Category: publishing

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During our “Now What?” Months, we’re talking to Wrimos who’ve published their NaNoWriMo projects and asking them about the steps they took to make it happen. Today, Dan Frey, author of recent release The Retreat, shares some tips on practices to get your novel published:

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was 10, when I first read Tolkien. I was a weird kid who didn’t fit in at school, and my parents were going through a messy divorce. But I found refuge in fantasy, and devoured The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. When it was over, I didn’t want the story to end, so I started writing what we’d now call fan-fiction, while dreaming that one day I’d write a book of my own.

But then, life happened. My interests shifted. I wrote plays, then advertising copy, and eventually worked my way to a career as a screenwriter. Which was incredibly exciting, but it could also be creatively frustrating, since none of my work was getting produced.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo on the podcast Scriptnotes, where Grant Faulkner discussed the program with John August. I was so inspired by the idea, I joined the community that day, and decided to try it myself.

With an idea that I’d been kicking around for a year, I dove in and started my first novel, The Retreat, in November 2017. I completed 50,000 words within the month, which put me within range of finishing a draft by the end of the year.

After a few rounds of revision, I eventually found an agent, who sent the novel out and got some interest, but alas, not a buyer. Nonetheless, I was so encouraged by how fulfilling the process had been, I decided to try another NaNoWriMo in 2018, and started work on a sci-fi book called The Future. Again, I got a strong start in November, and finished it off that momentum.

While I was working on the second book, to my great surprise, The Retreat DID find a buyer. Namely Audible, which saw it as a good fit for release as an Audible Original. It debuted on the service in December, and it’s available now!

Shortly after the sale of The Retreat, my agent took out my second NaNoWriMo book, and got interest from multiple publishers. That book sold to Del Rey, who actually offered a deal for 2 books (The Future and another that I’ll write next).

So I’ve done 2 NaNoWriMo’s, written 2 novels… and somehow sold 3 books in the process (many thanks to my amazing agent Zoe Sandler at ICM!). More importantly, I’ve achieved a childhood dream, and I know that 10-year-old-me would have his mind blown if he could see what lay ahead.

I hope NaNoWriMo inspires many more people, and for anyone contemplating their first or tenth novel, here are a few practices that I follow:  

1. Know where you’re going, but don’t plan every detail.  

If you want to actually finish a book, it’s helpful to have a broad-strokes idea of the major plot turns, but leaving room for discovery along the way keeps the process interesting. To me, the ideal outline is a stack of 30-50 note cards.

2. Write about something you can’t shut up about.  

Instead of “write what you know,” write about something you want to talk about endlessly. The subject you’re hoping someone else at a party is up for discussing and debating into the wee hours. Whether it’s fashion history or 90’s video games, finding a world you’re driven to learn about and wrestle with will give you endless material.

3. Listen to your community.

Share your book with friends, family, and other writers, and then (the hard part) honestly listen to their feedback. Don’t justify or defend your choices; the reader is never wrong.

4. Rewrite aggressively.

First drafts are full of the joy of discovery, but the wheat is separated from the chaff by drafts 2 through 5+. Build a process so you can iterate systematically, rather than spending hours moving commas.

5. Journal daily.

Even if starts as just a page a day of random thoughts, I don’t know of any better practice to cultivate sanity, discipline, honest self-reflection, and creative flexibility.


Dan Frey is a writer of film, television, theater, and now fiction. With his screenwriting partner Ru Sommer, he has developed projects for Fox, Paramount, YouTube Premium, and the Disney+ streaming service, among others. The Retreat is his first work of fiction, and his second, The Future, will be published by Penguin Random House in 2020. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Casey and their poodle Winston. On Twitter, he’s @wordsbydanfrey

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Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Fiverr, a NaNoWriMo 2020 sponsor, is here to help you with some editing tips to get your novel ready to publish:

You and your manuscript have spent a lot of time together over the past few months (or maybe even lifetime). Take a minute to marvel at your masterpiece. You started November a writer and ended a novelist. You did what most people only dream of—you sat down and wrote the darn thing. Bravo.

It’s totally normal to want to take a breather and step away from your first draft for a while. Once you’re ready to dive back in—because you wrote those 50,000 words, and they should be read!—reread it. See what’s working and what needs to be rewritten. When you’re finally happy with the revisions and ready to start thinking about publishing, it’s time to finally ask for some help. Call in editors, designers, marketers, etc. Editing, polishing, and designing your novel before you’re ready to publish is key, and you’re going to want to call on professionals to make sure the process is as smooth as possible. 

