If you are considering writing a book, I wanted to take a moment in our online journey together to discuss a few technical things you will want to know.
First: Complete or Incomplete Manuscript
One of the things I found very interesting in the process of meeting with the publishers is that in most cases, you do not need a completed manuscript in order to pitch your book. From publisher to publisher, the only two genres of books that publishers wanted a completed manuscript was memoir and fiction. If you are writing a devotion, Bible study, leadership book, etc. then only a few sample chapters are necessary. Although you will want to have an outline of the book that shows where you are going with the topic. Also, if Children’s Books are your thing, you do not need to have the whole thing written out and illustrated to get a book deal. In fact, many publishers have in house artists that will do the artwork for you.
Second: Not All Publishers are Created Equal
In the company of Christian publishers, you will find some variations. Some hold to strict doctrinal lines, and others are willing to explore other doctrinal view points. There are publishers who do not publish certain types of books. Take the time to get to know the publishers. What are they selling? What are they looking for? How do they take submissions from authors? What format do they want the submission presented in? The more you know, the more you will be prepared for publisher meetings and connections.
Third: Do You Need an Agent?
Some publishers will prefer an author without an agent, some don’t care, and some will only take proposals from someone with an agent. An good authors agent is just like a talent agent, they work on your behalf using their contacts to get your book published. They only get paid, when you get paid. Therefore they do everything possible to help you in the process. They understand the market, and what publishers like and don’t like. They will go alongside you and help polish up the book to it’s best.
Fourth: Editing Process and Writing Formats
Once you have a contract, your publishers will have an editor help you through the nuances of your book. Be prepared for editing. When my contract was signed and accepted, the next thing I received from the publisher was a style guide. This guide helped me to understand that writing format that my publisher required. I tend to write like I talk, and having a theatre background that includes script writing… I can’t help myself. I write as if what is being read is meant to be spoken. However, just because I wrote the book and they liked my writing doesn’t mean it fit the format they preferred.
Additionally, when I was in school learning about writing we were taught two different writing styles. In high school, I learned AP style. In college, I learned MLA. (Or, perhaps it was the other way around?). Turns out my publisher prefers CMOS a.k.a. Chicago Style. This was a writing style format I was not just unfamiliar with… I didn’t even know it existed. So in addition to having to edit down the word count of my book, I also had to reformat the entire thing to fit their writing style.
The reason I bring this up is that you need to know that in most cases this is your responsibility. An editor is not going to do all of this work for you, unless you want to pay out of your own pocket for the services. You will want to weigh that cost against your advance/royalties and see if it is worth it or not to hire out the editing work. Your publishing editor will do some editing, but the bulk will fall on you.