This post is for my long-suffering non-writer friends who have endured my detailed explanations about the book publishing process. It is also for my writer friends who want to show their circle why they haven’t published their book yet.
In brief, the process is:
- write and edit the book
- find an agent
- the agent finds you a publisher
- the book is published.
Sounds simple, right? In reality, it takes time and patience. Most writers endure what feels like an infinite editing loop. We face the pain of rejection. None of us make it through unscathed. From first draft to getting published, the flowchart below, along with the explanatory notes, describes the publishing process and helps to show why it takes so long.
- Beta readers review your unpublished manuscript and give constructive feedback. Often, these readers are fellow-writers, with whom you trade beta reads, so as well as working on their own material, the writer reads and analyzes other people’s work.
- You can also pay a freelance editor to critique your manuscript at one or all of the different levels of edits: structural (high level issues re plot, character development and pacing), line (use of language, sentence structure and dialogue) and copy (details of grammar and spelling).
- In the chart, I’ve shown pitching an agent as a single step, but there are usually two stages. For fiction, a writer initially sends a query letter, synopsis and the first pages of their book. For non-fiction, they send a query, chapter summary and sample chapters. These pitch documents are difficult to write and undergo an editing process all of their own. If interested, the agent then requests a full manuscript. While a 3 month wait is standard on the query, a 6 month wait is common for a full manuscript request.
- The publisher pitch can also be in two steps. Their response can take 3-12 months.
- My apologies to self-publishers for abbreviating their list of tasks. Self-publishing deserves a flowchart of its own, but I wanted to include a summary here to show this alternative pathway.
- Along the way, there are other options to try, such as Twitter contests, writing competitions and literary speed dating.
I hope this provides a useful reference. If you are a reader, thank you for taking the time to understand. If you are a writer, may the force be with you.
Next time, some great writing advice from Kate Forster, Novelist and Founder of Ladybirds
The next writing post: The Winding Narrative Turns One
See also: The Pros and Cons of Writing Memoir
If you enjoyed this post, try The Publishing Success Flowchart, which asks should you write from your heart, or follow the market?