Recently, I’ve had several people approach me with the fabulous news that they’ve written a book (congratulations!), and they’d like to look into publishing, but they don’t know what to do next.
I’ve been working on getting published for so long, that I sometimes forget that the things I’ve learned about how to get published aren’t always obvious. With so many people asking this same question, I thought it might be helpful to share this information with all of you.
I’m going to warn you, this will be a long post, but I hope it will be helpful.
First of all, before you do anything else, you should have someone who is not family read your book and comment on it. Then you should consider those comments, make changes, and repeat the process. I would recommend sharing it with at least three people at a minimum.
Finding people can be hard, but if you’re serious about it, you should be willing to exchange manuscripts with someone else. I actually find that critiquing someone else’s work can be really helpful in showing me what kind of improvements I could make in my own work.
Also, a great place to find critique partners is the Querytracker.net forum.
There are all kinds of discussion threads, including one called “Critique Group Central.”
Do you just want to see your book in print? Do you want to share your work with family? With a broad audience? Do you want to traditionally publish? Do you want an agent or would you rather submit to publishers on your own? Do you want to self-publish? Do you want control over every aspect, or would you rather pass some things off and just work on writing?
Here are some things to consider:
This option can get your book out there faster, but it can be a hard road, and there are steps that normally a publisher would do that you would need to take care of. For example, you would need to do things like editing and copy-editing. I would strongly recommend that you pay someone to do that for you, as outside eyes will catch things that you as the author will not.
You will need to design a cover and format the e-book (or pay someone to do it). Also, you would be in charge of all marketing to get your book known and out there. This can be really frustrating, and it can be hard to find an audience, but these are things you would be responsible for. One thing to consider is that it can cost a good chunk of money to self-publish (if you do it right), and that is not always earned back.
That said, there are many benefits to self-publishing. For example, you get a higher percentage of any sales. You have a lot more control over content, and cover, and marketing and promotions. Some people very much want that control.
To give some other perspectives, HERE is an article from Harold Underdown, who has worked in publishing a long time. He gives a lot of good information in this article.
And HERE is an article from Elana Johnson who has both traditionally and self-published.
So there are two options here. One, you search for a publisher on your own. And two, you work to get an agent, who will then submit to publishing houses.
For both of these options, I highly recommend using QueryTracker.Net. You can use it to search for agents and publishers who publish your genre. Whether you are looking for an editor or agent, you will need to research each agent or publishing house and find out what they are looking for and whether or not they are open to unsolicited submission/queries. QueryTracker provides links to many of these agents and publishers so they are easy to research. Certainly, there are other places to find this information. There are yearly books published, but I have found QueryTracker works for me.
Once you’ve done your research, make a list of those editors/agents you want to submit to. Once you know who you want to submit to, you need to write what is called a query letter. A query letter is a letter asking the editor or agent if they would be interested in considering your work.
For good information on how to write one, here are some sites to check out:
HERE is Nathan Bransford’s post on writing query letters.
Rachelle Gardner breaks down what to include in a query letter HERE.
Janet Reid’s Query Shark is a place to see real-time improvement on query letters. You can see exactly what an agent is thinking as she reads a query letter. I recommend reading through the archives to get a sense of what a query letter should look like.
Finally, HERE is an example of a successful query letter received by Andrea Somberg.
Reasons to search for a publisher on your own:
You don’t have to split your earnings with anyone. Also, many people don’t want to take the extra time to find an agent. It would be faster to go straight to the source.
Reasons to find an agent first:
(Caveat, this is the option I chose, so I might be biased.)
Many publishers are only open to submissions through agents. The reason for this is because it saves them time. Agents have vetted the work, often done rounds of revisions to get the book closer to being publication-ready.
Agents also help you with contract negotiations. They know what to look for, and they will help you avoid contracts that aren’t favorable to authors. This can be a big deal. BIG DEAL. Better to have no contract than a bad one. I’ve seen it.
Agents act as a go-between for you and your publisher. Agents will do the hard stuff like pushing back on a cover an author doesn’t like, or dealing with problems that may come up in the editing process. Or pushing for edit notes when they are long overdue. This allows the author to maintain a more open, less tension-filled relationship with the publisher and editor which is so needed throughout the revision process.
HERE is an article on what agents do and don’t do for writers:
Honestly, I can’t imagine trying to get published without one.
The process is long and arduous to get traditionally published, and I think it’s important that people understand that up front and know what they’re getting into.
All of these options can work. It mainly depends on what your personal goals are, what you are willing to put into the process, and what you hope to get out of it.
I hope this has been helpful for you, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments.
Hi all! I haven’t been around much with all the fun stuff I’ve been doing lately (conference presentations, school visits, family fun, etc.), but in all of that, I had a chance to visit with Mindy McGinnis for her podcast series, Writer Writer Pants on Fire. It is out today!
So while I collect myself and work on getting a better post written, you can enjoy listening to a conversation between Mindy McGinnis and I on querying, agents, books, writing middle grade, and humor HERE.
