How to Write and Publish a Book

Well, this is a bit cheeky.

I have been asked to write a blog post on writing and publishing a book. My first reaction to this was ‘Hmm…you’re asking the wrong person, really, as at the moment I am only at the editing stage, having recently completed the first draft of my novel, and very conscious that I still have a huge amount to learn on the subject.’ And so I intend to change the parameters slightly, and post about how I have written this novel, and the options that I have for its publication. I hope that this will fit into my remit, and I ask all of my writing friends not to be too critical of my efforts.

The writing process is basically working out your plot, your characters, locations, researching details for accuracy, etc., (this all for fiction – factual writing is naturally a different process). Some writers will plan everything in great detail, and others will tend to ‘wing it’ as they go along. Generally, I tend to be one of those that ‘wing it’, although I do try to plan stuff at times. For my novel, which is entitled ‘Making Friends with the Crocodile’, the original inspiration came from ideas and images that were running through my head one night when I found that I wasn’t sleeping very well. Consequently, I spent several hours manically writing pages and pages of scenes and incidents. They hadn’t arisen entirely independently, though, since they were all influenced by a topic that I feel strongly about.

In a way, then, the starting point was this topic, which is how society treats women. I have, of course, written a previous post here on that topic.

I decided to set the story in India, since it is a setting that I enjoy writing about, and there are, of course, many ongoing discussions about the role and treatment of women in Indian society. Is this acceptable for a westerner to tackle? I think so, as long as I treat all of the characters with respect, and allow the story to put across my message, rather than having a narrator hectoring. For this reason, I am writing in the first person, but as an Indian female.

Research for scene-setting consisted largely of going through my travel journals and photographs to jog my memory, since I have spent a fair bit of time in India (indeed, I would not attempt this voice and setting otherwise), and a good deal of trawling through books and websites for details that I was uncertain of.

The first draft was finished just over a month ago, so now I have begun the first edit, looking for spelling and grammatical errors, obvious boo-boos like details contradicting each other, being physically impossible, or just plain wrong in that setting, and the whole feel of the plot, the writing, the characters…it’s a long process. Next it will be read by someone I trust, for their opinion on the story and a fresh pair of eyes looking for errors. There will certainly be further edits after that.

It is at this point, that publishing begins to come into the equation. Traditionally, one tried to get an agent interested in one’s work, in the hope that they would persuade a publisher of the merits of the work and get them to publish it. Then the money rolled in, fame and glory followed…well, it was never quite like that, of course. Even if accepted, it frequently took a year or two before being published, and even when that happened, many books then sank without trace.

But to get to that point, as well as having a good, original, manuscript to send to agents, the author needed to know which of those agents to target, needed persistence, and a goodly (huge) slice of luck. The advent of self-publishing, though, has completely changed the parameters. The good news is, if you want to be published, nowadays, it is simplicity itself. Anyone can do it. The bad news? You’ll probably make very little money, if any, from it, since the market is now pretty well saturated with e-books. It is cheap to do, and there are many ways to publish an e-book. You can, of course, pay to have it printed and published, or set up as a ‘print on demand’ book.

Before this, you will need a cover design, which needs to be professionally done, even for an e-book, then, before the publish, it will need to be formatted to suit the publishing medium, proof-read, and then finally, as soon as it is published, it must be promoted and advertised, or no one will ever hear of it. Even if a traditional publisher brings out your book, though, you will need to do most of the promotion and advertising yourself, unless you are already a very successful author.

Naturally, there are scores of books out there to guide you, and many good websites and chatrooms. If you really mean to do it, then good luck.

You’ll certainly need it.

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16 thoughts on “How to Write and Publish a Book

  1. Ay, Mick. Time was, an author had to wait a year to find an agent, another year for the publisher to produce the book, then three months before it was remaindered. The joy of self-publishing an ebook is that the entire process can now be contracted to three weeks. That leaves one week free in every month to write the next book. Progress is a wonderful thing 🙂

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    1. That makes sense, Dom. I would imagine that the advent of e-books has mirrored the rise of DIY recording, and echoed, similarly, the loosening of the grip of the established big boys of each industry.

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  2. What’s your view on the idea that if you e-publish, your book will never be picked up by publishers, so it will never be seen in book shops? Writing workshops I’ve done always say to get published the traditional way first if you want your book ‘seen’ by the curious reading public.

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    1. Hi Jane. Fantastic if you can get published, of course. But if you can’t, then e-publishing gives you a base; material that hopefully will not only sell, even if only in tiny dribs and drabs, but which will always be there to refer to, or point people at. And having published an e-book obviously does not prevent you from attempting to place your next work with an agent/publisher. I suspect that my novel, at only 45,000 or so words, is too short for traditional publishing, no matter how good it might turn out to be. The next one? Who knows?

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  3. Impressed as I am that anyone could publish a novel, I’m even more impressed simply by the fact that they’ve written it. I don’t think I could ever write a fictional book of any kind. I might just about be able to manage a short non-fiction book if it was something I knew a great deal about (e.g. The Layout of My Apartment by Bun Karyudo). I’m not sure such a book would be something anybody wanted to learn.

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  4. Ever since my dad used to take me to Foyles bookshop in London, I fell in love with books. With books and writing. I used to dream of writing my own book. It was the last thought I had every night before I slept. I would think it and “visualize” it. But sadly I got sidetracked. And after my dad passing, I lost that dream. Maybe, maybe one day…

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    1. My Dad used to take me to Foyles when I was young, back in the 1960’s, Who could not fall in love with books there? What seemed like miles of bookshelves, piles of books on the floor – a labyrinth of books. The only bookstore I’ve seen that compares with that memory is Higginbothams in India (although memories are treacherous animals). I think my first dreams of writing a book came into existence there! It has taken me almost 50 years since then to reach the point where I feel that I am ready to publish a book. It’s never too late.

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