Publishing Your Fiction: Things to Know Before Getting Started
Recently, a shift has taken place in my writing life.
In my first five years of writing, I focused on learning the craft and improving my skills. During these years, I almost never felt that I'd written something worthy of publishing. My work simply wasn't up to par.
But now, that's beginning to change.
I'm finally coming to a place where I'm happy with my storytelling and prose. There's always more to learn and more room to grow, of course, but now I'm beginning to turn my eye toward publishing in earnest.
To prepare, I've been reading and researching everything I need to know about the publishing process, and I'm finally ready to share what I've learned with you in our new series on publishing. Hurray!
At the moment, I have four articles planned in our new ongoing series:
• Publishing Your Fiction: Things to Know Before Getting Started (today's article)
• The Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing
• The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing
• How to Choose the Right Publishing Path for Your Stories
I plan to continue expanding this series as I learn more and more about the publishing process, but expect to see the first four articles above coming out over the next few weeks.
Now, without any further ado, let's kick off our publishing series!
The Many Approaches to Publishing
There are many reasons why an author may choose to publish their work.
They may want to build a full-time writing career, use publishing to supplement their main income, publish for the simple sake of sharing their stories with the world, and so on, and every one of these motives is valid.
That said, for the sake of this series, we're going to focus on building a full-time writing career. This is the dream I hope to achieve through publishing, and it seems to be the biggest reason why most of the writers I've met wish to publish, too.
That doesn't mean the tips in this series won't apply to you if you're sporting an ulterior motive for publishing though. Feel free to take and leave whatever information you may from this series as best fits your goals for your writing. Sound good?
Knowing Your Writerly Rights
When it comes to building a writing career, slow and steady wins the race.
The debut authors whose books skyrocket to the top of the NYT Bestseller list are the unicorns of the writing industry. For most authors, it takes many years and many books published before they're able to quit their day jobs and start writing full-time.
Here's some good news: as a writer, your income can stem from more than just your published book. There are a variety of income streams available to writers, and making good use of most of them, if not all, is key to growing your career.
Take a look at just some of the ways you can leverage a single manuscript:
• Print books
• Audio books
• Foreign editions & translations
• Film and TV adaptations
• Video games, coloring books, and other merchandising
Each of these income streams is a right that you own as the author of your book. As an author, you (and your agent, if you're publishing traditionally) can negotiate contracts with publishing houses, production companies, etc. for each of these individual rights.
But your income streams don't stop there. As an author, you can also make money by selling your time. Here are just a few examples:
• Book signings
• Appearances (conventions, schools, etc.)
• Book tours and readings
Typically, the many ways in which you merchandise your books acts as your passive, a.k.a. "evergreen", income. In other words (and very generally speaking), once you publish your book and/or sell related rights, you'll make ongoing income with very little upkeep.
So long as the book/adaptation/merch is on the market, consumers can continue to buy, earning you royalties. On the other hand, by selling your time, you make what's called active income, which is generated only once over a short period of time.
Book signings, tours, readings, and so forth are paid gigs that authors can take to help supplement their income (as well as engage with their fanbase and boost ongoing book, adaptation, and merch sales).
Understanding how authors make money and knowing your writerly rights is of huge importance as you prepare to build your writing career, but it's not the only thing you should be concerned about…
Building Your Author Brand, Platform, and Readership
As an author, you are a business. Your books are your products, and to make money, every good business needs solid branding, a platform from which they can sell, and a loyal fanbase (in this case, a loyal readership).
These are all topics we've already touched upon briefly here at Well-Storied, but we will continue to dive into each topic in-depth in future articles.
Today, let's run a quick breakdown of what goes into the building of an author brand, platform, and loyal fanbase:
1. Your Author Brand.
Who are you as an author?
Good branding is all about making a clear and memorable impression on consumers.
When it comes to publishing, an author's brand should tell readers exactly who they are and what they write so they can draw in the readers who are most likely to adore their books.
Building an author brand is a long process, but here are three of the biggest things you should consider when first starting out:
1) Your author name/pen name. (Does it reflect the mood set by your stories? Is it unique from other authors' names?)
2) The stories you wish to tell. (Which genre and age market do you plan to write for? If varied, do all of your books have a similar feel? In other words, will most of your readers enjoy most of your books?)
3) Your presentation. (How will you present yourself online and when meeting readers in person? What will and won't you talk about? What kind of tone will you use?)
You can learn more about building your author brand in this guide.
2. Your author platform.
How do you plan to market your books?
Nearly every author, regardless of which publishing route they choose, must take on most or all of the responsibility of marketing their books. That means having a strong presence---a.k.a. a platform---from which to sell those books is highly important.
Building your presence, which in this digital age is largely online, requires that you first get to know your ideal reader inside and out. (You can check out my guide on this topic here!)
From there, you can use what you've learned about your ideal reader to begin building your loyal readership...
3. Your readership.
How will you grow your loyal fanbase?
Your biggest marketing tool as an author isn't Facebook ads or auto-DMing or any other similar nonsense. It's your readers.
When readers absolutely adore you and your work, they're much more likely to tell their friends, leave positive ratings and reviews, show up at author events, and otherwise support and encourage your success.
That means engaging and interacting with your readers in a way that's both genuine and personal is HUGE. You can click here to check out a much more in-depth guide to growing your readership today.
It's never to soon to begin building your author brand, platform, and readership. You don't have to be published. You don't even need to be close to publishing. Simply get online, plug into the reading and writing communities, and start making friends.
Not only will you have found yourself a loving and supportive community to encourage you as you write, but you'll already have begun to make your mark before your books hit shelves. It's a win-win from all angles!
Remember, patience and persistence are key...
I mentioned this briefly above, but I want to reiterate that building a writing career takes time and dedication---and lots of it. Overnight successes are almost never *actual* overnight successes.
Instead, these authors put in years and years of hard work without any of the glory. Those years may go unnoticed by most, but the hard work is certainly never a waste. It's what enabled those authors to gain "overnight success" in the first place.
Remember, it takes time to learn the craft of writing, and even more time to practice and polish your skills. From there, it can often take many years and many published books before an author finds full-time success.
That's exactly why patience and persistence are key. If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed, here are a few articles to help you get in the right mindset:
Nearly all writers become writers because it's something they love to do.
But while being a full-time novelist may seem like a dream come true, it's important to keep in mind that writing for a living is still working for a living. A job is still a job, no matter how dreamy it may seem from the outside looking in.
Building a career as an author is in no way an easy task. And even when you've built your career, there are plenty of bumps along the road. Writing is work. Hard work. Selling what you've written is even harder.
But spending every day doing what you love? Well, in my book, that makes it all worthwhile.
Are you ready to begin building your career as an author? I hope you found this introduction to our new series on publishing helpful as you prepare to dive in deep.
If you have any questions or would like to suggest a topic I should cover in this series, don't hesitate to let me know in the comments below!