At Girl Friday, we work with all kinds of folks who want to see their words in print. From first-time novelists to writers penning memoirs to companies who want custom materials to promote their brand, we offer clients the services, know-how, and support they need to get their books out there. Authors today face an exciting publishing landscape in constant flux, and we relish the chance to help them jump in with both feet and succeed. In that spirit, here are five things we think every author should know.
1. You have lots of options
For decades, your only shot at getting your book into the hands of readers was to snag an agent who would (hopefully) get behind it and send it on to publishers. It was a daunting process with many gatekeepers between you and your readers. But with the advent of e-books and Print-On-Demand, the game has changed. The first step still is to write a great book; after that, there are many ways up the mountain, including small presses and self-publishing. It used to be over when the last house on your list said no. Now, it’s not over until you say it is.
2. Yes, you need an editor (and a copyeditor and a proofreader…)
Not even the most talented writers write flawless draft manuscripts and just send them off to press. In fact, professional writers know that while the editorial process can be challenging, it is also deeply rewarding, and they look forward to this step in the publishing process. Whether your editor is in-house or someone you handpicked and hired yourself, her role is to make your book the best it can be. The same is true of copyeditors and proofreaders, whose incredibly valuable corrections not only ensure your style is consistent but also make sure that your villain, Larry Sharpshot, doesn’t suddenly become Laurie Sharpshot on page 256. How editorial folks work and who they work for may have changed, but their importance to the process remains paramount.
3. Be your own champion
Hopefully your book will be beloved by agents, editors, reviewers, readers, Oprah, your mom, and that girl who dumped you in seventh grade (bet she’s sorry now!). But most importantly, you have to love it. Authors have to believe in their work and advocate for it with vigor: whether you put out your book independently or end up being published by a small (or large) press that can’t provide the kind of editorial or marketing support your book deserves, you must be ready to pick up the slack. After all, if you’re not willing to go the distance for your book, how can you expect someone else to do it? In a marketplace that’s more competitive than ever, dedication counts.
4. Marketing the book will be your responsibility
Best case (read: unlikely) scenario, your book gets picked up by a big house and you have a devoted publicity and marketing team that lands everything from placement in bookstores to juicy media hits like morning shows. Maybe there’s a New York Times daily review with Janet Maslin, some NPR love, and a town hall extravaganza. You lucky dog! Now, even in that Cinderella scenario, you’d better get ready to hustle. You’d still want to reach out to every contact you have, become a social media master, and ascertain how to better serve your readers and community. All contemporary authors should take an active role in marketing their work (even Elizabeth Gilbert responds to her Tweets!). In truth, few authors get large-scale publicity help from their publishers. More likely, you will be the central engine of your marketing machine. So whether you hire someone to help or do it yourself, plan ahead for this part of the process and be ready to invest early and often.
5. The game has changed, and it’s still evolving
Let go of what you thought your literary journey was supposed to look like. Don’t get too hung up on landing a review in the newspaper or going on a twelve-city book tour just because that’s what you always imagined being an author would be like. Remember, creating your art and getting it into the hands of as many readers as possible is your end goal, which means it’s time to embrace anything and everything that will help you get there. Publishing is the Wild West right now—there are fewer defined paths, but the process is also genuinely exciting. Saddle up!