Get Your First Book Published in 20 Easy Steps

by K.M. Zahrt

bookI recently had my first book published using the following tried and true formula, and I wanted to pass this advice on to you, aspiring book writers, to help out. The only authors who have used this formula and have not had their books published quit before they completed the process. We can assume it would’ve worked for them too, had they finished. It’s only 20 easy steps.

  1. Write your book.
  2. Send your book to fellow writers, friends, and family members for feedback. Keep in mind, few of them will read it. Even fewer will give you constructive feedback. Don’t worry. It’s only step two.
  3. Be stubborn about the constructive feedback you do get. Set the book aside for at least six months, maybe a year, refusing to make changes.
  4. Come back, sort through the feedback, and make some revisions. Edit thoroughly.
  5. Send your book back to your readers for more feedback. Keep in mind, few of them will re-read it. Fewer will notice the massive changes you made in the re-write. Even fewer will give you more constructive feedback. Don’t worry. It’s only step five.
  6. Begin drafting your query letter. It will take your feedbackers several months to get back to you, so use the time to research current industry standards and practices. You’ll find many experts suggest that you work as hard on your pitch as you did on your book. Why not? So far it’s been easy. You’re only two, maybe three years into the project.
  7. When (if) more feedback comes in, revise as necessary. Take great care to review every sentence for missing words and typos.
  8. Repeat steps five through seven as necessary.
  9. Congratulations! Now you’re ready to submit your book. You’re making progress. See, easy.
  10. Prepare a list of agents to whom you may, for whatever reason, have some outside chance of catching their attention. Are they connected to you or your book in any way? Are you connected on social media? Are they a friend of a friend? Look for the trail.
  11. Start sending out the queries. Be sure to check each agent and agency for their preferences. They are all different. The literary agent secret society requires it to be so.
  12. It will take you a long time — days, weeks, months, maybe eternity — for you to hear back from these queries, so in the meantime, start preparing a list of independent publishers who may not require an agented submission and a list of contests with upcoming deadlines that have cash prizes and publication promises for the winners.
  13. When (not if) the form-letter rejections arrive from literary agents, you’ll know it’s time to submit to your list of independent publishers and contests.
  14. Start getting discouraged. Not depressed. Just discouraged.
  15. Somewhere around 10-20 rejections — it’s different for every project and every writer — it’ll be time to revisit step six, possibly seven and eight. You’ll know when it’s time.
  16. With your new, hopefully improved query letter, you’ll feel re-energized and excited to make more submissions once again. This time prepare a list of agents, independent publishers, and contests that show some relationship to your book, just a hint is all you need. Maybe they used a word you used in your book. Any word.
  17. Repeat steps 11 through 14 as necessary.
  18. Now it’s time to start getting depressed. At this point, abandon the project, perhaps even the prospect of writing at all, for a while. Be sure to leave the time-frame for your desertion open ended. You’re in no position to handle pressure.
  19. When you’re ready to return, repeat steps 15 through 17 as necessary. Decrease your requirements for step 16 each time you circle back, and be sure to sprinkle some step 18s in there too.
  20. Hang in there; you’re almost finished! At this point you’re three, maybe four years into the project, maybe more, and your book is as done as it’s going to get, so don’t quit now. Simply repeat steps 17 through 19 until your book starts to gain some traction — a request for pages, perhaps a full manuscript. Remember: This is a sales game. For every 50 or more queries you send to agents and publishers, you’ll likely have one request for pages. For every 5-10 agents and publishers who request pages, you’ll likely have one read the entire manuscript. And it’ll only take about five people to read the entire manuscript to get an offer. By the numbers, easy.

Congratulations on your published book! Now the real work begins — revisions from your agent/publisher, proofs, and promotions — but all your effort will soon pay off. Getting people to buy your book isn’t that hard in the Internet Age. Unless, of course, the bloggers don’t like it…

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7 thoughts on “Get Your First Book Published in 20 Easy Steps

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