Updated: Mar 8, 2022
Steps and Tips on Becoming a Published Author Today
What are stories if we do not share them?
We have seen a rise in the stories that we tell lately. Be it due to the many online platforms available including social media, or something else, the fact remains: more of us are becoming writers.
We may wonder to ourselves, “How will I get this story across to people? Do I even want to? Where can I share it? And to whom?” Sometimes, we even hear ourselves asking the inevitable, “How can I earn from this?”
The answer: publishing.
Now, what is publishing?
Publishing, simply put, is a production of literature. Not only does it put various literary pieces on sale, but more importantly, publishing makes stories available to the masses.
Published pieces nowadays come in various forms. We have our classic: the print books—the ones we buy and stack up on our shelves and desks for months, even years, before finally reading them. Then we have our modern-day “techy” versions of it: the e-books and the audiobooks.
What are the steps to publishing?
When we hear publishing, it sounds like such a big deal—and that’s right: it is.
But this does not mean we cannot do it. Sure, it is a complex process that may sound intimidating, but we will break it down into simpler terms.
They say that success does not happen overnight, and the same goes with writing and getting published. The process is not easy, but we can avoid common problems with the right amount of guidance.
Then, we will be one step closer to seeing our names on book covers.
Just as with writing, let’s look at the steps to getting published in terms of these three stages: pre-publishing, publishing, and post-publishing.
PART ONE: Pre-Publishing
This is where writing comes in.
Step 1: Research.
Inspiration can come in any form at any time, anywhere. Once we have grabbed hold of an idea for a story, the writing process begins with a thorough research on that idea.
Through research, we get to expand our knowledge on the premises that we have come up with thus far; this can include anything from characters to settings to bits and pieces of the plot itself.
Different topics require different amounts of research to create a good foundation for a book. It is important to know that as writers, we get exposed to a lot of criticism, so as much as possible, we cannot afford errors especially when it comes to facts (in case our stories require some).
Tip: Be as detailed as you can with the research. The more you know your story from the inside out, the more complete the experience of it will be. Use credible sources; keep a list of them. Read and make notes of the information you find. Consolidate them into a single outline.
Step 2: Write.
Stories are like birds in a cage—it is better to set them free from our hearts and let them soar. So, just write. What’s there to lose, right?
It is a good practice to set a timeline and outline for writing, but it is also a good reminder to understand that ideas and inspiration originate as and when we encounter something unexpected. Sometimes, spontaneity will take hold of us—and there is no harm in letting it.
Tip: Know and execute your writing style: are you a Plotter or a Pantser? Do you like to paint stories by the numbers, following a strict outline, or do you prefer writing out of the blue? Find out by reading this article.
Tip 2: Write at least thirty minutes or an hour every day; making even a small amount of time goes a long way, regardless of your writing style. Just take enough breaks so that whenever you get a fresh idea, you do not feel too exhausted to implement it.
Step 3: Edit.
Whether or not we are going into self-publishing—which we will talk about more later—, knowing how to edit our own manuscripts is important.
The first draft is never the final one.
Since we are the creators of our own stories, we have the leverage to make amendments both while and after writing them. Remember that editing is not just about checking grammar and spelling; it is also about critically reviewing our stories in order to see if what we have written so far is enough to make up the whole experience that we are trying to convey. And so, we may remove some parts or add new ones.
We can also always ask help from others, even in just the form of feedbacks. Finding and connecting with people, who we trust will give us critical and unbiased insights into our own work, is key.
Editing is all about polishing: we work and work until our story shines the exact way that we want it to, no more and no less.
Tip 1: For checking grammar, spelling, and other technicalities, use apps and online sites that provide such services if you do not want to proofread yourself.
Tip 2: For checking the content itself, go back to the story outline and see if what you have written goes with what you have planned, or even better. If you do not keep outlines, that’s okay—read your piece, don’t be afraid to question the details, remember the essence of what you are trying to say, and follow your instincts.
Step 4: Title.
Once it’s all said and done, we are left with one more crucial part of the story: the title.
Buying a book is a lot like getting attracted to somebody. First, we see the outside—the book cover—, which draws us in. Then, we hear the name—the title—, which compels us.
Now, hearing a good title is a lot like getting LSS-ed with a song: it plays on repeat in our minds until finally, we cannot resist it anymore so we get it for ourselves.
The title is what makes the first impression of our books, embedding it into the minds of our would-be readers. Thus, it must be inclusive of everything we have written inside.
Tip: You may have had a title already at the beginning of your writing. Regardless, after editing your manuscripts, you must go through the whole of it a few times, and while doing so, note down the significant events that happen in the story to ensure that their essence is included in the title.
Step 5: Format.
Now we have our complete and edited story. So, what’s next?
Before we get into the nitty-gritties of the publishing process itself, we have to make sure our work is in the proper format of a manuscript.
Having a text that is not just well-written but also fully organized shows our clarity and professionalism when it comes to our stories.
Tip: Look up the most common or proper formats used in manuscripts and take the time to make this final edit. You can also look up apps where manuscript formatting is best done.
PART TWO: Publishing
Before delving in any further, we have to first ask ourselves: “What format or medium do I want to see my story in?”
As mentioned earlier, we have print books, e-books, and audiobooks. So, let’s take our pick from these.
Now, we must also ask, “What mode of publishing do I want to achieve?”
We have two types: traditional and self-publishing. Each one has their own pros and cons, as well as steps, which we will outline now.
Type A: Traditional Publishing
In traditional publishing—especially in dealing with leading publishing companies worldwide—, writers have to hire an agent who acts as an intermediary between the author and the publishing house. A contract is then made, allowing the publisher to print, distribute, and sell the book, by which the author earns royalty from each sale based on an agreed amount.
