Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday Writerly Way ~ Steps to Publishing- Thank You Joanna Bourne

I've read and written a lot of advice on how to publish your manuscript. The best advice was posted in our own Books and Writers Community last week to a newbie who first her MS. This advice came from Joanna Bourne. She is the author of Black Hawk, Spymaster's Lady, My Lord and Spymaster, and Forbidden Rose. Yes, she writes historical romance, but I won't hold that against her. She's a darn great author and held my hand numerous times in the past and present. The discussion was about whether to get an agent or not and to self publish or traditionally publish.

So many people ask me this so and I always basically answered the same. Don't believe me, take a look at some of my past posts on the subject. While she took the traditional route and still continues it, I ventured into self publishing. No matter whether you want to self publish or traditionally publish these steps are the same.

"Congratulations on finishing your work.

There are a few necessary steps to take from here.

I. Get Crits

What:  Turn some chapters of you manuscript over to harsh, knowledgeable critics.  Listen to what they say.
You need critics who haven't been with you every step of the way as you wrote.  Critics who are not your family or friends.
This is not putting out a saucer of milk for the tabby.  This is wrapping yourself in raw meat and stepping into the lions' cage.

How:  There's a Writers' Workshop here in the Forum.  Absolute Write here has a 'Share Your Work' section.  Writer's Forum here has a Writers' Workshop.
If you are writing genre, there are probably specialized sites for writers of your genre.

Why:  Intelligent criticism of your work will help you write better and will prepare you to edit your manuscript.

II.  Let the manuscript rest

What:  Put the work away for as long as you can.  Six weeks.  Three months.  Six months.
(You spend this time working on the next ms and critting other folks' manuscripts, which is an excellent way to improve your own writing skills.)

How:  Print it out and put it in a locked drawer in the bottom of your desk.  Put all the work in a folder named "Open in January.

Why:  This lets you look at your own work with a critical editorial eye.  It gives you distance.

III.  Learn how publishing works

What:  Spend a solid 40 hours studying the publishing industry.

How:  Start out by Googling everything you can find on the subject.  Then drop into places full of knowledgeable folks and ask questions.

Why:  If you were going to (a) take a job in Thailand for a year or (b) go to State Aggie to study animal husbandry or (c) work for Avis Rent-a-car, you'd do that much research about (a) the country, (b) the university or (c) the business.
Why would you go into writing with less preparation?
IV.  Learn about agents

What:  Start making a spread sheet of agents who work in your field.  See who they represent.  See who they sell to.  See what kind of deals they're making.  Find out what folks say about them.
If they have an on-line presence, get a feel for who they are.

How:  Google.  Look at the acks in the front of books similar to your own writing.  Publisher's Lunch and Publisher's Marketplace.

Why:  That's the list you will query, when you query, if you decide you want an agent.  And after all, you have some time while your manuscript is resting.

V.  Revise
What:  Take the manuscript out of hiding and read it over.

How: Read and correct as if someone else had written it.

Why:  Because, unless you have indeed done this, the manuscript is not as good as you can make it.

VI.  Find Beta Readers

What:  Beta readers take an entire manuscript that is ready for submission and crit it.  Beta readers, if possible, have never seen the manuscript before.

How:  Find them by doing beta reads for others.  Find them by making friends in writers forums.  Pay them in chocolate.

Why:  Because they will tell you if the whole thing works.  They'll point out illogical story lines.  They'll improve the manuscript.

VII.  Re-revise in light of the Beta read

'nuff said.

VIII.  Get an agent ... or not

Three months have passed since you declared your manuscript finished.

You will have read 10,000 words arguing Indie/Big Press/Small Press.
You'll have the best manuscript you can write in one hand and a significant bit of WIP in the other.
Now you make this decision."

I know y'all have read me discuss the value of the Compuserve's Books and Writers Forum before, but this is an example of the caliber of answers you get. This is very important when you want the straight skinny on a subject. This is why after twenty plus years I still frequent this site.Look for the link "Links for your enjoyment." Hope to see you there.

Thank JoB, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Keep writing and loving the Lord


  1. I thought so. No matter which route you take in publishing it all applies.

  2. These are great tips.

    And about publishing, two authors lost a publishing deal due to homophobia:

  3. That would've helped me a few years ago, that's for sure.

  4. Wow! That is great advice. While I'm not at this stage yet, I'm definitely going to save the email to this blog post in my writing folder to refer back to later. Thanks for sharing, Jo!


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