Welcome to this final installment of my answer to the question of what to do with a story idea. If you’re just popping in for the first time, you can find a list and links to the entire series at the end of today’s post.
If you have been following along for a while, congratulations! You now have a (very basic) introduction of how to take a story idea through to developed product and are ready for the final step: publication.
In today’s publishing landscape, authors have three options when it comes to getting their stories out to the public: traditional publishing with a large publishing house; traditional publishing with a small house; or independent publishing.
It used to be that traditional publishing was the only legitimate option and independent (also known as “indie”) publishing was looked down upon. Then Amazon appeared, introducing print on demand, and the entire face of publishing changed. Now both paths to publication are equally validated and equally valid. Rather than being an us-against-them scenario, it’s more a case of what works best for each individual. When deciding which route is best for you, you should consider the costs and benefits of each option.
In traditional publishing with a large house, authors submit their works to publishers either directly or (as is increasingly being demanded) via an agent. If the publisher agrees to represent a novel, the author signs a contract and works with the publisher to get the book into print. The benefit to this option is cost and expertise. Large publishing houses often offer advances to their authors. They also carry the expenses associated with publication: editing, layout and formatting, and advertising. They have massive distribution, and they may also help with marketing. The drawback of this form of publishing is exclusivity: since any publisher can only print so many books per year, it is very hard to get contracted by a major publisher. Also, authors often have little control over the finished product.
Traditional publishing with a small house offers many of the same benefits as being published with a large house. Depending on their budgets, they cover most of the costs associated with publishing and help with advertising, and they are easier to get contracted with. However, they seldom offer advances and have limited distribution.
Independent publishing is almost the inverse of traditional publishing. There is no exclusivity as you are responsible for what gets published when, but you bear all of the costs. You must find and pay for people to edit your work, to design the layout and format, and to design a cover. While it is certainly possible to do all of these things yourself, and there are good resources out there to help you, keep in mind that a lack of quality in any of these areas can cause readers to lose interest. Because independent publishing is so accessible, hundreds of thousands of books are being published every year. This means it is hard to stand out and be noticed, so your published work must be polished to its highest shine in order to get noticed.
As ever, this post only glances across the surface of what’s available in publishing. The nuances for each option discussed are myriad, so you should invest some serious time in researching each one further before making a decision. Some of my favorite resources for publishing in general are:
- - The Steve Laube Agency Blog: https://stevelaube.com/blog/
- - Between the Lines: The Books & Such Literary Management Agency Blog: https://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/
- - The Novel Marketing Podcast: https://www.authormedia.com/novel-marketing/
- - The Creative Penn Podcast: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/podcasts/
As promised above, here's the complete list of what to do with your story idea:
1. Write down everything you know about the story idea. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything to add. (Read more here.)
2. When you’re not writing, work on your social media platform. Develop your on-line presence authentically, in a way that is genuine. (Read more here.)
3. Go back to your idea. Organize everything you wrote in step one into something with structure and shape. Turn that collection of ideas into a plan and begin your first draft. (Read more here.)
4. Start a website. A blog is good because it gives readers a taste of your writing, but if you feel that you can’t commit to a blog, then you need to have a website at the very least. (Read more here.)
5. Edit your first draft. Complete this step as often as necessary. (Read more here.)
6. Start an e-mail list. (Read more here.)
7. Enlist alpha readers who will give you story feedback. (Read more here.)
8. Once your book is as polished as you can get it, enlist someone else to edit it. (Read more here.)
9. Decide how you want to publish (indie or traditional) and study the process. Learning the necessary details will save you a lot of time and, potentially, a lot of money in the long run.
10. Start the next story!