Pros: Traditional publishers have an established market of readers that increases the chances of your book’s success.
Cons: Having to hire an agent means more expenses, more requirements, and more risks of rejection.
However, there are traditional publishers, too—like Ukiyoto Publishing—that do not require agents. In this case, the author submits a manuscript directly to the publisher, who is then in charge of approving the book for publishing or otherwise. A contract is also made between the two parties, defining the amounts that will go to the publisher and the author, amongst other terms and conditions.
Pros: This type of traditional publishers is more accessible to authors, and it does not have initial costs.
Cons: It may take more time to have your manuscript reviewed since these publishers receive submissions from many writers due to the easier accessibility.
Generally, distributing and promoting the books would not be the author’s problem, either, as the publishing company will be the one to handle them. In any case, we should consider the publisher that will suit our needs best.
Step 1: Find literary agents.
The key here is to make sure to look up agents who work with the same genres as our book. The other half of this process relies on developing a good pitch for our stories—be it through query letters or in person—, accompanied by excerpts and a brief author’s description.
Tip 1: Look up renowned agents either globally or locally, depending on your publishing goal. Make connections with people in the publishing industry who might help you with the process.
Tip 2: Write a convincing author’s description by including credentials, literary features and awards if any, and basically anything that can be a leverage to get you published (i.e. amassing many followers on social media and writing platforms where you share your work, having an established writing blog).
Step 2: Work with your agent.
Winning over a literary agent is a big accomplishment—so make sure to have a much-deserved mini celebration! After which, we will have to continue our efforts by working out the details with our agent, editing our stories if need be, signing the contract, and hoping that these adjustments will make publishers invest in our stories.
Tip: Maintain a healthy professional relationship with your agent, where you are comfortable enough to express your creativity, to listen to their advice, and to make a stand for your story when needed.
Step 3: Get approved by a publisher.
This is the part where we have a bigger version of a celebration. Mind you, getting a publisher to invest is not, in any way, an easy feat. Working with our agents is just half of the battle or even less; and so, we face a 99% risk of getting rejected once we pitch to publishers.
But once we are approved—then, safe to say, the hardest part is over.
Tip: Same as working with agents: be professional, listen to them, but also do not forget the essence of your story because that is what brought you this far, and that is what you will gift to your readers.
Step 4: Work with the publisher.
This is essentially the last part of getting published traditionally. This is where we work with our publishers to produce our stories as books—be it print, digital, or audio. This step includes everything from editing to making book covers to printing and distributing.
Then, finally, we need only wait to see our names printed on books that we wrote ourselves.
Tip: Enjoy the process. It’s not every day you get published.
Type B: Self-Publishing
As the name suggests, self-publishing is where authors manage everything on our own from start to finish, from writing to printing and even marketing.
Pros: You hold the pen in the process of publishing; meaning, you do not have to face the rejection of publishing companies because it is completely in your control. The only rejection you might take is that from readers, but don’t we all? Also, you get all the money you earn.
Cons: Budget is a must. Self-publishing means investing your money in printing and distributing services, and sometimes on editing, designing, and marketing. This makes it more important to master how to edit our own manuscripts. Even learning to design our book covers and market our books cuts back on costs.
Step 1: Finalize the book layout.
Apart from formatting our manuscripts, as self-publishers, we are responsible for formatting our books into printable copies. This includes our book covers.
Tip: Visualize your book. Know how you want it to look like. Execute it carefully. You can learn how to make book covers online, and there are also several free editing apps and sites available. As the author yourself, you have the advantage of knowing what the story is all about.
Step 2: Get an ISBN.
The International Standard Book Number or ISBN is what will identify our product from others, especially for sales record purposes.
Tip: Learn how to apply for an ISBN in your country. Follow the respective procedures once you are about to publish your book and not too early nor too late.
Step 3: Invest in printing services.
Having a book printer and knowing the bookbinding process come in very handy in self-publishing. But we can also choose to partner with printing services or companies to produce our books.
Tip: Setting up Amazon or Kindle accounts to publish your works is also very helpful, especially because a lot of people are turning in to digital reading nowadays.
Step 4: Put a price on your book.
Once you have had your books printed—and you have rightfully admired the beauty of your hard work—, price them.
Tip 1: Keep in mind basic business rules. Make sure you calculate both your publishing expenses and profit into the final price, while keeping it as affordable as possible so you can sustain your sales over time.
Tip 2: Every now and then, especially at the start, offer discounts and promos to attract customers.
Step 5: Launch your book.
As self-publishers, we will also be in charge of letting the world know about our books. The launch does not have to be grand. Even just an online launch will do already, as long as we know how to maximize our resources at hand, and as long as we find people who will support us and spread the word of our books.
Tip: Don’t forget that this is not just about attracting customers; this is also a celebration of your success as a published writer so far.
PART THREE: Post-Publishing
In one word, this is defined by marketing.
Publishing does not stop once we have our books printed and distributed to stores and sites. Publishing does not even stop once we have them sold to readers.
Publishing is an ongoing—dare I say, lifelong—process of continuing to spread our stories. Just look at the example of our classical literature: until now, decades and centuries after their stories’ inception, publishing goes on for them.
Just remember: it is not just about the money. First and foremost, publishing is all about sharing stories with each other, for whatever purpose, be it to inform, to express, to entertain, to inspire, or to be empathetic.
As writers, we have a duty to fulfill: a duty not just to get a second-book deal, but also to reach people and make an impact through our written art.