The path to publishing is different for everyone. Some want to connect directly with publishers, while others are planning to self-publish. For both paths, there  are websites like Fiverr. Fiverr—the freelancer marketplace—launched a new store that includes hundreds of digital services for taking your manuscript to the next level. 

Check out our tips below for editing, designing, and promoting your novel: 

  • Editing 101: Get a fresh pair of eyes on your manuscript to do deep developmental edits, catch mistakes, and utilize feedback to strengthen your manuscript. Find freelancers for everything from content editing to proofreading to beta reading.   
  • Make a lasting impression, from cover to cover: All the effort you put into writing your novel will be for nothing if you don’t capture the attention of your readers immediately. Packaging your novel right is important to position it for the market. Hire an expert for freelance services like cover design, book interiors, illustration, book blurbs and more.  
  • Ready, set, launch: You may be planning to pitch your novel to traditional publishers, or are looking to market on your own. Who is your target audience? What is your angle?  Come prepared with a book proposal, professional book trailer, and a solid marketing plan in place.

Ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work? Here’s a novel idea: visit Fiverr’s store to get started.

Top photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash.

Looking for advice on editing your manuscript?

If you have questions about how to turn your first draft into a polished, submittable manuscript, we’re here with a professional who can give you some answers! 

Literary agent and editor Elizabeth K. Kracht will be joining us tomorrow, February 6, at 1:00 PM PST, for a live webcast to chat and do some query letter crafting exercises from her new book, The Author’s Checklist: An Agent’s Guide to Developing and Editing Your Manuscript

The bad news: even really good manuscripts have weak spots that are enough to garner rejections from agents and publishers.

The good news: most of these problems are easy to fix—once the writer sees and understands them. 

After several years of evaluating manuscripts, Elizabeth noticed that many submissions had similar problems, so she began to make a list of the pitfalls. The Author’s Checklist offers her short, easy-to-implement bites of advice, illustrated by inspiring—and cautionary—real-world examples.

Elizabeth K. Kracht is a literary agent with Kimberley Cameron & Associates, and a freelance editor. She often participates in writers’ conferences nationally and internationally and lives in Tiburon, California.

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Today, Nathan Wilcox of Writers’ Clearinghouse, a NaNoWriMo 2019/2020 sponsor, is here to help you with an in-depth publishing how-to:

So you finished a novel. You’ve spent hundreds of hours writing. You’ve studied writing manuals. You’ve edited until your eyes crossed. You’ve recruited your friends to provide feedback. You’ve completed one of the greatest of all human accomplishments: You are a novelist.

The hard part is done, right? You’ll just send some letters off to agents and sit back and wait for them to come begging. Only it’s most likely not the agents that come calling. It’s their little red gremlin friends bent on destroying your will as an author: rejections.

Rejection is a part of being an author. Even the greatest authors have faced piles of rejections, and unless you’re ridiculously lucky, so will you. Personally, I’ve had 147 rejections across two manuscripts. Rejection is going to happen, but the truth is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is acceptance – you only need one “yes” to make all the “no’s” irrelevant. So rather than worry about rejections, let’s talk about how to get accepted.  

All those rejections are exactly why we spent a full year studying why manuscripts are rejected and how authors can improve their chances of going from rejections to acceptance. From what we learned, we formed Writers’ Clearinghouse with a mission of making it easier for authors to get feedback and to get noticed.

Step 1: Query the right agents. 

In this new-fangled internet age, there is honestly no excuse for not researching the agents you plan to query. The information is out there, it is easy to access, and it is (mostly) free. 

First, make sure that you find agents that represent your genre and target audience. Agents are people (hard to believe, I know). And just like you and me, they have certain types of books that they like to read and certain types they don’t. Compile a list of agents that represent the genre you write. The easiest way to do this is to visit one of the many agent databases out there:

Once you’ve found agents who are interested in what you write, then you should narrow your list. There are over a thousand agents out there. And unless you’re writing something like literary westerns in verse, there are probably hundreds that represent your genre. We recommend working in batches of 10-15 queries at a time. Here are a few questions that can help:

  • Do you want a young, hungry agent? Or a more established (but potentially more selective) agent?
  • Do you have any connection to an agent – met them at a conference, went to same university, live in same city, grew up in same area, have serious blackmail dirt?
  • When you read her bio, how did you feel about her? Did an agent stand out as someone you’d really like to work with?
  • Did an agent mention liking or looking for something that is similar to what you’ve written?

