by Susan Gloss
"So, how's it going with your book?"
I get this question all the time. You probably do, too, so I offer all you novelists out there this ready-made answer about the traditional publishing process. Why 12 steps? Well, I just finished reading Mary Karr's beautiful memoir, Lit, about how she started and stopped drinking, so a 12-step guide seemed appropriate.
1. Research Literary Agents. A literary agent is your point person, your representative in the world of publishing. She has access to publishers and knows what sells.
2. Send Query Letters. Once you've researched potential agents, it's time to make the initial contact--the query. A query is a one-page letter, similar to a cover letter when you're applying for jobs. That's it. You get one page to convince an agent to take time out of her demanding schedule to read your work.
3. Wait, wait, wait. Based on your query, you may get requests from agents to read all or part of your manuscript. You'll definitely get some rejections. In rare instances, you'll get constructive feedback, and maybe you'll go back and revise the book for the 8,754th time. You'll send out more queries and do more waiting.
4. Start a new book. Working on a new book will keep you (reasonably) sane while you are waiting to hear back from agents.
5. Wait, wait, wait. Obsessively check email for responses, secretly hoping you don't get just an email, but that you get the elusive "call" instead--the call in which an agent offers you representation.
6. Offer of Representation. If you're lucky (and talent counts as luck, too), you may have more than one offer. You'll decide on the agent who will best represent your work. You'll do a happy dance, but only for a minute because there is still a lot of work ahead.
7. Revise. Remember all that revising you did? Well, there's more in your future. Your manuscript needs to be polished before it can be submitted to editors at publishing houses.
8. Submit to Publishers. You'll go "on submission," which is what happens when your agent sends your manuscript to editors.
9. Wait, wait, wait. Are you noticing a recurring theme? Work on that new project to distract you from the fact that you're on submission.
10. Book Deal. This is the ultimate goal of the submission process. Now you'll do that happy dance again, but not for too long. There are more edits in your future.
11. Market Your Little Butt Off. You'll tap into blogging, interviews, and social media to let the universe know that YOU'VE GOT A BOOK COMING OUT.
12. Rinse and Repeat. When your publication day comes around, you'll hold your little book in your hands, or on your e-reader, and you'll bask in the wonder of it all. Only for a minute, though, because you'll need to resume your marketing efforts to sell that book, while also working on your next. Enjoy the ride.
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Susan Gloss is a writer, lawyer, and blogger in Madison, Wisconsin. She recently completed her first novel and is hard at work on a second. In addition to maintaining her own blog, Glossing Over It, she writes a weekly column on green living for Wisconsin Public Television's Engage Wisconsin series. Susan is on Step 5.
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