Have a fabulous day, and I hope you enjoy it!
Congrats to our winners!
Winner #1: Kimberly
Winner # 2: Colleen
Winner #3: Amy
Winner #4: Diane
I will be incognito from now to the new year, but thank you for hanging around, and may you all enjoy the holidays, whatever you may celebrate!
A personalized signed copy of THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY by Janet Sumner Johnson (me!!)
A signed copy of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY by Laura Shovan
THE DISTANCE TO HOME by Jenn Bishop
THE RAT PRINCE by Bridget Hodder
Simply enter using the Rafflecopter link below. The first winner will have first pick, the second winner will have second pick, and so forth. Sorry fourth winner, you get what’s left, but lucky you, it is bound to be fantastic!
Also, I have given the option to earn extra entries by posting a review. Just as an added incentive, if I get to 50 Amazon reviews (this is me being hopeful), I will release the never-before-seen final chapter that was cut before publication. Exciting, right??? To be clear, you can review PB&J Society however you would like, but every review is helpful.
Have a great day and good luck!
This last week has been a whirlwind of book events! On October 13th, I flew into the beautiful city of Cincinnati, OH for the Books by the Bank Regional Book Festival.
I had never been there before, and I was amazed at all the beautiful houses, the river views and of course the wonderful and friendly people.
On Friday, I participated in an author panel, along with Dee Romito (The BFF Bucket List) and Jenn Bishop (The Distance to Home) for a local school. Blue Marble Books arranged this visit, and if you are in the area, and haven’t been to their store, you should go!
On Saturday, I attended the Books by the Bank Regional Book Festival, along with so many of my fellow 2016 debut authors. I saw many friends, and made a few new ones. Just to give you an idea:
And then I got to meet some other wonderful authors:
Laura was my table mate, and her super awesome book about dinosaurs being brought back to earth was a huge hit! (Alas, this blurry piture is the only one we got of the two of us). She sold out before the event was even over. You should look her up!
She was kind enough to take some paparazzi pictures of me signing books for some of the kids who came by. I loved meeting all the amazing kids who came through the festival. The grins on their faces because they were in a place with so many books, and so many authors. So proud of their reading abilities, and so proud to be talking to an author. They would ask, “Did you write that book?” And when I said “Yes,” their eyes would get so big. Working with kids is honestly the best part of being an author.
One of my favorite current books is “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.” So when Chris Grabenstein casually strolled up and started chatting with us before the whole event began, I was fangirling like crazy. He humored me (and quite a few others) by letting me take a selfie with him. Not only are his books amazing, but he is, too.
Of course, the local PBS tv station was at the event, so I couldn’t resist taking a picture with the famous Mr. Carson. He is as stiff in person as he is on Downton Abbey (hahaha!). 😉
And when Little Critter came by my table, I had to ask for a picture, because Little Critters by Mercer Mayer are a staple at my house. Even my older kids run over when we’re reading a Little Critters book.
Summers are always so full. Kids out of school. Vacations. Running through the sprinklers. Backyard barbecues. Friends. Fun. . . . and then of course you have to add in the work stuff that adults never really get out of, but that’s not nearly as fun to talk about.
At the beginning of every summer, my husband and I sit down with our kids and write out a summer bucket list. We started several years ago when a friend of mine posted a picture of theirs on Facebook. That was all the incentive I needed. A list (Who doesn’t love those?)??? Fun things to do? A get-out-of-jail free card for when the kids are bored? I was SOLD.
Anyway, it’s been a favorite tradition ever since. This year, we had a BBQ with friends on our list. So last week, each child got to invite over one friend, and we barbecued hotdogs, ran through sprinklers, had epic video game battles, and yeah. Best. Day. Ever. (at least according to my kids)
And here is where I am finally leading you to the title of this whole thing. The day before, I had discovered the iMovies app on my phone, and their fill-in-the-blank movie trailer videos. And they had the perfect template for my book! So while the kids wore themselves out, I planned out all the scenes I would need.
I even made some COOL props. Like, I could have totally been a map-maker in another life, right? (heehee) And when I pulled out the lighter to burn the edges and make it look super cool and super old, all the kids gathered around and BEGGED to have a turn. But yeah. I’m not THAT cool of a mom. Even I have my limits. 😉 But I sure had fun.
So I borrowed one of the visiting kids (with permission from the mom) and used one of my own and I made this epic book trailer! Woot! Seriously, it was one of the funnest things I’ve done this summer (and I’ve done some FUN things!). I forgot how good it can feel to stretch your creative self with new and different activities.
Since it’s Friday, and Friday is all about having fun and exciting things to come, I thought it was the perfect day to present you with my homemade book trailer extraordinaire for THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY!!
Hope you enjoyed it! And now, please tell me about your Epic Summer Adventures in the comments (because we need more ideas for next years list). 😉
In April 2014, I watched the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag take over my Twitter Feed. I remember watching it and reading all the tweets, and trying to understand the urgency that was clearly evident in everything that was being said.
