the market.
Vendors are where your book is published. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, and Google Play are examples of current book vendors. Some people call these marketplaces.
Distribution is the process of getting a book from an author into the hands of a reader. Vendors may be called distributors. (Yeah, that’s complicated. I know.)
To publish your book, you upload the formatted version to the vendors you wish to have sell your book. Amazon is the current largest legitimate marketplace for online book sales. Fill in the appropriate boxes. Most vendors do not require you to bring your own ISBN. (IngramSpark, for paperback, is an exception to this rule.) All vendors ask for similar things, from keywords (terms customers use to find your books) to the book description, author name, and relevant information about your book. Your book title and author name should match what is on the cover, or the vendors may reject it during their quality checks.
That covers the basics. Now, there are a few additional things I wish to go over with you, humans.
Your debut probably isn’t going to sell a lot of books. There have been plenty of studies showing that most books will not sell more than 250-500 books in their entire lifetime. It is a slow, long crawl from nothing to success, and there are no guarantees you will be successful.
The female is still very puzzled about how she got to where she is. Her dream was to make minimum wage after taxes and expenses. (To keep from entering out-of-house job hell. She gets very ill and depressed working out of the house because of her particular brand of issues. So, she worked very hard to avoid that. She still works very hard to avoid that.)
You will need to decide for yourself what your goals are, but it is important you temper your expectations. The female is successful now…
… she didn’t start that way, and she still works exceptionally hard to try to maintain her success, such that it is.
So, some other things that exist in the writing world:
Reviews: Authors want them. Authors need them. Authors hate them. Reviews hurt, especially when ones where the reader absolutely hated your book and wishes it would burn in a dumpster fire.
Sorry, humans. Reviews happen, and you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. They’re for other reviewers, not for you. (But there are times where people will be assholes, and well, those times suck.)
Readers, we love you. Please review us, especially if you loved our book. Because sometimes, the nasty unhappy voices are loudest of all, because it’s so easy to walk away from a book you loved without leaving a review. It need not be long, just be honest about it. And kind. Always be kind.
Please. Kindness makes the world go round.
Advertising: This is where you do stuff to draw readers’ attention to your book. Advertising is the devil. But, if the female had to do anything over again, she would have waited until book 15 to 20 or so before doing any advertising at all, because so much of her advertising efforts before then were a huge waste of time, effort, and money.
Also, try hard for a bookbub Featured Deal. They are the most cost effective form of advertising the female has used to date. Your cover art, description, and book will need to be its absolute best to have a hope of being featured, but it will get you in front of a lot of readers. (The female is of the opinion it’s very, very much worth the price tag. Save up to do one of these and keep improving your books until you get that prized acceptance letter!)
The female also uses facebook ads, but those can get very expensive very quickly.
Hmm. Last but not least, hang in there, humans who wishes to write books. It’s hard, but you can do it.
Announcement, as promised: I, Zazzle the Beguiling Tyrant, will be posing as a cover model for some of the female’s upcoming books. Also, because I’m a generous being, I will be writing a book for writers with some help from my sister, Princess the Understudy. No ETAs on when these will happen, as the female has a great deal of work to do on both projects, but I’m so excited I had to tell you now.