Once you have your list, thoroughly research those agents. What kind of books do they currently represent? Which authors do they represent? What have they sold in the past? Are they open for queries? All the information from this research will allow you to make sure that you are querying the right agents and that you are writing a query letter that appeals to their specific desires. 

Step 2: Write a query letter that captures an agent’s attention. 

Agents receive hundreds of query letters EVERY WEEK. They make decisions based on a small slice of information, and for pure survival, they have to look for reasons to reject submissions, not accept them. So how do you make it as hard as possible for them to reject your query? 

Follow the formula: Agents have certain expectations regarding query letters, and if you don’t meet those basic requirements, it will result in almost instantaneous rejection. A query letter is a sales letter. You are trying to get an agent to bite on your manuscript, to read the pages you’ve submitted, to ask for more. 

Luckily, a lot of really smart people have written articles on how to write a query letter. And because they’re all very good, I’ll let you read them yourself: 

Get your letter reviewed by a professional: Remember, you only have one shot to impress an agent. The future of your entire novel (all those hours, all the sweat and tears and frustration) rests on 300 words. That’s why we recommend you have an expert look at your query letter before you send it. A list of services that will help you polish your query letter are below:

Step 3: Write an amazing opening. 

An agent read your query letter. Her hand wavered above the big red REJECT button, but something caught her attention, and she thought, “Alright, let’s see.”

Now that agent is going to read your writing sample. Typically, this will be the first five to ten pages of your manuscript. There is an old adage that the first sentence is the most important sentence, the first page is the most important page, the first chapter is the most important chapter. The reason is obvious: if a reader doesn’t get past the first sentence, the first page, the first chapter, she won’t read your book. The same thing applies to agents.

Luckily, just like with query letters, a lot has been written about how to craft an amazing first chapter. Here are some of our favorites:

There are many more articles. You can also find webinars, videos, and workshops through your local writing association or conference. The point is that those first five to ten pages need to be dynamite, because if they’re not, the agent will not request any more.

Get your opening reviewed by a professional: Just like with the query letter, I would suggest that the first ten pages of your manuscript are far too important to leave to chance. After all the time, effort, and yes, money, you’ve put into your novel, a review of the pages that will sell it is a small investment, especially since you can get a review for as little as $20. We had a harder time finding services that will review only the first few pages, but here are a few:

Step 4: Have a publication-ready manuscript. 

You’ve researched the best agents, you’ve written the perfect query letter, your first ten pages are unforgettable, and an agent has just asked to see your full manuscript! This is it. You’re on your way! 

Or… you wait six months and hear nothing – except your own whimpers. Trust me, I’ve been there. My latest work received several requests for the full manuscript when I queried, but when I sent it, I just got silence, crickets, the radio static from a post-apocalyptic drama. 

What went wrong? I never would have known that the first third of my manuscript was critically flawed if one (incredibly kind) agent hadn’t taken the time to write me a page of notes. Critique groups are great. Beta readers are really helpful. But you know what? Unless you’re really lucky, your beta readers and critique group (as amazing as they are) do not know what it takes to get a book published. 

You know who does? Agents and professional editors. Many editors provide a quicker, cheaper assessment of your manuscript that tells you exactly where it stands. If it’s ready to go, they tell you. If it needs work, they tell you where. Then, you can decide what to do next: submit it, revise it, hire a professional editor. But at least you know that you are not wasting your time by sending out a flawed manuscript. 

Below is a list of companies that provide manuscript evaluation services. We, of course, suggest Writers’ Clearinghouse, not only because we’re the cheapest but also because we provide a comprehensive breakdown of your manuscript in twenty areas along with a score that you can use as part of your queries to tell agents exactly how great your manuscript is.

