So, you have a story brewing inside of you. You have a narrative that you are longing to share with the world. First, good for you! I always say that singers sing, dancers dance, and writers write. It’s what we do.

But crafting a narrative and bringing it to market takes planning. Ask anyone who’s stuck in the middle of writing a story. They may as well be a mime in a box. Where do you start your narrative? How do you finish it? Well, to quote Lewis Carrol, “Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

I show my fantasy books at renaissance faires, and I meet aspiring writers each weekend. Some are young, in their teens and early 20s. Some are adults or middle-aged. All are eager to tell their stories, but so often I hear the same refrain, “I just can’t seem to finish.”

That’s when I ask, “Did you outline?” They usually confess that they haven’t. “That’s the problem,” I say. Some give me a reason why they don’t outline, but I always encourage writers to outline their stories, mostly because it’s a good habit to establish. Outlining is a helpful discipline because ALL stories get lost in the weeds. Mine do all the time, but having an outline reminds me of the overall narrative arc. It’s a roadmap that helps me see the forest through the trees. So outline! You’ll be glad you did.

Alright, now you have a manuscript. Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to sell it. First, having a traditional publisher acquire your book is EXTREMELY difficult. There was a time when publishers had mid-lists where they could place new authors. They no longer do. The large imprints only have a few slots for new authors because they focus their resources on their proven authors. There are very few casual bookstores left. There was a time when people shopped at malls, which had a Walden Books. Folks would wander in and wander out with a new story. Nowadays, you need to drive to a Barnes & Noble or to an independent book seller. Otherwise, we all shop on Amazon.

Being picked up by a traditional publisher is unlikely, especially if you don’t have a literary agent. So should you self-publish? Keep in mind that if you’re hoping to upgrade to a traditional publisher one day, most won’t accept self-published material. After all, if you have made all the initial sales, what’s left for a publisher to sell? To a traditional publisher, a self-published novel is a 100,000 word business card. It shows your writing prowess and helps build your fan base, but they will always ask for your next title, not your present one. They also won’t come into the middle of a series. They will want something completely fresh.

There are several smaller presses out there these days, most of which have respectable online marketing budgets. Always research these when you don’t want to self-publish. They don’t have the clout of the major imprints, but they don’t have “corporate daddies” either.

If you do decide to self-publish, here are some steps – daunting though they may be. Keep in mind that when you self-publish, you need to treat your book as a product for sale. It needs to be polished and professional, which is NEVER your first draft. Rather, here’s your journey.

  1. Write your manuscript.
  2. Send it to Beta Readers.
  3. Re-write your manuscript based on the Beta Readers’ notes.
  4. Repeat Steps 2 & 3 until there are no existing plot or character flaws.
  5. Perhaps polish your manuscript once or twice more.
  6. Hire an editor. Yes, this is an expense, but it’s a worthwhile one. However, keep in mind that finding an editor is as much about chemistry as it is about the editor’s experience. Interview editors and send writing samples for their notes. This won’t cost too much, and it will help you find an editor with whom you really vibe.
  7. Rewrite your manuscript yet again based on your editor’s notes!
  8. When it’s finally finished, hire a proofreader. Even if you don’t have the budget for an editor, hire a proofreader. They will catch the typos you miss, and trust me you will always miss typos.
  9. Now it gets easy. There are several services that can help format your manuscript for publication. You do not need to hire a company to do this. Use Draft 2 Digital, Amazon KDP, or Barnes & Noble. You can also use Ingram Spark, but personally I do not like their online interface. There are LOTS of YouTube tutorials about prepping your manuscript for publication, so avail yourself of them. It’s a learning curve, but you can manage it.
  10. Oh, I forgot the cover design. Yes, you need a good cover. We are all told never to judge a book by its cover, but we all do. There are YouTube videos on cover design as well, or you can find a cover designer online. Facebook has several cover designer groups, and Amazon KDP has a cover design creator tool. But if you’re writing fantasy / science fiction / horror it’s best to have an eye-catching custom cover. Again, this can be an extra expense, but it’s worth the cost.
  11. Publish your book! Submit the formatted manuscript and cover to one of the self-publishing sites in Step 9, and you’re finished.

Yes, it is true that once published you will need to market your book, which is an article unto itself. However, the purpose of this article is to outline the steps in the Writing Journey. I hope the advice is helpful.

Good luck to you all!

Erin Hunt Rado

Erin Hunt Rado is the author of Tales of the Ravensdaughter, a fantasy action novella series, and Gray Warrior, a stand-alone fantasy action novel. You can discover her work at ErinRadoAuthor.com.

Erin Hunt Rado
Erin Hunt Rado