Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Know Who You're Selling Your Book To (Before You Start Writing It)

Most people think they have a pretty good grasp of the writing process. You come up with an idea for a book, and you go through whatever pre-planning you need for your plot. Once you're ready, you pump out a first draft. You let it cool, then go back over it for a second, third, and maybe even a fourth draft depending on your preferences and style. Then you hand it over to your beta readers, and you have them read it over for mistakes you missed, plot holes, spelling a character's name differently halfway through chapter six, what have you.

Then, when you finally have a complete manuscript, you engage phase two... finding somewhere to sell the damn thing!

Got a minute to listen to my pitch?
If you're one of those writers who puts off the marketing aspect entirely so you can focus on your writing, then you might want to pick your head out of the sand for a moment. Because you should already know where you're selling your book before you so much as put the first word on the first page of your first draft.

But You Can't Sell A Book Until It's Written!

Right you are bold, italicized text! However, I am not saying that authors should be pitching their books to publishers when they don't have the manuscript ready to go. That sort of behavior is utter folly. However, it's a mistake to think of the writing process as two separate halves; creating the book and selling the book are just two sides of the same coin.

Which is why you can, and indeed should, be working on both of them simultaneously.

Sacagawea would approve.
As an example, while I was putting together the stories for New Avalon: Love and Loss in The City of Steam, I was also in talks with the few publishers I knew at the time to gauge who might be interested in the project once it was complete. And, in the event no one on my list was interested, I was combing through that year's copy of Writer's Market and compiling a list of alternative publishers to query. I already knew I was putting together an inter-connected collection of noir steampunk short stories, and I knew that I didn't want to publish it myself, so I made sure I had a list of potential homes that I could query as soon as it was ready.

That preparation paid off, though there was a hiccough or two in the road. One of the publishers I'd worked with before expressed interest almost as soon as I reached out to them, and even gave me a contract, but the project eventually fell through. Fortunately, because I'd already done the legwork, I had a list of other publishers to query with the project once that ship sank. It eventually wound up with JWK Publishing, who polished it up, and took care of the rest of the publishing process for me.

Could I have written the book, and then done all that work to get it placed with a publisher? Absolutely. However, much like writing, doing market research and submissions prep isn't something you should try to hammer out all in one go. Instead, it's more like going to the gym; if you do a little bit every day, and ease into it, then pretty soon you find you're really proficient. You know all the different options you've got, and all the different angles to work in order to get the results you want, and it's not likely to strain you.

This Goes Double For Self-Publishers!

I see you in the back of the room trying to sneak out. You're thinking that, because you're self-publishing, then you can work on your own schedule without bothering with the rest of this. After all, there's no reason to send emails, make calls, etc., until your book is done because you can't actually start the rest of the publishing process until your manuscript is ready.

Ah, but that's where you're wrong!
When you're your own publisher, it only makes sense to start the plates spinning as soon as possible so you have as little work left to do once the manuscript has reached completion. For instance, before you start writing you should make sure all your formatting is going to work for your platform of choice (because there's nothing worse than fixing 300 pages of using a Tab for an indent when you should have just set your preference in your Paragraph menu and let the technology handle the rest), and if possible you should have cover art picked out and ready to rock long before you reach the final chapter.

If you haven't checked out Looking For Cover Art For Your Book? Try Drive-Thru RPG!, then you will certainly thank me once you have.

Additionally, if you're confident in your ability to deliver your book on time, you can start the marketing machine early. If you run a blog, a YouTube channel, or a similar platform, give your audience updates on how the new book is coming to get them excited for the release. Reach out to reviewers, and get them lined up so they're ready to look over your advanced reviewer copies once they're ready to rock. Schedule interviews, guest blogs, etc. and stay on top of that schedule so that you can seamlessly transition from, "writing the new book," to, "selling the new book."

You Don't HAVE To Start Both At Once

Everyone's different, don't get me wrong. Some authors know by the end of chapter one how many words this book is going to be, and how long it's going to take them to hit that number. Other authors may meander a bit, needing some spare months to do re-writes and to backtrack from false starts and unnecessary plot points.

Writing books is tough, and it's not always a straight line to get from A to B.

We're working with a lot of variables, after all.
However, once you're sure that your project is going to be carried to term, it's a good idea to start preparing for its completion. Because just like having a baby, you want to have a sitter, a crib, some formula, etc. already waiting in the wings for the day it's finally here. Because arranging all of that while your newest creation squalls in your ear is a lot harder (not to mention more time consuming) to do from square one.

Like, Follow, and Stay Tuned!

That's all for this week's Business of Writing! If you'd like to see more of my work, take a look at my Vocal archive, or at My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife!

If you'd like to help support my work, then consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page! Lastly, to keep up with my latest, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now on Pinterest as well!

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