The publishing industry has changed enormously since my first book, DREAMING OF A STRANGER, was published in 1997. Sales of traditional print books have been declining and ebooks have become increasingly popular. Although ebook publishing rights are now routinely included in a traditional print publishing deal, many authors have opted to self-publish their ebooks because they get higher royalties that way, and because their book can make it into the public domain a lot more quickly than going the traditional route.
There are lots of ebook authors who blog about their experiences and give advice to other authors on how to go about it. As my ebooks are part of my publishing contract, I’m not an expert on online publishing, so I recommend you read up as much about it as you can. If you do a Google search on ebook publishing, you’ll find lots of useful information. The only advice I would give you is to do a lot of work on your manuscript before you press ‘go’. One of the basic problems with a lot of self-published ebooks is that the authors don’t do their work justice by editing and proof-reading their work before publishing it. If your book is littered with grammatical and spelling mistakes you are letting yourself down, and no matter how good the content it’s hard for the reader to get past the fact that your heroine had blue eyes on page 2 and brown eyes on page 22. Or that her boyfriends name is Mick on page 10 and Mike on page 50. Or that you’ve used ‘their’ when you should have used ‘they’re’ through the entire novel.
You may prefer to take your chances with the traditional route of trying to get an established publishing house to take your work. This is how I was published and so my advice here is from personal experience.
2. Select an agent who deals with the genre of book you’re writing. You can do this by looking at the authors they already represent. Even if you think your work doesn’t fit into any genre, you can still make some decisions based on the type of authors the agent has on their list.
3. It doesn’t matter that most agents are in the UK; they will still look at your work if it is written in English. The reason I recommend writers go to agents rather than directly to publishers is that an agent should always put your best interests first. They also know who to approach – it could be that a publisher you’re thinking of contacting has already signed a new author and isn’t in the market right now. They’ll send you a rejection letter and you’ll think it’s all about you, but it might not be! So agents are a really important part of the process. Also, they deal with lots of the legal issues, too, in terms of contracts etc.
4. An option not available to me when I was starting out, is to follow the agents that you think might be interested in your work on Facebook and Twitter, so that you get an idea of their personality and how they approach the business.
5. Contact the agent you’ve chosen. The first and most important thing you should do is check their website and follow their guidelines. So many writers don’t and it puts you on the wrong foot straight away. It also marks you down as being unprofessional and, let’s face it, publishing is a business and you’re going to have to be businesslike about your writing career.
6. Submit your work, following the guidelines on the agent’s website.
7. Do not email or phone the agent every day to see if they have read your manuscript yet. It is likely that they will have a time frame for getting back to you on their website. Contacting them before that won’t speed things up.
8. You may get a rejection letter from an agent which may or may not offer advice about your manuscript. Accept the advice if it’s given and move on. If you’ve just received a standard rejection letter, there is no point in harassing the agent (as some writers do) looking for reasons. Agents accept a limited number of new clients every year and they may simply be unable to represent you at this time.
9. If and when you are accepted by an agent, follow their advice. It’s what you’re paying for!
10. Hopefully you will get a deal from a publishing house that you respect. Most publishers are still passionate about books and authors. It’s lovely to be part of that!
11. Good luck. And remember my favourite quote of all time about writing: ‘a professional writer is an amateur who wouldn’t quit.’