I didn’t join in.
Perhaps some of you are criticizing me now, but there you are. I didn’t join in. I didn’t feel qualified to join in.
Instead, I listened. I examined my own self and worked to figure out what I really thought about all this.
I thought back on my childhood reading. I remembered books like Mildred Taylor’s “Roar of Thunder, Hear my Cry,” and “Let the Circle be Unbroken.” I thought of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” and perhaps there had been some “Dear America” books with diverse main characters . . . and that’s where my memory failed me.
And I was horrified.
Though l grew up in a very un-diverse neighborhood, I always craved to know more about other cultures and people. As a child, I grew up with 2 Tiawanese exchange students who I now consider to be my brother and sister. Before 2014, I lived in a Melanesian country for a year-and-a-half. I learned French and Spanish. I lived in South America for 3 months. I got a Master’s degree in French that focused on the French works from Africa and Haiti and Tahiti and anywhere else French was spoken outside of France. I LOVE other cultures . . .
. . . but I still hadn’t seen the lack of diversity in children’s literature. I hadn’t see it. Even when an editor told me my Ecuador book would have no place in American publishing, I didn’t question that.
I was blinded by privilege that I hadn’t even realized I had.
It is a no-brainer to me that all people deserve respect. That skin color means nothing. I never saw myself as racist, but I also never acknowledged the inherent racism that permeates the world we live in.
I remember the night I first understood. I was out with my dear friend and neighbor. She grew up in Nigeria, but came to the USA for university. She is beautiful and intelligent, and compassionate. When I first met her she’d recently finished her family medicine residency. We were almost home when we noticed our neighbor’s garage door was open. It was late, so we stopped to let them know. Since I was driving, my friend ran to the door, then immediately ran back. She didn’t dare knock at the door for fear of their reaction to her skin color. And it wasn’t a silly fear. Because I was afraid for her, too.
No one deserves to feel that way.
Which is why diverse books are so important. Books and stories bring empathy, compassion, and comfort. They help us understand the Other and the Unknown. They eradicate the fear that leads to hatred and racism and bigotry.
We have all heard that everyone deserves to read about people like themselves. But diverse books are not just for them. We all need these books. All of us. We need to read about characters from all over the world, from all walks of life, living through all sorts of experiences. Because understanding and sympathizing and empathizing with an Other makes us better humans.
We. Need. Diversity.
It has taken me nearly two years of listening to understand just how much I have to learn. Just how much I wasn’t seeing. So I will be continuing to listen.
To those of you know who are speaking out, your voices are being heard. You are making a difference.
But please don’t forget how important it is to still listen. Because it takes both speaking and listening for the world to change.
My head is still buzzing over all the excitement of the last few days. On Friday, my book headed out to the world! My twitter feed went wild, and I conducted a couple of polls on two very important topics:
Team Grape vs. Team Strawberry (Team Grape: 25% vs. Team Strawberry: 75%)
Chunky Peanut Butter vs. Creamy Peanut Butter (Chunky: 27% vs. Creamy: 73%)
I’m still in shock over the tragic defeat of Team Grape!
On Saturday I had a wonderful launch party at The King’s English Bookshop, so today I wanted to share the excitement of the party with a few pictures:
I couldn’t have open food, so we had PEANUT BUTTER cups and JELLY beans.
My parents and sister surprised me with a beautiful framed picture of my cover. It was just perfect to display at the signing.
I brought my very first ever rejection from 21 years ago. (Isn’t that amazing?!) As a teen I sent a story idea to Disney, and that envelope contains their polite refusal to even look at it.
I told some stories. I read a few passages from my book . . .
We drew winners for some Pirate Prize Packs and a PB&J Prize Pack.
And I couldn’t resist throwing in a booby prize (or should I say Gooby prize?)!
And the whole thing concluded with the signing of lots and lots of books.
Thank you so much to everyone who came both in body and spirit! You’ve made me feel so special, and I’m grateful to have shared this amazing moment in my life with so many people I care about.
I wish you all a wonderful week, and much happiness!
It’s official!!! The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society is out in the world!! Huzzah!!!
To celebrate, I wrangled my dad (a.k.a. the PB&J guru) into doing a vlog with me. Because everyone should know how to make a PB&J the RIGHT way. Enjoy!
And for anyone who happens to be in the Salt Lake City, UT area, you are all invited to my launch party! It will be tomorrow, April 2nd, at 4:00 pm at The King’s English Bookshop (1511 S. 1500 E.).
Have a wonderful day! And don’t forget to comment with your vote for Team Grape or Team Strawberry!! 🙂
Today’s the day, guys! *throws confetti*
The PB&J Society Bonus Story, “Annie’s Bet,” is now live on the PB&J Society page and free to download!
I’m so excited for you all to meet Annie and Jason!
Also, I bet you’ve been wondering what a PB&J Society is exactly. So while you’re checking out the story, you can read up on the PB&J Society Rules, which are also now posted and downloadable (in a super cute poster format!).
So go on! Go check them out!