  • Writers’ Clearinghouse: $350 ($50 + $5 / 1,000 word) — Frequent discounts; Evaluation in 20 categories with comments and suggestions by former agents
  • Writers’ Digest Shop: $730 ($3 per page) — High-level comments in key areas, independently contracted editors
  • Manuscript Critique Ninja: $595 (up to 100,000 words) — 20 years industry experience, editorial letter and creative suggestions
  • Friesen Press: $499 (up to 60k words) — 5 – 6 page editorial letter, professional editor
  • Page Turner Manuscript Evaluations: $1,440 — “Big picture deep analysis” in 10 areas
  • Strong Tower Publishing: $490 ($10 + $2 per page) — Top-level analysis and page-by-page discussion without specific suggestions 
  • Clear Voice Editing: $660 ($2.75 per page) — Overview of strengths and weaknesses as well as detailed feedback at the chapter level

Finally, to finish my story, I purchased an evaluation from Writers’ Clearinghouse for my manuscript (because I’m not only an owner, I’m a customer). I just wish I’d been able to do it before I sent my manuscript to all those agents because the Writers’ Clearinghouse review told me the exact same thing that agent did (practically word for word). The problem was there the entire time. If I’d only found and fixed it before I sent my manuscript to all those agents, I might be on my way to publication right now.

Step 5: Keep writing.

Sometimes, we can do all the right things, tick off every box, follow every step, and things still don’t work out. And not every book is going to find an agent much less a publisher. 

So, what’s an author to do? KEEP WRITING!

You’re a writer, after all, so WRITE! Start the next project, use everything you’ve learned, keep getting better, and then do it all over again. 

But first, I think you owe it to yourself, to your work, to your characters, to your world, to do everything you can to get your book published. You’ve spent countless hours writing that manuscript. You’ve sacrificed for it. You’ve paid for conferences and workshops and tutorials and writing manuals. You’ve called in every favor and strained every friendship to solicit critiques and beta readers.

So why wouldn’t you spend the time and money to give that work every possible chance to succeed? And in the end, it’s not that much time, it’s not that much money. For less than $400 you can have a former agent or editor review your query letter, first ten pages, AND entire manuscript. 

Is your writing worth it? I think it is.

Nathan Wilcox is a business development expert turned author who quickly learned how frustrating and opaque the process of getting published can be. He founded Writers’ Clearinghouse to take the guesswork out of publication by providing low-cost evaluations that tell authors if their manuscripts are ready for publication and if not, where they should focus their efforts. To learn more about Writers’ Clearinghouse, visit us at writersch.com.

Top photo via Adobe Stock images.

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. IngramSpark, a NaNoWriMo 2019/2020 sponsor, is here to help you with some publishing tips (Plus, check out their writing challenge for the chance to win some cool prizes!):

Taking the leap from writer to published author is a huge accomplishment—and often the end goal for writers who complete NaNoWriMo. We all write for different reasons. We’re motivated by different life experiences, and we pursue a wide variety of genres and plot lines, but once the writing is finished, we generally all want the same thing: to share our work with others. So if you’re considering publication for your writing, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. You have options.

Gone are the days when traditional publishing was the only way that “real” authors could publish their work. With advancements in technology, independent publishing has become an increasingly viable option. With the right printing and distribution, your book can look the same as any produced by traditional publishers—with the same availability. Not to mention, you can skip the gatekeepers, maintain creative control, and receive higher earnings per book sale. 

Keep in mind that independent publishing will require you to seek help from a professional editor, book designer, and be willing to dive into your own book marketing, but all of these are easily accessible to indie authors and well worth the return on investment when you publish professionally.

2. Never limit your book’s potential reach.

If a reader wants to read your book, your book should be available to them—it’s as simple as that. You don’t know how readers will want to consume your content, so be sure it’s offered in print and ebook formats. Why exclude those who ONLY read print books or ONLY read ebooks?

Your reader may shop exclusively at their local independent bookstore, they may only shop for books online, or they might even leave their book discovery to libraries. Make sure your distribution doesn’t exclude any of these outlets. You never know who will want to buy your book; it may even end up being highly popular to those in a country other than your own. Make sure when you publish your book, your potential reach isn’t limited, globally or by distribution channel, so as not to exclude any potential readers from buying your book.

3. Being prepared is key.

The most successful authors and publishers are the ones who understand the publishing process, the publishing industry, and their audience. If any of these pieces are missing, your book can’t reach its full potential. If you’ve created a work that matters to you and you genuinely want to share it, you owe it to yourself and your book not to slack in these essential areas. Do your research to understand: 

  • what kind of editing or design your book may need.
  • the appropriate timeline for production and promotion.
  • what booksellers and libraries need from you and your book in order to carry it.
  • what kind of media coverage you can get.
  • what month is best to publish a book like yours.
  • what books similar to yours look like.
  • how much they sell for.
  • what keywords you may want to sprinkle into your book description to attract your target readers.

