1. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 The Queen of Nowhere Contributor

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    On trying to get your first book published...

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by GlitterRain7, Feb 25, 2018.

    No, I'm not done yet with my first novel. I've written about 75% of the manuscript, but after reading some articles/blog posts on the internet, I have some questions.

    1) Is it really a bad thing to try to get your first written book published? I read articles that said to put your manuscript away and write another novel with that one in the drawer. Is that necessary? Because I'm not bored of this one yet, and yeah, it's my first novel and probably not the best I'll ever write if I keep writing, but isn't that what the editing process is for?

    2) Since I have high hopes of trying to get this book published, and if you don't believe I should throw it in the drawer and write another book, should I be trying to promote myself as of now with blogging or whatever? If I should, what would I even blog about? My book's manuscript isn't even finished, so I feel like I can't really blog about that.

    3) If you guys agree with what I read on the internet about putting this book away, how do I work on getting better with writing and developing my style more without having people look at my work and critique it? Do I need to try to go to writer's workshops, or am I missing something? I feel like if I just move on to another novel or whatever, the quality will stay the same as the first novel.

    Basically, I want to stick with the book I'm currently working on until the end, when it's actually published. (BTW I want to go the traditional publishing route) I will shelf this book if it's absolutely necessary and will make it better when I go back to finish it, but my heart is in this book and it's going to be really hard for me to just drop it and move on. But, I want what's best for it.

    Also, if any of you guys got the first novel you wrote traditionally published, how did you go about doing it?
     
  2. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think there's anything wrong with trying to get your first book published - it may not work out, but what's the harm in trying? I guess there's a chance you could get discouraged if it doesn't happen, but if you guard yourself against that, go ahead.

    My first novel was in a niche genre so I sent the MS to the only publisher I knew of who worked in that genre and they wanted it. Pretty simple. In general, though, you want to start with the biggest publishers (for the chance at wider distribution/larger advances) and then work your way down the list. For the biggest publishers, you'll almost certainly need an agent, so your first step in trying to get published would be to try to get an agent. It's generally best to have your book beta'ed and proofread and edited to as close to perfection as you can manage before you get to that stage, so... be patient.

    In the meantime - I don't think blogs are necessary for fiction writers, but if you're good at blogging and tweeting and you enjoy it, go for it! It sure won't hurt to be able to show agents you've already started engaging with potential readers and building your reach.
     
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  3. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor Community Volunteer

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    1) No. My first manuscript got me my agent.

    2) There's no "should" about it - you might see articles saying it's not optional and authors MUST have social media presence, but it's clearly untrue (evidence: the authors being published every year who don't do social media). But if you don't hate the idea then yes, start building up your social media now. It is an advantage, even if it isn't mandatory.
     
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  4. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I had my first novel traditionally published. Like @BayView it was for a niche market, so I looked into that genre's different publishers and went with the one I thought was the best fit.

    I made sure that the MS was formatted as per the guidelines on their website and that I followed all of the instructions of what to include in the submission email. You'd be surprised how many possibly good stories get chucked in the bin simply because the writer didn't follow directions.

    They accepted the manuscript and I had a contract in my email in a fairly short period of time. Not sure if it was luck, talent, a shitload of praying or a combination of all three!
     
  5. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Senior Member

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    I'm on my second draft of my manuscript and I just want to work on something new now but unfortunately I'll need one more draft and then an editor/beta reader and I'll see how many things I need to change after that- and then, I'll start quearing agents for about three months. I say three months because I'm on the fence about self publishing. If I can't find an agent to represent my book by then, I'll self pub that one and use the best cover art I can create.
     
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  6. NobodySpecial

    NobodySpecial Contributor Contributor

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    I agree with BayView, very few writers get published on the first outting, but it does happen, so what harm is there in trying? What’s a publisher going to do? Say no? Ouch. Get up and try again. James Patterson’s first novel was rejected fortysome times. That same novel eventually won a prize as debute novel of the year. After each rejection he revised and tightened up the story and resubmitted. Did getting accepted prove the rejections wrong? It just meant the novel wasn’t ready yet. When it was ready it won an award. A big part of getting accepted for publication is sending your manuscript-the right manuscript- to the right person on the right day at the right time. Send a story to someone who just went through five others just like it and you may end up either in the trash can or the slush pile. Send that same submission to the same person, but be something beyond those other five- better writing, more vivid setting, more compelling characters, more vibrant plot- you may get a phone call. It’s sometimes a crapshoot.

    That’s the theory of putting it away for a while. Give it a cooling off period, being it back out in a while and read it again. Find all those things that make aquisitions people cringe; give yourself the best possible edge.

    I’ve entered a number of short story contests, took third in one earned a 50$ prize, got shortlisted or an honorable mention in a couple others, but no first place finishes yet. Maybe I’ll do better this year.
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think there's a lot of difference between don't try to publish your first novel and don't try to publish your first novel until it's been edited (by you and/or others) to where it's as perfect as you can get it to be.

    "Editing" is more than just proofreading for SPAG errors. It has to take in all aspects of the story itself. So see how much you can learn as you work your way through the process. If you can find and understand the flaws in your first novel and manage to correct these flaws, there is no reason you can't get your first book published. It's just not likely to be your first draft!

    It doesn't really matter how many novels you write. If each one is submitted too soon, without an objective edit, you're unlikely to land an agent/publishing deal for any of them.

    Don't be in a rush. It won't pay off.
     
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  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

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    That sounds specious and a bit silly. There's a very common refrain about putting the novel in the drawer, starting another one, and then pulling the first one out of the drawer after a month or two to look at it with fresh eyes. But abandoning a novel for no other reason than it's your first one? That's stupid.

    You might want to slow your roll on that, and that's not a knock on you, your writing, or anything personal, but high hopes have a tendency to end in very long falls.
     
  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I think she's refering the the the first million words are just practice thing (Ray Bradbury probably although its credited to various people depending on source)

    I agree its specious - I doubt whoever said it really meant you should discard your first ten books - he was really just saying you get better with practice, which isn't exactly a surprise
     
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  10. Dragon Turtle

    Dragon Turtle Deadlier Jerry

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    IMO, the issue with first novels isn't that they're first novels, it's that first-time novelists usually aren't skilled enough to recognize when their book is actually ready to be submitted.

    My first novel was quite bad. I thought it was brilliant. I had it beta-read by multiple people, and all of them gave me feedback, but it was all pretty shallow feedback, and I did shallow revisions. Then I decided the book was ready to query, and I started sending it to agents. Unsurprisingly, I didn't get an agent. When I re-read that book now, it is so obvious to me that it's not query-ready. I'm not sure any amount of revision could save it short of actually rewriting it from scratch. However, if you'd told me back then--this is almost nine years ago, now--that it wasn't ready? I wouldn't have listened. Because, like you say, my heart was in it, and I loved it and was so excited to share it with the world. I was convinced that even if it wasn't perfect it was good enough to land me an agent as long as it got in the right hands at the right time.

    I don't think I was a uniquely bad writer back then; I was just inexperienced. That said, there are some people who are naturally just better when they first start out. I do not think it's safe to assume you're one of them... not you personally, anyone. I wish I hadn't assumed I was one of them. But like I said... I don't know what could have convinced me otherwise, except for time.

    So, yes, I think it's a very good idea to put your first novel in a drawer for a while. Not your first draft, no; like you say, that wouldn't help you find out what you need to do to get better. Finish your draft, revise it, get it beta-read, revise it some more, revise it again and again until you're so sick of it you could just puke if you had to read through it again. Then you won't love it as much, and it'll seem like sweet relief to shove it away for a year and work on something else. When the year is up, then go back and see if you still think it's good enough to send to agents. Now, will you take this advice? Probably not. I wouldn't have. ;)

    Just as a counterpoint to the people saying it won't do any harm to try getting it published: there is actually a potential downside to that, which is that if you send it out before it's ready and a bunch of industry professionals see it and reject it, you've essentially killed your chances for getting it published unless you make major changes to it. Then again, maybe those major changes are exactly what it needs. So... yeah, I don't know. Do what you will!
     
  11. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Member Supporter

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    Go for it. At worst it's going to be a learning experience.

    As others have said, it can't hurt unless you're a horrible human being blogging about horrible, horrible things. But the blog market is fairly over saturated right now, so it may not get a lot of attention until people know who you are and other efforts take off.

    Stick-to-it-iveness is awesome, just remember that there's a point of diminishing returns on some things and sometimes cutting your losses to work on another project for a bit isn't a bad thing.

    Not my first novel, because my first novel was horrible, but I basically got an agent by sleeping with someone who knew someone who I went to school with that ended up selling my manuscripts for me. Not that I'm recommending sleeping with random people in hopes of getting an agent.

    I think this was Malcolm Gladwell with either The Tipping Point or The Outliers, though it may not have originated with him. I dunno.
     
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  12. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    One of the big beefs most people have against self published work is that it's usually 'terrible.' Clunky writing, SPAG errors, clichéd characters, etc etc. And they're right.

    Most of the self-published stuff you try to read, even just the 'look inside' samples on Amazon, makes you immediately move on to something else. No matter how great the cover art might be, or how intriguing the back cover blurb is, etc. And even if you (the reader) go ahead and buy it, how many of these books actually keep you going and end up leaving you satisfied? I'd say very few.

    The problem? These authors published too soon. I can only assume that a similar percentage of wobbly MS submissions land in agents' inboxes every day as well.

    It's probably an ego-saver if you think you get stock rejections because your books aren't a good fit for the agent or publication. However, it's a lot more likely that they're not ready for any publication.

    Take your time. Publish snippets of your 'finished' story here in the Workshop and see what the reaction is. See if you can line up a few beta readers who know their stuff. By 'know their stuff' I would suggest betas who read the kinds of books you consider yours to be. They don't have to be fellow writers, but they should be experienced readers. An experienced reader will know whether a book catches their imagination or not. They also will have insight into why.
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    The danger can be in becoming too focused on submitting work, rather than on polishing it to a high standard.

    Instead of learning about writing and learning to recognise what is actually holding a book back, instead some new writers simply finish, do a couple of quick edits, and then start submitting it to umpteen places. And/or writing more books (probably making the same mistakes) and focusing on submitting THEM as well.

    It's true that the more agents see your work, the more likely you are to get taken on by one of them. But only if your writing is good enough.
     
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  14. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 The Queen of Nowhere Contributor

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    Exactly. I feel like it’s better to continue working on the book I’m working on rather then just throwing it in the drawer and writing another one without first finding out what mistakes I’m making.
     
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  15. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    I hear tossing it through a pro-editor will improve your odds as well.
     
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  16. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 The Queen of Nowhere Contributor

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    I think I want to actually take it to an editor after I do as much editing as I can, and after I get some beta readers to read it.
     
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  17. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    It costs a lot of money to get a really good editor, and it's likely a waste of time to get a less-than-good editor.

    It's a hell of a gamble. I wouldn't recommend it, myself.
     
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  18. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Tis true, from around the 'water cooler' a good editor is highway robbery.
    But might be helpful in getting you a foot in the door. Otherwise just get
    it as best you can up to snuff and send it to a ton of agents and hope that
    someone actually likes what they see.
     
  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I think that's debateable - if you are going for a trad deal editing is in my view part of what the publisher should pay for in return for most of the royalties
     
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  20. Lew

    Lew Member Supporter Contributor

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    First, @GlitterRain7, congratulations for getting so far along in your first effort. Many would-be writers never reach that point. I strongly encourage you to finish the story, if for no other reason than to reach that elusive final sentence.

    First-time writers have a helluva a hard time getting picked up. It seems to be a catch-22... agents are more likely to pick up a writer who has a publishing track-record, and if this is your first, you don't have one. How do you get one?

    First, don't rush to publication. The publisher is going to publish your work, he/she is not going to FINISH it for you. If it is not finished, they will not bother. There are too many finished products out there to waste time on one that is not. You wouldn't buy an unfinished new car. Finishing means extensive editing by yourself and others. If you can afford a professional editor, get one, but get one by recommendation. They can be expensive, and their quality various from the "waste of time and money" to real jewels. If you can't afford one, look to the local community colleges for students or teachers in the writing field, many of whom will do that free or for a small sum.

    Secondly, be very, very patient. Agents get around 400-500 queries per month, and accept perhaps 10-20 per YEAR to push to publishers. Many of the other 4780-5990 submissions are rejected for quality. Others are rejected because that particular story line is not what their publishers are looking for right now, or because their plate is full with pushing one of the 10-20 selections to publishers. Expect, even welcome, rejections, because it means you are doing the work to get your work before their eyes, and don't take the rejection personally. And don't get discouraged, it will be long slog.

    As to social media, I find that promoting a website is the only thing harder than promoting a book. I have one, lewis-mcintyre.com, but I hardly look at it, and very few others do, either. My primary tool has been facebook, which starts off by hitting my friends, and then gets rapidly expanded by shares and recommendations. You can check Lewis Mcintyre and Karen D. McIntyre on FB (sorry don't have links handy) for ideas. It is a good idea now to start doing that for two reasons: one is that agents want to see some online-presence when they look for you, in response to your query. The other is to build enthusiasm for your book. And that will work whether you publish traditionally, or go the self-published route as I did.
     
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  21. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Don't start blogging and promoting a book you haven't even finished. It's way too soon to even be thinking about that, in my opinion. It's a good thing you still like your book because you're not done yet. And it's good you have publishing aspirations because that can help you to do your best and finish. Here's the thing. The editing process is probably going to take you longer than it did to write it. And there is something to be said for putting something to the side, working on something else, and then coming back to your original work. It's kind of the best way to really see something with fresh eyes. And I think the advice you're talking about is to take enough time before you start submitting to give yourself the best chance possible of reaching publication.

    That being said, there is a euphoric state that comes with finishing a piece of writing. And you're close so you can probably sense it's coming. It's quite an accomplishment to actually write a novel. Celebrate that when you get there. But don't be in such a rush to submit. It's kind of hard, and I know I've been guilty of submitting too soon. Submitting right away or soon after you believe you're done, won't speed up the publishing process. It might help thicken up your skin when you start getting rejected. Even if your first draft comes out perfect or you wait six months after you think you're done and give it a final revision, you are going to get rejected. A lot. Even the most successful writers get rejected. So, there is value in getting used to rejection. It sure won't seem like it, but it is just part of how this game is played.

    I wrote a novel that I thought was great and sent it everywhere. Everywhere rejected me. After a few months I read it again. It wasn't the same as how I remembered it and it was almost like every flaw had been highlighted. I could have fixed it more. I started to, but by then I was onto other writing pursuits and no longer wanted my first attempt to be my debut novel.

    We all want to be the exception. We want to have our first try picked up by our dream agent who will land us a big advance with our dream publisher. Very, very few people get to be that exception. Most of us have to work harder than we think we should have to and are still going to fail a bunch of times. I think this advice you're talking about might also be encouraging you to not tie all your hopes and dreams to one book. If you wrote one, you can write another.

    As far as workshops and feedback go, it all depends on who is giving you this feedback. What I like about a real life workshop setting is that you get to see everyones writing. It helps to know if this advice you're getting is coming from someone you think is talented vs. someone you think might need to find a new hobby. I think the way writers improve is by reading. Just read more and read whenever you can. I don't read in any special way. I just like reading, and for some reason it always seems to have a positive effect on me and my writing.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
  22. Jrax16

    Jrax16 New Member

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  23. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    christ almighty my eyes - use a readable colour next time.

    I totally disagree with #2 and I'm neither arrogant nor naïve - there is no point at all in investing in promotions until you have a decent portfolio of content (and hopefully a few books out) - otherwise you are just pointlessly pissing your money away - to start with you build your readership organically by word of mouth, social media etc - its slow to start with but its better than wasting your money.
     

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