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Writing & Publishing Your Book: Step by Step

"Hard writing makes easy reading." This quote has been attributed not just to Wallace Stegner but to Ernest Hemingway, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William Zinsser (author of the classic guidebook On Writing Well). Whoever said it, I can only add, amen!

It takes art and craft, discipline and discernment to create a narrative that captivates readers, pulls them into the story, keeps them there until the last, satisfying word—and, in the best cases, makes them reluctant to leave the writer’s company.

While good writing seems effortless—as it should—it’s like the proverbial duck, gliding on water. All the hard work happens under the surface: the writing and rewriting, the tweaking and fine-tuning.

All this takes time, but be assured—in a collaborative development project, your editor does the heavy lifting, while ensuring that the voice and viewpoint are yours alone.

How much time will it take to write a book? While there’s no hard-and-fast rule, if we work together, expect to devote an hour or two every week to interviewing, over the course of six months or so. For the duration, most of my life will be about your life—your perspective, your message, your hard-won experience, and the life lessons you want to share with the world.

In the end, you’ll have a book that’s 100% yours, unique as a thumbprint, and ready for the marketplace. At that point, you can consider a traditional publishing deal or publishing on demand.

Traditional Publishing

The traditional route is the longest. First, an agent must agree to work with you, based on a query letter that sums up your book idea. The agent then asks for a proposal: a detailed outline that breaks down each chapter, and also includes sample chapters.

If the agent agrees to represent you, he or she sends the proposal to a publishing house, where an editor sends it up the chain of command. If the publisher likes the book, you’ve got a deal. And if several publishers are interested, congratulations! Your book goes to auction.

Once you have a publisher, you’ll get an advance payment against future sales, about a year to submit the final manuscript, and another year to go to print. So in traditional publishing, you may be looking at two to three years before you hold the book in your hands. Remember, your agent gets 15% percent of all receipts, off the top.

Self-Publishing & Hybrid Publishing

In the past, self-publishing or publishing on demand was scorned as “vanity press,” where anyone could publish anything, regardless of quality, as long as they paid for it. That’s not really true today. While vanity presses still exist, outlets like Dorrance Publishing and Morgan James produce quality books that command as much respect and attention as those that are traditionally published.

Their packages are soup-to-nuts: from design and printing to distribution and order fulfillment. Customers will be able to order your book from all the usual places: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Kindle.

Hybrid publishing is also an option. Some hybrid houses don’t charge author fees at all, and cover the costs of editing, design, layout, production, printing, and publishing. They pay a percentage of gross royalties to the author. You don’t need an agent—just a kick-ass manuscript.

Writing the Right Book

Whatever method of publishing you choose, it all starts with the product: the hard work of writing that results in easy, irresistible reading.

As you undertake the process, ask yourself:

• Who is my audience? • What do I want to convey, and how do I want them to feel?

• Is it my goal to provoke and persuade, inform and inspire, evoke laughter and tears?

• What is my primary message?

• Where will I share this message?

Let's bat around some ideas and assess the commercial potential of your book. And remember, I can also help you develop a personal memoir—a life story to be shared exclusively with friends and family. Give me a shout, and let's get started.


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