All of these pieces are important to producing the best book you can, and all the information is available to you.

The only thing that stands between you and the publication of your book is a way to publish professionally, a way to ensure your book is shared widely, and the willingness to learn how to make your book a success (ideally, all within a reasonable price range to make sure your efforts pay off). 

These things seem like a much lower barrier to entry than what is offered by the traditional publishing process, considering how much time and effort you dedicate to convincing others your book is worthy before ever seeing a dime. Independent publishing isn’t for everyone, but neither is traditional publishing, so it’s always good to be aware of your options and fully explore what’s right for you and your book.

About IngramSpark

IngramSpark® is an award-winning independent publishing platform, offering indie authors and publishers the ability to create professional print books and ebooks. Self-publish a book and make it available to 40,000+ retailers and libraries—in stores and online—through IngramSpark’s global distribution network. Share your story with the world at www.ingramspark.com.

If you’d like to learn more about how IngramSpark supports you produce quality publications, achieve global distribution, and access free resources to help you publish successfully, please visit our website

All WriMos receive FREE title setup on print or ebooks (and free revisions) with IngramSpark until March 31, 2020, with promo code NANO2020. Write with NaNoWriMo, publish with IngramSpark.

Regardless of how you decide to pursue your publication goals, may your writing accomplishments be validated and your words well-read!

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Kindle Direct Publishing, a NaNoWriMo 2019 sponsor, is a free self-publishing platform that can help you reach millions of readers. Today, author Julian Simmons shares how he found his writing community through NaNoWriMo:

This NaNoWriMo, participants are busy with the exciting challenge of bringing their stories to life. The time has come to seduce our stories onto the page with the dream of reaching people all over the world. But as some of us know from experience, our narratives can be shy, and therefore we have to start small and simple to get them ready for literary splendor. 

I went into my first NaNoWriMo with no outline, no storyboards, and no expectations. All I had was a simple plot and the drive to devote 50,000 words to my book. The zero prep work allowed me to focus on taking the words from my head and putting them on paper. I never looked at NaNoWriMo as something that would give me a completed novel, ready for publication at the end. For me, this competition was only about writing 50,000 words as the foundation of my story. That was it. What I didn’t expect was the level of support I received from the many different writing communities I found by just joining my home region.

Our network of writing communities met for write-ins, used online platforms to play games to increase our word count, shared writing prompts, and challenged our NaNoWriMo buddies’ word count to keep us motivated. I even joined a group of Wrimos at work and we scheduled short breaks to write together. All of these activities had one focus: getting as many words out as possible. And it worked! I finished the challenge with over 50,000 words and went on to write an additional 30,000 words in the months following NaNoWriMo. What worked best for me was to avoid making the writing process feel like a project with spreadsheets full of story timelines and character outlines. This would make the process feel like a never-ending homework assignment, and I would never finish. Some writers prefer to plan and organize their NaNoWriMo journey, and ultimately you have to do what works best for you.

“What I love most about NaNoWriMo and KDP is that they provide a path for writers to create, nurture, and share their stories with the world, lending a voice to those who may never have had the opportunity.”

The community and support that I experienced continued after NaNoWriMo. My home region stayed active on social media. Through my network of friends I made during the writing challenge, I was able to connect with an amazing editor that fit the needs of my manuscript and even found multiple graphic designers to help me with cover and interior design. When I was ready to publish, I used Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The KDP community forums are heavily driven by authors sharing tips and tricks for publishing and gave me a true sense of authors looking out for each other.

What I love most about NaNoWriMo and KDP is that they provide a path for writers to create, nurture, and share their stories with the world, lending a voice to those who may never have had the opportunity. I’d watched many of my friends publish their books over the years, but finally being one of those authors by submitting my final manuscript for publication was an incredible experience. 

To find out more about the KDP community, visit the KDP Community page.


Julian Simmons is an award-winning author of the middle-grade novel The Writer’s Table and works at Amazon KDP in the books division. You can find him at www.juliansimmonsbooks.com and through social media @writerjsimmons

Top photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

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Maybe you’re at a point in your writing where you have an actual manuscript sitting on your desk. Congratulations! Now, how do you take that looming stack of finely turned phrases and well-placed plot points and convert them into a bound book? Today, author and NaNoWriMo participant Nikki Hyson delivers a step by step guide to support you on the journey to publication:

For the record, those two words still leave me in a state of dazed awe: Published Book. As a lover of words from a very early age, seeing my name on the cover of a book… just wow…

But you didn’t come here for the wow. I’m betting you came here for the facts. How did I turn a squalling, unwieldy, fledgling NaNo novel into something bright, shining, and ready to walk the stage with diploma in hand?

