Guest blog post by CAPA member Mark L. Dressler
Ask yourself why you are writing your story. Is the reason to make money? Is the reason self-satisfaction? Or both?
What is your story? A book, novella, short story? (Word count will dictate this industry categorization.)
What is the genre? Memoir, mystery, fantasy, romance, or another genre?
What to do once you have completed the first draft
Not all authors use beta readers, but all authors self-edit. Beta Readers are avid readers of your genre whom you allow to read your manuscript for initial feedback. These readers should be people who can give you honest opinions. Friends and relatives are usually not good choices because they don’t want to offend you.
It is best to keep the number of beta readers to no more than a half-dozen because too much feedback can be distracting. Evaluate the comments and make changes, as necessary.
Remember, the perfect manuscript has yet to be written.
Self-editing your first draft is never the same as the finished product. Self-editing is your job, and the number of self-edits (rewrites) is up to you. After each self-edit, let the manuscript sit for at least 1-2 weeks before looking at it again with fresh eyes.
Decide whether you want to pursue traditional publishing, self-publishing, hybrid publishing, or an independent publisher.
You must seek an agent in order to pursue traditional publishing. It is essential that your manuscript is as polished as possible prior to seeking an agent. Why? Agents do not want unprofessional work submitted to them, and you will only have one minute to impress them. (Some authors will hire an editor prior to submitting, but it is not a requirement–you should be able to judge the quality of your writing by the amount of critiques your beta readers had.)
How do you find an agent? There are publications that list agents. There are also online places to search. However, only a small percentage of submissions are ever successful. Do your research and find an agent, or an agent with an agency, who specializes in representing your genre. When you have identified a potential agent follow their submission guidelines. Do not vary one iota from their requirements. The agent will ask for a query letter. Some will also require a synopsis. They will likely ask for anywhere from 5 to 50 pages of your manuscript.
A query letter is a one-page document that allows you to introduce yourself and your work to the agent. Study examples of query letters. The objective is to give the agent a reason to read the partial manuscript that you have submitted.
The synopsis is a document intended to give the agent a sampling of your story. It should outline the plot and demonstrate a clear story arc. Plot twists, major characters and the climactic scene needs to be included. (Check your prospective agent’s requirements for required length.)
Expect to wait up to six weeks to hear from an agent. Some agents never respond other than to say they received your submission. (And that can be an automatically generated e-mail). Those who respond with a rejection will say something like “It’s not for me, good luck.” If you are lucky, the agent may request more of the manuscript. If you are extremely fortunate, they may offer you a contract. You should be seeking several agents at the same time, although agents say they do not appreciate that tactic. Be prepared for many rejections, possibly dozens or more depending how aggressive you are in your agent search.
IF YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL The agent will have drawn up a contract. It is important to note that proper literary agents do not charge you money. They make their money if/when they sell your book to a publisher. An agent’s job is to sell your book to one of the big 4 major publishing companies (Penguin/Random House, Simon and Schuster, Harper Collins, and MacMillan), or one of their imprints, or even small presses. Agents will sometimes make suggestions for changes to your manuscript. Once the agent is ready to move forward to the sale process, they will present your book to one or more of the publishers listed above. You can still be rejected, and the agent can sever your contract. When the agent has sold your book to a publisher, the publisher will assign an editor and you will be required to endure more editing, with strict timelines. Eventually, your book will be ready for publishing. Your cash advance will be calculated based upon the number of books the publisher designates in the first pressing. The agent’s usual commission is 15%. How long will it be before your book hits the bookstores? From the time your agent accepts you as a client, it generally takes about 2 years before your book is published. Since publishers have drastically reduced their advertising budgets, you will be required to actively participate in promoting your book.
Coming soon- look for Part 2: Self-Publishing and Additional Options.
Guest Post written by Mark L. Dressler
About Mark L. Dressler
A former corporate manager and successful businessman, Mark began writing in 2014. He was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut. His popular mysteries feature Dan Shields (The detective who breaks all the rules) and Lex Stall (Manhattan’s tenacious female detective). Dead and Gone (2017) and Dead Right (2019) feature Dan and take place in Hartford. The 3rd book in the Dan Shields series, Dead Wrong is scheduled for a January, 2022 release. Dying for Fame (2020) features Lex Stall with a cameo appearance from Dan Shields. In 2019, Mark was named a most notable author by the Hartford Courant and he has appeared on WTNH TV (Channel 8) in New Haven with Teresa Dufour on her well-known show CT STYLE. Mark has also been on FOX 61 TV in Hartford with Stan Simpson on his show, Real People.
Mark is proud to have been honored by THE BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL for his charitable donations from his books. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. Purchase his books on Amazon in kindle or paperback, or from any bookseller.
Follow Mark on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MarkLDressler
Write him at email@example.com