Finished Writing My Novel. Now What?

With a Bit of Info from an Agent

How to get my story to readers now that it’s finished?

What do you do with a book you’ve finished writing and are hoping to get published? 

You can go the traditional route and submit your manuscript to literary agents or directly to the few publishers who accept unagented submissions. You can pay a vanity press to publish your book. Or you can go the self-publishing route in a couple of different ways. The first is to use a self-publishing platform, such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, which allows you to publish both ebooks and paperbacks. There are other self-publishing options besides Amazon. The second choice is to go to a subscription service, such as Patreon or Amazon’s new platform, Vella, where readers pay to read your book section by section; the platform takes a percentage of royalties. It’s like the old days when newspapers and magazines printed serialized stories.

Despite these new publishing options, many writers still choose to go the traditional route. It’s still a prestigious way to get published. Having “gatekeepers” select and vet a manuscript seems to assure some sort of quality control. I’ve read many traditionally published books where quality control does not seem to have been a consideration. No doubt you have, too. Advances from the publisher are another incentive to choose the traditional publishing option. There’s also the snob factor. If you self-publish, some readers assume no traditional publisher wanted your book, which could well be true, but doesn’t necessarily mean the book isn’t worth publishing or reading.

I have finished writing a book that I’ve submitted to agents, as well as directly to a publisher. I’ve participated in Twitter pitch parties, with not even a nibble. So what should I do? Keep on querying agents, publish my book myself, or offer it to readers on a subscription platform?

One of my writer friends has published four books the traditional way, he also is a regular contributor to a special interest magazine. You would expect those sorts of credentials to make it easier for him to find an agent. Not so. He has recently finished writing a new book, which he has been diligently submitting to agents. More than sixty of them. He doesn’t allow rejections to discourage him, for every rejection, he sends his query to a new agent. He’s like a long-distance runner when it comes to submitting. I’m more of a plodder. I’m still weighing my options, even as I send out queries.

WordPress allows creators to set up “premium blocks” which allow writers and other creatives to serialize their work. Or, creators can request tips and donations. I’ve tried asking for donations for my most popular posts with absolutely no results, except from me, when I tested my donation block to see if I’d set it up correctly. I had, so apparently, readers would only pay for material I’ve spent hours writing, re-writing, editing, and editing again unless they had no choice. Of course, they would still have a choice–pay and read or don’t pay and don’t read. Because of that last choice is why I hesitate to choose premium as an option. An agent might accept me as a client. The agent might find me a publisher and the publisher might pay me an advance. All that could take years, if it happens at all. So what does a writer, who can’t pay her rent with rejection slips do? The odds are stack against us. 

Easier said than done.

Here are answers from a literary agency.

“You should look for an agent before a publisher.

“…these days publishers rarely buy the rights to self-published books or additional books in a series you’ve started self-publishing.”

Of the queries the review they accept less than 1%! But they hope you believe strongly enough in your book to try anyway. Of course, there is no guarantee that they can sell the manuscripts the accept to a publisher. 

The question is if you believe strongly enough in your book, should you spend years looking for an agent or should you publish or serialize your manuscript yourself? If you do, you will have to market like mad. The fact that a traditional publisher chooses to buy your book, does not mean you won’t have to market. Many agents want to know what social media platforms you’re on so you can do the majority of publicizing your own material.

When do you stop hitting your head against the brick wall of traditional publishing and punch through it? Will you make a hole or smash your knuckles?

4 thoughts on “Finished Writing My Novel. Now What?”

  1. You’ve hit the nail on the head (as well as your poor noggin on the wall) with your analysis. Today’s market for writers is more bleak than ever due to a host of factors, not least the closing of some publishers and the curtailing of others during the pandemic.IMO, the least frustrating route is self-publishing. As you point out, you have to promote regardless of whether you self-publish or find a publisher. I’m very bad at self-promo, so I’ve not been successful at either. However, I’ve made more money (still very little) with the 3 books I self-pubbed than with the 2 small presses that published me. One is closed now and the other returned the rights to my ms for lack of sales.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s very frustrating for writers. It’s not just the pandemic, either. It’s also the fact that many publishing companies have been bought out by huge conglomerates whose main interest is the bottom line, rather than publishing good books. They’d rather go with a big name than an unknown, even if the Big Names have been played out because of age and can no longer be bothered to edit their own material or because they’ve run out of new ideas. I’m glad you’ve made some money by self-publishing. I’ve made more by writing anecdotes for a woman’s magazine than from any of my KDP books. I’m also terrible at self-promotion, which is why I’m inclined to go with Word Press premium because I have an audience on WP, even if it’s a small one. At least it’s growing. Thanks for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sigh. Such a dilemma. Weighing options is a good thing. Knowing ahead of time how rocky the road to authorship is, prepares us. I am just glad that I became established almost 50 years ago when submissions were welcomed by publishers in an open door policy. When editors had (or took) the time to encourage and work with writers. Some still do, especially among the smaller presses. So different today. The main thing is to keep on keeping on, regardless of which path we choose–remembering, the only job where we start at the top is digging a hole. I began writing for small companies in order to get established. 165+ books, six million copies sold later, I laugh–my first book sold for $250, but it got my toe in the door.

    Like

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