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Writing Fiction: Writing & Publishing Your First Novel

Former university professor of marketing and communications, Sallie is an independent publisher and marketing communications consultant.

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Think you’re ready to write and publish your first novel? In this Hub, my goal is to offer information, advice, and suggestions that might help you or anyone else who wants to write and then publish his or her first novel. Although I have spent my whole professional life (more than 30 years) in areas of writing and communications as either a professional writer or a university professor teaching writing-based courses, still, it wasn't until last year that I finally published my first novel.

If you are already a writer/novelist (or you want to become one), you probably already know that writing a book is a momentous endeavor. It requires an enormous amount of talent, time and discipline, and demands a great deal of patience, determination, and persistence. Like millions of others who want to become a published author, you might have discovered too that it is one thing to say you want to write a book, another thing to begin the process of writing it, and yet another thing, entirely, to complete the writing of any book or novel.

My first novel, Silver Waves of Transgression, was self-published and recently revised. I will publish the revised version soon under my own imprint.

My first novel, Silver Waves of Transgression, was self-published and recently revised. I will publish the revised version soon under my own imprint.

Writing Your First Novel

There are publishing industry experts who say that at least 82 percent of Americans want to write a book. Eighty-two percent of roughly 400 million people means there are at least 328 million other people who have the same desire that you have: to write the first book. And even though not all of these people will write a book, even if only ten percent actually do it, that means your book could eventually be battling to become published along with 32,800,000 other books. Staggering, huh? The numbers, when you think about them.

If it frightens you to think about the numbers, it should. The road to writing and publishing a book using "traditional" publishers is not easy unless you are already a well-known person. If you already have a large audience of people who are eagerly waiting for you to put pen to paper, then you will have no trouble attracting either readers or publishers. But, if you’re not well-known—like most of us—then the road to publishing what you write is, most likely, going to be long, rough, and tough.

After reading this far, if you still want to write and publish a book, but you haven’t started writing it yet, let me ask you this: What are you waiting for? The only way to write a book is to write it. If you have a sincere desire to write, no matter what else is going on in your life, you should be writing. At first, you might have to steal time away from other responsibilities to make time for writing. While you may not be able to devote a lot of time to your project in the beginning, at least you will have started writing your book.

Finding or Making Time for Writing Every Day

“. . . it is more important for you to develop a writing habit that you feed every day, no matter how much time you have to feed it, than it is to have a set amount of time every day devoted to writing your book.”

You have a job, a career, but you still want to write a book. That means finding time to write might present a big challenge, but it's not impossible.

You have a job, a career, but you still want to write a book. That means finding time to write might present a big challenge, but it's not impossible.

Develop a Writing Habit and Add Writing to Your Lifestyle

After you find time every day to devote to writing, you will develop a writing habit. After doing that, you will want to carve out more and more time for writing on a daily basis, until you have established for yourself a set amount of time that you reserve, every day, just for writing.

Time is not the only thing you will have to arrange when it comes to your writing. You will also need to arrange things in your life to accommodate your new habit. During the time you carve out for the purpose of writing, you will need to deal with, eliminate, or minimize any type of distraction. You’ll need to be able to apply precision focus to your writing, and distractions won’t allow you to do that. Get your family involved in helping you stay focused on your writing. Let them know you need them to assist, to help you stay devoted to your project so that you can reach your goal.

Get Ready for Up Days, Down Days, and Days of Revising What You Write

You will find that there will be days that I call “up days,” when you will feel so inspired and motivated about writing that you can hardly wait to get to your word processor or to pull out your handy spiral note pad. By all means, take advantage of those days and times, and enjoy them when they come. Trust me, not all days will be like that. Yes. There will also be “down days” too, times when you don’t feel like writing at all. And on those days, you will need to write anyway, even when you don’t feel up to the task. On days like that, it might help to recall the famous Nike slogan and “Just do it.” More significant on those days is that you write, and it’s much more important than what you write. The point is to remain dedicated to writing your book. Then, on a day when you’re feeling much better about writing, you can always go back and revise or change what you wrote on your “down day.”

Remember, revising what you write has to become a habit anyway, for any good writer. Re-writing to improve upon what you’ve written is, without a doubt, the most important part of the writing process. The best way to see what needs work, I’ve found, is to get away from your work for a while. A week or more away will allow you to return to your book with fresh eyes, and you will be able to be more objective about critiquing what you’ve written. When you’re “in the moment” of creation, it can be nearly impossible to see problems or errors in what you’ve written. Once your book is finished, after spotting and correcting all the problems and errors you can find, ask someone else to read and proofread your manuscript for you. If you do this, you could end up getting valuable feedback that could make a critical difference in the overall quality of your novel.

writing-and-publishing-your-first-book

How Long Will It Take to Finish Your Book?

