Lesson 16 of 17
In Progress


We’ve gone this so far without mentioning much about the “P” word (publication) or other related words (agents, proposals, querying, submissions).

Thinking too much about what comes after writing your book can distract you from…well, writing your book.

But I do think this is a good time in this workshop to mention a few considerations about the publishing landscape and your possible publishing goals.

I’m going to use a few highlights from a new book (published this month!) by Susan Shapiro called The Book Bible: How To Sell Your Manuscript No Matter What Genre — Without Going Broke or Insane. Susan is a wonderful writer in her own right, a writing coach, and the author of one of my favorite books about getting published as a freelancer, The Byline Bible: Get Published in Five Weeks.

The Book Bible is sort of a book about what you need to know about the publishing industry before you try and get your book published.

In describing the publishing industry, I love this quote from the book:

“Which genres usually require a full manuscript to sell to an editor? (Fiction and poetry.) Which category is easiest to sell to a publisher with the fewest pages? (Nonfiction.) Must I be famous to get a book deal for a memoir? (No, but you need a great story.) If I want a decent advance, should I get an agent or go directly to publishers? (Agent.) Will my book be fact-checked? (Probably not; the onus is on you.) Do you recommend self-publishing? (No though there are times when it makes sense.)”

Unlike most books or classes about getting published, she has recommendations specific to each genre. Here are a few of my favorites:

MEMOIR: Try getting short pieces published in smaller outlets as you’re writing your memoir or revising it to increase your odds of attracting an agent or a publisher. She writes: “It takes much less time to publish 3 pages than 300 and having a great clip can get agents and editors calling you. Try to sell a dramatic part of your memoir as a short essay….”

NONFICTION: Even if you’re mostly using third-person in the rest of the book, try using first-person in the preface or introduction. Editors and publishers like writers to describe the author’s motivation for writing the book and her personal story.

FICTION: Unless you have an extremely compelling reason, use first-person past tense for your novel. It is the easiest and most common way to tell a story. She writes: “The farther from the norm you travel, the higher the bar will be for excellence, and the harder it will be to get paid and published.”

Tell us your thoughts about publication. Do you want to try to get published by a major publishing house? Have you considered smaller presses? Have you explored the process of finding an agent? Have you considered self-publishing? What questions do you have?