In November of 2012 I finished my third NaNo Novel. Like the first two, I loved every minute of it. The world building, the character developing, and the plot twists that came out of nowhere. In true pantser fashion, I even gave myself a cliffhanger ending that not even I saw coming. But that’s where it ended. It went on a shelf and I moved on. It’s what I did with all my stories (I have boxes of journals to prove it). Except, this novel, these characters, wouldn’t stay on the shelf. There was a quite decided “what if” hanging over it like a golden cloud.

I heard about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, so I spent all of 2013 second drafting, asking a few friends to beta read, and polishing it with the help of a story coach. In the meantime, I wrote the sequel during NaNo 2013. Well, I didn’t make it out of Round One of the Amazon Contest. Still, two novels deep in the series, I started thinking about traditional publishing.

Over the next four years, I redrafted it twice with EJ Runyon of www.bridgetostory.com  and wrote at least a dozen different query letters to over forty agents. Radio silence. Hmm. Give up? I nearly did. For a year, I stopped sending it out even though I’d written two more NaNo novels, rounding out the story arc and tying up the loose ends. 

That’s when I finally heard the question that’d been nudging for a while. “Why not publish it yourself?”

There’s an easy answer to that. It’s terrifying! Having the final say on every word can be extremely liberating to most, but it also had me shaking in my boots. What if I mess this up? Of course, I was watching Batman Begins for the eleventh time. Why do we fall? To learn how to pick ourselves up.

All right then. Time to learn. I spent nine months learning everything I could about self-publishing, marketing, what to outsource (cover design!), and where I could cut corners (not buying ISBN and using whatever KDP gives you—for now, anyway). It was a crash course (thank you Chris Fox, Writing Gals, and 20BooksTo50k), but I learned enough to move forward—to plot a course.

On March 16th, 2019 I hit publish on my first fantasy novel, Second Door to the Right. On May 8th I published the sequel, The Forsaken Corridor. Currently, I’m second drafting the third novel out of my messy NaNo 2014 first draft. I hope to have it out the end of July. I still set aside time every week to keep learning, watching podcasts, and scrolling group feeds on Facebook. There’s always something to learn, some new direction to grow, and the words… they won’t mine themselves either. So, like Dory, just keep swimming. Just keep writing. Have faith. Keep your joy. Hope to see you on the shelf beside me.


After spending her teens hopscotching around the country, Nikki settled in Alaska and found it suited her. When she isn’t weaving spells with her words, she can be found snuggling with one of her senior-aged Labradors, walking in the woods, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book. She believes chocolate was invented by wizards, a good cup of Matcha can cure anything, and every maiden is just waiting to rescue the fair prince in distress. If only he’d stop to ask for directions. Visit Nikki on Facebook, Pinterest, or check out her books.

Top photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash.

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Maybe you’re at a point in your writing where you have an actual manuscript sitting on your desk. Congratulations! Now, how do you take that looming stack of finely turned phrases and well-placed plot points and convert them into a bound book? Today, NaNoWriMo participant Kyesubire delivers a step by step guide to support you on the journey to self-publication:

Self-publishing is the production of media (including books) by an author without the involvement of an established publisher. It is a growing alternative traditional book publishing, where a publisher buys the right to your books, sells them through bookshops, and pays the author royalties on sales they make. Over the years, the royalties have been in decline in some markets, creating the perfect conditions for self-publishing. 

Even through it’s gaining popularity, there are key elements that need to be in place to ensure the book is well done so that it will capture the interest of the readers and create impact and income for the author. Five key elements need to be in place for a well done book:

1. Be accountable.

Once the author decides to write a book, it is important to ensure it is written well. The work needs to be finished within a set time-frame, and adhere to a high standard. So, the author must focus to ensure that targets are set, communicated, and all effort is put towards making this happen. This can be achieved by committing to an accountability process with fellow writers and readers.