The best answer to this question is: It depends. Some people can finish a book in two or three months, while others need to devote an entire year to the writing of one book. If you are a new writer, plan to devote as much time as you need in order to finish your book. In the long run, you’ll find it is much better to take the time you need to write the best book you can write than to finish your project in a hurry, only to find that the end results don't meet even your own standards for quality. The process of writing and completing your book, therefore, should take as long as it takes.

It's best to think about who the audience is for your book, before you begin to write.

It's best to think about who the audience is for your book, before you begin to write.

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Who Do You Expect to Read Your Book?

Long before you begin writing your book, you'll need to start thinking about who you expect to read it, and how you plan to publish it. Because, let me assure you, after you finally complete it, you'll be faced with the challenge of how to get it published, so that you can get it to those who will purchase it.

Actually, if publishing your book is part of your plan, I would encourage you to write it with your reader in mind, and to start thinking seriously about how you will publish it long before you complete the manuscript. Why? Because you need to know a lot about the type of person you expect to read your book (the type you expect to purchase it) long before you self-publish, or long before you approach traditional publishers in order to ask them to publish it. You need to understand that a book must come to life (oh yeah, you need to think of writing it as bringing it to life) with its author knowing what audience is expected to read it, or else most traditional publishers (and literary agents), won’t be interested in reading it.

To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish, That is the Question

Will you publish your book yourself using one of the many self-publishing book companies available today? Or will you prepare a query letter/book proposal, and try to gain the interest of a traditional publishing company? Don’t get caught off guard, like a deer trapped momentarily in the glare of headlights—of oncoming traffic, when it’s time to make this important decision. Learn all you can about self-publishing versus traditional publishing so that you can make an informed decision.

Develop a Plan for Publishing Your Book

It's important to have a plan in place before you publish. As you explore your options, you will find that the publishing business is going through a lot of changes these days. The option to self-publish has opened another door for writers and companies are eagerly seeking anyone who wants to get published, encouraging them to do it themselves. For many, self-publishing represents an attractive alternative to the idea of searching and perhaps never finding a traditional publisher interested in publishing their book. But, it’s important to understand as a new author that both paths, self-publishing and traditional publishing, are cluttered with advantages and disadvantages.

Self-Publishing—One of the primary advantages of self-publishing is that if you choose this path, you will know for sure, without a doubt, that your book will be published. A primary disadvantage, however, is that self-publishing can be costly. Not only must you pay for publishing your book, you must also pay for marketing and promoting it. You will also need to build a website, set up book signing events, and do a host of other things that it will take to get your name and your book known. Because if you don’t do at least some of these things, no one is going to know you’ve written and published a book. And, although there are many low-cost and no-cost ways to get publicity and market your work--unless you are able to pay someone to do this for you, you will need to spend time doing the research, going through the trial-and-error, and trying again. In other words, it will probably take a great amount of time to discover ways that might work best for you in marketing and promoting your book.

Your book could find a home in book stores and libraries, whether you self-publish or go the traditional route. It all depends of the amount of work and effort that is put into the publishing and the marketing of your book.

Your book could find a home in book stores and libraries, whether you self-publish or go the traditional route. It all depends of the amount of work and effort that is put into the publishing and the marketing of your book.

Traditional Publishing—When it comes to traditional publishing, one of the primary advantages is, if your book is good, there’s a chance that instead of having to pay to publish it, someone might actually pay you for the right to publish it. And that’s a very attractive advantage to most people; it is one of the best reasons to try to get a traditional publisher to publish your book. A primary disadvantage of traditional publishing, however, is that you could go through months and even years of being rejected before you find a publisher willing to take a chance on your book. And even if you're successful in finding a traditional publisher for your book, there is no guarantee you'll be offered big money (or any money) as an advance (up front payment) on your book's sales. The bottom line is, unless you are someone famous, are a well-known expert in your field with millions of followers, or, you're just extremely lucky and brilliantly talented, it is highly unlikely that it will be easy for you to attract a good literary agent (which you will definitely need in order to get a traditional publisher to see your book).

