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Publishing Your Very First Novel

Updated on July 7, 2012
My first novel, published at seventeen. Admittedly, I wrote most of it in class.
My first novel, published at seventeen. Admittedly, I wrote most of it in class.

My Books

I was so horribly terrified when I decided that I was finally ready to send my book out into the world. I went through all 300 pages and edited them no less than nine times. Over and over, I searched through the pages I knew now by heart, trying to find a reason to never let anyone ever see my book. I was scared of rejection. And why wouldn't I be? I was seventeen years old and my book was written while I was bored in a high school math class. I had no experience in the writing field besides winning a few poetry contests in my Creative Writing class and I was completely new to the scene. Finally, after months of tearing my mind apart, I decided to go for it. Within two months, I had four offers and numerous contracts being sent to me. I now, at twenty, have six published novels that are doing quite well on the market. You can do the same.

The Baby Steps

I liken the process of being a novelist to being a parent. You work so hard making and raising this thing that you are proud of only to let it go to the scary world and watch it either prosper or get torn apart by the critics. Using this metaphor, I will explain the long process of becoming a successful author.

Step One: Conception

Perhaps the thought comes to you in a dream. Or maybe you are just walking along and it hits you. Either way, you now have a little kernel of life to take care of and nurture.

Make a rough draft. It only has to be a few words long. The point of the rough draft is so that you don't forget anything and so that you can have a base block to build from. Never underestimate these scribblings. They will be art one day.

This is an optional step, but if you have a friend or family member you feel close to, talk to them about the basis of your idea. If their first thought is "I have heard that a million times", go back to the rough draft and ask yourself what you can do to make your work different than the billions of hopeful manuscripts out there. In the highly aggressive and dog-eat-dog world of being an author, you have to find your edge or your grabbing point to make yourself stand out. Don't ever write a book like the movie you saw last week with a few plot points changed.

So, you have your idea. What next?

Step Two: Early Pregnancy

Having a book on the mind is a lot like having a baby growing inside of you. A pregnant woman randomly throughout the day remembers that she will be a mother. It is no different with authors with a book on the way.

Throughout the day, you may get an idea and you will be so excited to get it down so that you don't forget it. For this reason, I strongly recommend that you carry a writing paper or a cellphone with a memo pad on it at all times. You have no idea when a plot twist will hit you. For example, in my last novel, the ending came to me while I was buying yellow apples. I happened to have a permanent marker on me and I jotted my idea onto the apple so I would not forget. When I went home, I finished my book.

Make your first rough draft. I don't care how wonderful you think it is, know it is only a rough draft; a concept of what the finished product will be. As a "What Will Your Baby Look Like Quiz" you may find online, there is no real chance that it will look or be the same when it all comes out.

Tell someone about your book on the way. You will need the support later on when you just don't feel like finishing.

Step Three: Late Pregnancy

This is the most important step, in my opinion. By this time you have gone over your book more than you ever wanted to. You know it by heart and even quote some of it sometimes. You are ready to fling it out and let it go. But don't.

It's not ready yet. This is where it is important to have a friend or family member. It is YOUR book, but a little help is more than allowed, it is recommended. Have that person read the story. Don't stay over his/her shoulder while they are reading. This is going to be your first taste of letting go.

Allow this trusted person (of whom you have no fear of them stealing your ideas and publishing them first) to tell you exactly what they think. If there is some constructive criticism, take it with a smile. Do not get overly defensive. It is better to get the feedback now before it is out in the cruel world.

Go over the work again, keeping that person's thoughts in mind. You are in no way obliged to keep their ideas or use their thoughts, but you should strongly consider doing so. After all, you may always be like "That Parent" who thinks their kid is the best. Period. Please try to sway away from such deconstructive thoughts and know that you are supposed to be selling the book to your peers, not yourself. You are supposed to be pleasing the world, not yourself. Sad, but true.

Step Four: The Young Years

So, your manuscript is done. It sits in your arms and you are the most excited and proud person alive. Just as you wouldn't throw your child into the arms of a babysitter without knowing them, do not throw your manuscript at the first publisher you find because they look nice.

The first thing to do is research. What genre is your work? There are publishers out there that only specialize in one sort of book. Try to get as precise as you possibly can in your submissions. Don't submit your work to every publisher that pops up in your search engine because it will be a waste of your very valuable time, not to mention it may be too hard to make a choice with seventy offers on your desk. Be careful; there are a lot of scams out there, a lot of people who are looking to take advantage of someone just like you; a new and eager parent. Go ahead and take the extra three minutes per publisher and look up what their authors have to say about the company. And I am not talking about on their website. Search every bit of them like a background check. You don't want something terrible to happen to your work.

You have your publishers. Submit your work and wait.

Step Five: College

At this point, you have your publisher (it was easier than you thought, huh?) and you are in the process of letting go. You have slaved away and now it is time to let the book do the rest of the work.

Oh, you will want to call every day and ask how your baby is doing, but don't. Your book is busy being pulled and twisted through the system. It is taking the necessary steps to be successful. Wring your hands attentively, but do not push or bully your way through the publisher to know every minute detail. They will give you progress reports. Just be calm.

Step Six: Graduation and Prospering

Your book is out. You are proud to see it online or in the bookshelf of your local bookstore. Your sense of pride is soaring and your life is finally going where you wanted it to go. Feel free to ask the bookstores or even your local library to buy your book or even to ask to schedule a book signing.

You will be scared at first, completely letting go, but don't be. Either it will do well, or it won't. That's the cold-hard truth. The colder truth is that you are a first-time author. Don't expect to be the next King in one day. There is a lot of work involved in getting that high up in the totem pole and though there is the occasional author who made it big on their first try, most people do not. There is no shame in that. Not every parent has the next Einstein. It's nothing personal; it's the way of the world.

As you watch all of your hard work glisten before your eyes, you will set back and wonder "should I have another one?".

I think you should.


If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me and I will help you any way I can. Good luck out there.



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