2. Have a good editorial team.

Self-publishing removes the usual support structure of editors, managers and staff associated with a publisher. It is important for the author to build a team who will read, assess critique and ensure it is well done. Your team will also help keep you accountable to the tasks and timelines of writing, reading, editing, and approval before the submission to print.

3. Have a good designer.

Despite what you may hear, a book is always judged by its cover—particularly, the front cover, layout, and back cover design. An interesting book with a bad cover won’t sell well, plain and simple. The author needs to be deliberate about design quality as it affects the quality of printing and readership. A good designer will bring out the main precepts of the book; add artistic value; and follow rules on size, layout and image clarity and appearance before print.

4. “Print On Demand” 

Conventional printing is quite expensive. There is often a need to print in larger quantities, but storing these large quantities—as well keeping stores’ shelved consistently stocked—can quickly become costly.  “Print On Demand” is a reasonably new print method that allows an author to print as few as two books at a time, with the option to steadily increase the numbers while keeping costs in check. This will ensure better resource management and allocation, no matter how limited the publishing budget may be. 

5. Have a marketing plan.

It is harder to market books as an individual because one cannot be in two places at once. It is important to develop partnerships with authors of complimentary books, and to book speaking engagements that will make room for sales. Combined with efficient use of social media to create awareness of the book and its availability, together these strategies produce a robust marketing plan.

My mother has always said that your book sales are as good as your ability to sell and showcase value. We have found that to be true in the sales of her books in Kenya. A self-published author is only as good as their ability to sell and entice satisfied readers to promote the books for them. Self-publishing may not be ideal for all markets, but if you are in a location that thrives on it, then take the idea and run with it.


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Kyesubire is a visual scribe and storyteller using words and images to connect all aspects of life. She powers from faith to food to health to nature to fiction in ways that encourage viewers and readers to find joy and balance in life through its connectivity. She is telling HIStory of faith, hope, love and family. 

Top photo by Host Sorter on Unsplash.

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Are you finding yourself caught up in transition time between being a hopeful writer and a published author? Today, author and NaNoWriMo participant Katya de Becerra offers insight on what it’s like to put your novel through the publishing process:

So you’re finally done with your manuscript… What’s next?

Finally finishing your manuscript could be daunting. Is the book good enough? What to do next? All authors, emerging and established, are faced with these questions.

When I finished writing what became my debut, What The Woods Keep, I only had a vague idea about what I should be doing next. I’ve heard about critique partners, but I’ve never had one. My creative process is individualistic, and I require total isolation to think and write, so it was unnerving to reach out to friends and ask them to be my first readers. 

I’m glad I did! Receiving insightful comments aside, friends reading my work (and loving it) gave me an enormous confidence boost that propelled me toward the next step: finding an agent.  

1. The Query

Querying agents can be soul-crushing. Curating agent lists as well as carefully researching each agent I approached, meant that each query I’ve sent out was tailored and targeted. It also meant it’s taken me a long time to prepare and email each query. I could only do 2-3 a day, and 10 was the most queries I’d have out at any given time. Though time-consuming, this process worked for me, allowing me to receive feedback from each “batch” of agents before I’d approach new ones. Being rejected based on query alone meant the pitch needed revising while rejections based on pages indicated there could be something to tweak in the manuscript itself. Though, in the end, it’s important to keep in mind that the subjective element is strong in publishing. “You only need one yes” sounds like a cliché but it’s true. In the end, all it took was one agent’s interest and, before I knew it, I had representation for my weird, genre-bending book.       

2. Submission

Depending on how editorial an agent is, a manuscript could go through one or many rounds of revision before it’s deemed ready for publishers. 

The only advice here is to trust your agent. They chose to represent you – this means they believe in you and your work. Even if you don’t hear from them with regular updates, agents are working tirelessly, hyping your work. I had to wait for about eight months before I had an offer for my first book! But it was absolutely worth the wait. My publisher and editor are perfect for me and the types of books I write and want to keep writing.

3. The Waiting Game

Here’s where the real nail-biter starts: the waiting! Some books sell quickly. Some take months—or more—to find its home. Being “on sub” is a surreal time of being stuck in limbo and trying to go about your regular life while nervously checking your inbox or staring wistfully at your phone.

My second book, Oasis (forthcoming in January 2020) was a NaNoWriMo novel! I’d written it while I was on submission with my first book, and it sold alongside my debut. At the time of writing Oasis, I wasn’t sure what was to become of it and was seriously considering self-publishing it during those 8 agonizing months that I was waiting for my debut to sell.