If you are leaning toward the traditional path, just understand that most large publishers accept queries (book proposals) only from literary agents. Also understand that it can be as difficult to get a good literary agent as it is to find a good, traditional publisher for your first book. Still, if this is the road you want to take, go for it with everything you’ve got, and then some. Getting a good agent will be a godsend, because he or she will already know which publisher might buy your book, and your agent will work hard to get you the best deal he or she can get.

In conclusion, know that if you are successful with writing and publishing your first book, depending on your goal, writing could become a source of extra income. And, if you find greater-than-average financial success with your first effort, writing books could possibly become a whole new career. You will never know, however, what you might be able to accomplish as a writer until you write and complete your first book. So get started now, and don't forget to start looking into either self-publishing or traditional publishing. It will be good for you to discover, sooner rather than later, the path that might be best suited for you and your writing and publishing goals.

© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD

Comments

Sallie B Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on February 25, 2015:

Thank you so much tillsontitan. It is always uplifting and inspiring to learn that someone has found a Hub of mine to be useful and interesting. Thanks for letting me know, and thanks for the votes!

Mary Craig from New York on February 24, 2015:

So much to learn. Thanks for the hints.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Sallie B Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on November 17, 2012:

That means a lot to me coming from such a great writer! Thanks WillStarr.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on November 16, 2012:

Essential stuff, and bookmarked for future reference!

Sallie B Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on September 01, 2012:

I agree. Self-publishing thrives on the notion that you will be published, no matter what quality of "product" you have created. And I will always encourage anyone to get outside opinions, and to do all that is possible to make sure your book is as good and as well-edited as it can be prior to self-publishing. Self-publishing is too costly to be "a good way to learn from your mistakes." And, once a book is published, it's out there, for the world to see. Anyone considering the self-publishing route needs to do their homework first, to become more aware of the pitfalls, as well as the positive aspects of getting their work published.

Marc Hubs from United Kingdom on September 01, 2012:

Another useful hub, I have a lot of ideas to write about which would require the length of a book/ebook and therefore have plans to write a few.

Self-publishing does make things a lot easier and more convenient although, as you mentioned, this also requires self-promotion and therefore if you can get a publishing deal down the traditional route then promotion is an advantage.

I would also like to point out that self-publishing also brings the temptation of publishing too early, NEVER publish early and always make sure your product is ready for consumption first.

Patty Kenyon from Ledyard, Connecticut on August 29, 2012:

Very Interesting!!! This will definitely help many looking to publish!!! Congratulations for becoming published which is very Inspirational to those that want to be!!! Thank-you for sharing your knowledge!!!

Voted Up, Interesting, and Useful!!!

Sallie B Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on August 29, 2012:

Thanks so much norbertmercado. I find that just doing it is sometimes the only way I can get myself to do anything other than writing. I get caught up in my work, and I love it so much, I want to do it all the time!

Sallie B Middlebrook PhD (author) from Texas, USA on August 29, 2012:

Alancaster149, sounds like you're finding your own path to success. I think it would be PURE GENIUS for someone with the money to do it, to set up something that represents a hybrid between self-publishing and traditional publishers. You know, a publishing house that could offer royalty advances, but might also require the author to pay some of the costs, up front, and to provide a pre-launch list of people (maybe a thousand or more) who have ordered advance copies of the book. There has to be a way other than waiting your entire life to be published, and getting the "shake down" from unscrupulous self-publishing companies.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on August 29, 2012:

I wish I'd had a page like this before I started marketing my first book, RAVENFEAST. The road to seeing it in print was stony and littered with rejection slips. I re-wrote it twice and then edited it, then re-wrote the synposis and sent that off with the next letters. Still no luck. I thought 'at this rate I'll be in my pine box before I get anywhere' - I wasn't planning to 'stiff myself', but age is another factor - and began to look for self-publishing packages. I went with Authorhouse for the first book and regret it still. aside from being over-priced - the service AND the book - they kept e-mailing and phoning me about the follow-up, which I'd told them I was writing. I wasn't going with them again, so I went in for a package from New Generation, based in the City of London. Less than half the cost of Authorhouse, NGP has also offered to take my second book, OVERTHROWN, to Frankfurt for no extra cost. I've already finished the third book, OUTCAST - aside from upping my Hub-page stakes to 206 - and have started the fourth, BETRAYED.

I write in the evenings, leaving daytime to do things I can't do in the evening and night, plodding on, alternating between books, hubpages and comments etc. Since retiring I've been busier than working for someone else!

Norbert L. Mercado on August 28, 2012:

Congrats on your first book. And you're right, there are times when we need to "just do it".

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