The 3 Things You Must Have To Publish Your Novel
When I first started writing, the publishing world seemed vast and mysterious and uncrackable. How in the world was an ordinary guy supposed to break in to this world. That was back in the 1980s. Since that time, I’ve published six novels and several nonfiction books, won about a dozen awards and honors, rubbed elbows with hundreds of writers, editors, and agents, and taught at many writing conferences across the country.
You know what? The publishing world still seems vast and mysterious. But I’ve learned that it’s not impossible to crack into it. I broke in. And I’ve watched a zillion novice writers develop their skills and get published.
The publishing world is completely fair and democratic. You don’t need to slip anybody a big wad of cash to break in. You don’t need to threaten anybody with a kneecapping. You don’t need to do anything naughty.
You just need to know what to do and when to do it. Now let me say a word about how publishing has changed recently.
About Traditional Publishing and Indie Publishing
When I began my writing career, there was only main way to get published and earn money as a writer–you had to sell your rights to a publisher, usually a large corporation. The publisher paid you an advance and then paid for all the up-front work needed to get your book designed, printed, and distributed. If the book made money, you also got paid royalties. This method of publishing is called “traditional publishing.”
As you probably know, there’s now another way to get published. You can act as your own publisher, hire your own editor and graphic designer, and post your books directly for sale on the major retailers, such as Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc. This is called “independent publishing” or more commonly “indie publishing” and it’s a viable way to get published.
Both traditional publishing and indie publishing work. You can be a successful author either way. You get to decide which way to go (and you can also use both methods if you like).
I don’t care which way you choose. I started out working with traditional publishers and some of my books are still controlled by them. However, I’ve switched to indie-publishing for all my current work, because the indie way works better for me. But traditional publishing might work better for you. It’s your choice how you’ll run your writing career.
Whichever way you go, you’ll find this 5-day series on How to Publish Your Novel useful. I’ll add some notes in the series on how things are different for indie authors versus traditionally published authors, when there’s a difference.
Now let’s get rolling. How do you get published? What’s the secret?
The 3 Things You Need
All you need to get published are 3 things, and anybody can get them. Here they are:
That’s all! This course is about how to get each of those things and what to do with them once you’ve got them. Let’s talk a little bit about each of them in turn:
Content is “what you know.” It’s your life experience and the knowledge you’ve gained from books and your intelligence and the wisdom that comes from getting older and that inner magic that only you have. Everybody has Content, and everybody’s Content is different! You don’t have my Content … and I don’t have yours. That’s good news, isn’t it? It means that NOBODY can write the book you were meant to write. You don’t have to worry about somebody “stealing your idea,” because the book they would write with that idea is way different than the book you’re going to write with it. Ideas are free. Your Content isn’t. Your Content is what you’re going to sell to a publisher. Your Content is all you have that’s unique.
Craft is “how well you write.” Let’s face it, some people are boring and some people are fascinating. But here’s an important point: people aren’t BORN boring or fascinating. They grow that way. And they can change. If your writing is boring now, it doesn’t have to always be that way. The Craft of writing can be taught! That’s why there are so many books on writing, magazines on writing, courses on writing, conferences on writing, and teachers of writing. Because it can be taught. I know it can be taught, because I TEACH IT ALL THE TIME. All it takes to develop good Craft is a bit of talent, a lot of hard work, and some good coaching at the right time.
Connections are “who you know.” Now, let’s be careful here. People often imagine that, “if only my uncle were the president of Random House, I could get my novel published.” No. No way. No freakin’ way. Puh-lease! Knowing a big honcho in traditional publishing is NOT ENOUGH! Having the RESPECT of an editor is all you need. And, by the by, the way you get an editor’s respect is by having great Content and great Craft. So getting Connections DEPENDS on first having Content and Craft. Please note that if you decide to be an indie author, you don’t need Connections. Anybody can post their novel to Amazon or Apple iBooks or Kobo or Barnes & Noble. But even indie authors still need Content and Craft, or their books aren’t going to sell.
Good News and Bad News
Hundreds of writers every year sell their first novel to a traditional publisher. That’s the good news.
Tens of thousands of writers every year publish their first novel independently. That’s the better news.
The bad news is that over a hundred thousand writers every year sit down to start typing their first novel. Sadly, most of those never get traditionally published. And most of those who publish independently don’t make much money. Why not? Are the ones who get traditionally published smarter, funnier, luckier, richer, or sexier than those who don’t? Are the rich indie authors smarter, funnier, luckier, richer, or sexier than those who earn little?
No. The authors who succeed are the ones who work hard and work smart. Your job is to work hard. My job is to help you learn how to work smart.
That’s it for today! Are you excited about the prospect of writing your novel and GETTING IT PUBLISHED? You should be! Remember, you only need 3 things to get your novel published. You need Content. You need Craft. And you need Connections.
Watch for tomorrow’s lesson, when we’ll talk about the first of those in more detail: Where Do You Get Content For Your Novel?
Randy Ingermanson, PhD