Last night in my Literary Citizenship class, Linda Taylor had us do one of the coolest exercises I think I’ve ever had the chance of doing. We became what is known as “Koala, Inc”- a publishing house. During the duration of the class, Linda gave us a job title and then proceeded to teach all of us, even Cathy herself, about what really goes down.
The positions included some of the following: author, agent, editor (copy editor, content editor, acquisition editor, and editor-in-chief), CEO, CFO, PR person, salesperson, book store keeper, etc. You name it, we had it.
The exercise went along as though Kayla Weiss was pitching a manuscript to an agent to whom pitched it to the Publishing House and boom: A novel is born. This exercise was an eye opener. There was so much I didn’t even think about as we were hearing the descriptions of what most people in those positions would do. (Psst. Entry level jobs include: copy editor and proofreader)
The entire class was basically a “Publishing 101” and the “what to know” about the entire process. Here’s a couple things I picked up.
1. MAKE SURE YOUR NOVEL IS FINISHED.. if you’re a fiction writer. You’ll want to make sure that your manuscript is completed when you pitch it. Now, if you’re a non-fiction writer, you’ll need to write up a book proposal, which is a document explaining what and why you’re writing this non-fiction novel.
2. BE SUSPICIOUS of self-publishing, but also embrace it! Now, I know that, that sounds ridiculous, but here’s why. One: There are people who have made self-publishing work for them. Examples can be found here or here. They explain how they made it work. Two: If you decide to self-publish, make sure you have a following- or at least KNOW your following because getting people to know about your book is a lot harder than it sounds. And along with that, make sure that you have someone to edit your manuscript. Sometimes you can’t see the misspellings like a fresh pair of eyes could.
“As it happens, mainstream publishers now expect all but their best-selling fiction writers to do most of their marketing themselves”
3. YOU MIGHT NOT NEED AN AGENT. From a post called “How to get your book published" by Jane Friedman, I discovered that not all writers NEED an agent. "If you’re writing for a niche market (e.g., vintage automobiles), or have an academic or literary work, then you might not need one". Jane goes on to answer basically a FAQ on publishing.
4. PROFESSIONALIZE YOURSELF. It’s important, especially if you’re going to self-publish, that you must make yourself a person of importance. Most publishing houses are going to assume that you have some type of “platform”. What is that you may ask? Well, examine the following: do you have a Facebook? Do you have a twitter? Do you post about your writing or have people on twitter who would be willing to read stuff that you write? Would they pay for it? Do you blog? If so, what do you blog about? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself. If you have all of that, then you have the starting of a platform. It’s basically an online presence, if you will. Do people know you?
Google yourself. Try it. See how close to the top you show up. I’m number two on my search. Some other Rachael who loves her Uggs beat me! Here’s a screencap so you can see for yourself.
5. DON’T FORGET THAT PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS FIRST. Along with having a platform, you need to realize that publishing your novel will be a way of earning income. You can’t go on your blog and bitch about how the publisher sucks, I mean, they are going to pay you. You have to become a person that people will consider “Hey, I bet he/she means some serious business”. But don’t mistake that for being serious ALL THE TIME. One can be profession and still post pictures of themselves and their animals. Hell, just ask Cathy Day!
6. BUY BOOKS. I can’t stress this enough. If you want to be an author, you have to contribute to this world of book buying/selling. There is such a thing as paying it forward and if you don’t know what that means, check out this trailer for the movie: Pay it Forward.
7. LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST- you have to work for it. Just like everything in life, you have to work for what you want. You can’t be afraid of a little hard work or having people SEE your work (Yes, I know it’s scary, but if you want it, you have to take that leap).