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Publishing routes and everything in between

Hi guys, I came to this forum because I feel like I'm 'missing' a step in the whole getting published process but I don't know what it is. I've written a query letter, had it critiqued even. I've even sent out to a few literary agents but I still feel like I'm missing a piece of 'the puzzle', the step, and I don't know what it is. I certainly don't expect to get published right away. Unfortunately, my life is very busy, I'm a sped teacher trying to raise 4 kids. I started writing my story because it's been in my head for 30 years, the characters, the plot, the world. When, I had my breast cancer diagnosis (2 years ago and I appear to be cured, thank God), I started researching the causes. Among the many theories about breast cancer personality and living with high level of stress, I also came across this idea that if a creative person doesn't let their craft out, they will get sick... It struck me hard... So, I made a commitment to myself, every night for one hour or 1 page I would write the story... Sometimes, the scenes write themselves, other times not so much but it keeps going... I finished the first book that came out to 225,000 words... After rereading and editing I moved onto book 2 which is now around 150,000 words and not done. I thought well maybe I need to just do it and send out my query letter and get the rejection and face that fear. It's happened and I plan to keep trying. I just can't fight this feeling that there is some step in this process, I'm missing and I don't know what it it. I unfortunately, don't have the time in my life to build a base for marketing, nor have I learned to do that or even have a community to turn to (part of why I joined this group to at least talk to other people about all of this). Anyone else feel this way? Thank you in advance for any wisdom, shared experiences, or advice.


Myth Weaver
Congrats on overcoming cancer. In part my own recent resurgence in writing is due to cancer. Got stuck at home for six weeks during chemo and decided to use that time to recover it and push it forward. Also in a small way my dad dying made me feel like i needed to get it done and not feel like i had forever.

What is missing? Well has it been reviewed and beta readers? Have they seen it.

Looking at your posts in the other thread, if you are not writing gay and racial equality stuff your gonna get stopped by a lot of gate keepers. That would push me to dump them and go on my own. Reedsy has ways to connect with editors and such if you want to go that route.
There are two ways of getting published, which are equally viable. One is to go with a traditional publisher, the other is to self-publish (or indie-publish).

With a traditional publisher, the most common route is indeed to go via an agent. You have to find the right one and get them to read your manuscript at a time when they're looking for something like you're writing. It's a bit a numbers game. Though if you writing is good enough you'll find one at some point.

Indie-publishing is a bit like starting a small business (trad-publishing is a bit like that as well, just a bit less so). You have to make sure the writing is good enough, but you also have to make all decisions about getting covers and editors and how to launch the book and so on. It can be a lot of fun, but it can also be more work.

Pick one of the two and work hard at making that choice a succes.

I agree with pmmg that perhaps the thing missing is external feedback. It's hard to judge your own work. Feedback from someone who knows your genre is invaluable. It can be either beta-readers, or a professional editor. One costs money, the other mainly costs time. For beta readers, find a bunch who read your genre, and ask them for honest feedback. In general, family and friends are not a good options, since they tend to read other stuff or have trouble being honest / have their opinion changed because they're impressed you've written an actual novel. Strangers tend to give better results, though that's not always the case. Some authors have a trusted friend who is an invaluable part of their process.

Mad Swede

No, you're not missing any steps.

If you want a traditional publishing contract then all (?) you do is finish the book to the best of your ability and then start approaching agents. Getting accepted by an agent can be a long haul, and that's before the agent starts looking for a publisher. There are some publishers who will accept direct submissions, but most of them have an upper word limit and your books are about twice that limit.

Yes, you can self-publish or indie-publish (they're not quite the same thing here in Sweden). But then you need to find a good editor, in fact you need two - a developmental editor and a proof reader. They'll help you sort out your prose, and you should be very sceptical of those who say you don't need an editor. Then you have to format (set) the book, sort out the cover, write the blurb and your hook line. This all costs time and money. Once you're done with formatting the book you get it out there on Amazon, and start to market it yourself.

Neither of these options will earn you enough to live on unless you are very lucky, in fact self-publishing will cost you money up front. At least with a traditional publishing contract you usually get an advance, even if it isn't very large - and it is cool seeing your book on the store shelves...


Myth Weaver
Neither of these options will earn you enough to live on unless you are very lucky, in fact self-publishing will cost you money up front. At least with a traditional publishing contract you usually get an advance, even if it isn't very large - and it is cool seeing your book on the store shelves...
If it gets picked up, that is.


toujours gai, archie
I agree with Mad Swede: you aren't missing any steps for traditional publishing. I re-read your OP and can't find the reason why you have this feeling.

Do you feel like you ought to have heard something by now? Some other reason? It doesn't have to make sense; you feel what you feel. But maybe if you can express that, the Currently Gathered can provide some advice and encouragement.

It's great that you're working on a next book. Keep writing, for sure. IMO, the worst thing a first-time author can do these days is write one novel, submit it, then stop and wait.

Have you a list of agents? Are they in priority? When I tried the trad route, I had three levels: definitely, probably, and long-shot. Send to the first and wait (still write, though). I didn't wait to hear from all of them because not all will reply. But waiting even as long as they said to wait, months passed. Then send to Group 2 and do it again. One of the surprises for me during that process was finding that "the query" turned into several, each tailored to the agent. It might be something as simple as length, or it might be acknowledging their interests, or it might be something utterly trivial.

Which is where my experiential advice runs dry. By the time I got to the long-shots, I had made the decision to go self-published.

Oh, here's one other item: to the extent you can, meet agents in person. This can be done at book fairs and their kindred. In general, you want to get your work in front of as many agents as possible. At least for the in-person stuff, you can sometimes get some (admittedly off-the-cuff) feedback from pros.
I heard someone mentioning finding a beta reader. I think that's a great idea, but how do you go about doing that? Especially, one you can trust. The reality of getting published is one I have been pushing off for a very long time. What this all comes down to is I wrote a story that told itself (in a sense) and I feel like shouldn't it be shared? I'm sure many fellow writers have a certain intuition about things, like a little nudge this direction or that direction. I guess I just had the sense that SOMETHING was missing but I don't know what. Based on everything, I've studied over the past few months, I know the traditional publishing route is kind of a numbers game/luck of the draw game (to be honest it feels a little superficial). This is all so new to me and unfortunately, I'm an introvert by nature with a finite pool of 'psychoemotional' energy to give. Like my time everyday to delve into this world at all is after I've done my writing for the day and before I go to bed at night, lol. When I first began the journey of seriously writing daily, almost two years ago, the idea of doing anything besides writing for an hour or a page seemed monumental. Over the past six months, it has become the habit of writing, then editing or rereading or researching or working on a query letter. Thank you for all the support and advice, I really appreciate it.


Myth Weaver
The best way to find a beta reader is to find someone else looking for a beta reader and offer to swap.

I have just finished with a Book 3 and have no beta readers, so....
Fellow writers are indeed a place to look for beta readers. I think there are also Facebook groups of beta readers where you can find people willing to read for you. Though I haven't used those, so I don't know how they function or which are good. I think Reddit is another place you can look for them. There are also paid beta-reading services. Again, I haven't used them, so I can't speak for how good they are and which you should use. Just note that they cost money...

One other piece of advice is to never pay a publisher to publish your novel. If you go with a publisher, they pay you. There are services out there that claim to be publishers and they accepted your book and now you only need to pay them X to share in the editing. Never, ever do this. These services will not do a great job or give you anything you can't get elsewhere better and cheaper. If you are paying the publisher they have no incentive to do anything for your book, since they already got paid.