While my pathway to publication is rather traditional, it’s not the only way to be published. Indie publishing has grown and evolved so much over the years. It allows creators to take full control of their books and become their own publisher. So many traditionally published authors these days become “hybrids” combining different modes of publication. There’s no right or wrong way, but rather a way that’s right for you and allows you to achieve what you set out to achieve.  


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Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology and now works as a university lecturer and a researcher. Her genre-bending debut What The Woods Keep was published in 2018 and her second novel Oasis is forthcoming in January 2020. 

Top photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash.

Maybe you’re at a point in your writing where you have an actual manuscript sitting on your desk. Congratulations! Now, how do you take that looming stack of finely turned phrases and well-placed plot points and convert them into a bound book? Today, NaNoWriMo participant Kayla Stansbury delivers a step by step guide to support you on the journey to publication: 

You’ve written the thing.

You love it. You hate it. You’re ready to publish it.

The starting point for your publishing journey depends on your work and your goals for your writing. There are a few common steps regardless of whether you are publishing a children’s nonfiction book on plant emotions or a high fantasy epic poem.

1. The Market

First, you should determine the market for your work. Start with readership: children, middle grades, young adult, or adult. The age of your protagonist doesn’t necessarily dictate the readership age, but keep in mind that most publishers expect to see a young protagonist in children and middle grades fiction and a teenage protagonist in young adult fiction. Consider the content of your work. Are the themes of your novel, poem, or short story relevant to the concerns of your readership age? Once you have an audience, start researching the publishers who target that market.

Sign up for information through Publishers Weekly, or if you have the $25 a month to spare, create an account with Publishers Marketplace. Pro tip? Go to your bookshelf or your local bookstore and find novels, short stories, or poems that are similar to yours. Who is the publisher? As you track publishers, you’ll notice which ones might be a good fit for your story and the audience you want to reach.

Now that you have a readership age, comparative titles, and publishers in mind, it’s time to talk about representation.

2. The Agent

You do not always need a literary agent. Some editors will accept unsolicited work—novels that aren’t represented by an agency. On your preferred publishers’ website, there will be a “Contact Us” or “Submissions” page that explains whether or not they will accept unsolicited manuscripts. You may decide that going directly to an editor is a better fit for you, but most larger, well-known publishing companies will only work with literary agents.

A literary agent markets your book to editors and publishers, and represents you and your work to the industry.

You can find an agent through a writer’s conference or a workshop, or you can query them directly. It can be overwhelming to know where to start looking for an agent, but you should start your search with the books themselves.

In the back of every one of those books you used in your publisher search is a section titled, “Acknowledgments”. This is a gold mine for information about agents. The author will typically thank their agent and editors by name. Start collecting these names and you may notice a pattern! Authors whose work you admire or whose books are in the same readership and genre as yours may be working with the same agency. As you research the agents and agencies, keep track of what types of books they represent, and what is on their genre wishlist. Once you’ve found an agent you’re interested in, and who would be interested in you, it’s time to write the query letter.

3. The Query Letter

The query letter does three things: it introduces you to the agent you want to work with, it summarizes the story you wish to publish, and it explains why you and your writing would be a good fit for that particular agent. 

Depending on who you are querying, there may be other requirements for your submission. You should be prepared to provide a detailed summary and the first three chapters of your story, although some agencies may ask for more or less depending on their preference. For examples, see Jane Friedman’s excellent overview, “The Complete Guide to Query Letters.”

4. Some Final Thoughts

If you’ve been around the NaNoWriMo block, you know you must exercise that writing muscle. Friends, it is the same with publishing. You wouldn’t expect your first draft to be the best thing you’ve ever written, so why would you expect your first query letter to be perfect? Practice submitting to smaller magazines, local newspapers, or online journals. Pitch your story to friends and family members or that guy on the bus. Practice, practice, practice.


Kayla Stansbury is an educator and writer based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Raised in Porto Velho, Brazil, she is fluent in Portuguese and has a perfectly healthy obsession with the Amazon rainforest. She is a P.h.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at Louisiana State University, and spends her time studying the how-to manuals and science textbooks of ancient civilizations. Kayla is a first time Camp NaNoWriMo Winner as of April 2019, and she claims this is her greatest achievement to date. Her debut poem, “Saudade”, appeared in Issue #1 of Dovecote Magazine in May 2019.

Top photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash.