Traditional Publishing in a Nutshell

There are numerous routes a new author can take to get their work out into the world, but for many, traditional publishing is the ultimate dream. It takes patience and persistence to withstand the intermittent periods of waiting and rejection natural to the process. If you succeed, though, your book could end up on the shelf at your favorite store with much of the marketing taken care of by others.

Curious what traditional publishing entails? Here’s a general overview of what the process looks like for a first-time author.

Step 1: Finish your manuscript. As eager as you are to get the show on the road, don’t worry about this process until you have the entire novel to share. Agents and publishers have so many possible manuscripts to pick from that they’re far more likely to be interested in a complete, fully realized story.

Step 2: Self-edit your work. Once the manuscript is complete, you’ll need to spend time polishing your novel to the best of your ability. You may want to find a critique partner (i.e. another novelist in the same phase of editing) who will help you look at your work objectively.

Step 3: Determine the genre. Figure out which categories fit your novel so you have an idea of which themes and elements to emphasize when you present your work to others. Perhaps your coming-of-age YA novel could also be classified as a thriller? This will help you narrow or expand your search for the right agent.

Step 4: Research publishers and agents. Very few publishers allow you to submit to them directly, and it’s usually in your best interest to have an agent negotiate on your behalf. Take your time looking for agents whose specialties and track records align with your goals.

Step 5: Prepare to submit. Perfect your query letter and gathering other materials the agent or publisher requests.

Step 6: Email agents. Once you’re satisfied with your query, email the agents you landed on during the research process. It can take months to receive responses, so start on a new project in the meantime.

Step 7. Receive an offer. If you receive an offer, notify other agents who have yet to respond to your query. This may allow you to choose between a few different agents before you make your final decision.

Step 8: Sign a contract with the agent. Hooray! You have someone on your team to present your work to publishers.

Step 9: More editing. Your agent may have feedback for you and need you to rework some of your novel while they continue the process.

Step 10: Agent submits to editors. Agents will send out your work to publishers, often in a fashion similar to you sending your work to them, in a series of rounds. Again, you may be waiting for a while during this part of the process.

Step 11: Acquisition. Once an editor is interested in your manuscript, they pitch the book to their publisher. The publisher will need to be convinced that your work is sellable within those genres and worth the investment. Books are often rejected at this stage of the process, but your agent will keep looking for editors if this is the case.

Step 12: Agent negotiates with publisher. If the publisher is interested, your agent will work to get you the best possible contract. In this stage you may end up with offers from other editors once they are notified you received a deal elsewhere.

Step 13: Sign a contract with the publisher. It’s happening! The publisher is taking a chance on you, and it’s your turn to make sure you are satisfied with all aspects of the contract.

Step 14: More editing. The publisher may desire additional changes to your manuscript and will also want your novel professionally copyedited.

Step 15: Publishers pitch to stores. As the editors presented to them, they now have a sales team present to retailers, promising the popularity of your work.

Step 16: Wait. You’ve done a lot of waiting so far, but now there’s a longer stretch to endure. On average it takes one-and-a-half to two years before the book is officially published.

Step 17: The day has come. Your book is real and it’s launch-party time!

Traditional publishing can seem daunting with all its steps and possibility for rejection but knowing what to expect takes much of the fear out of the process. Enter into the publishing  journey with a patient mindset and willingness to adapt, and you never know what could come of it.

  • Posted by Julia McAlpine
  • May 26, 2020 8:26 AM PDT
There are numerous routes a new author can take to get their work out into the world, but for many, traditional publishing is the ultimate dream.




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