and a publicist.
I always recommend that other writers read and use Getting the Words Right: 39 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Theodore Cheney. If your library doesn’t have it, order it from Amazon (See the ad on the right of this page). Writer's Digest also carries it. I like this book because it's a logical approach to revising and self-editing your own work before giving it to an editor. If your manuscript is in the very best shape you can get it, you are more likely to get a beautifully finished piece back from your editor and end up spending less money on editing.
You should also have researched details or consulted with knowledgeable people where your knowledge is sketchy at best. Information from libraries, online sources, and people with personal experience and expertise will help make your book authentic.
If you are working with a traditional publisher, you will be working with one of their editors. If, on the other hand, you are self-publishing, find a really good editor who is experienced in your genre. Interview several until you are satisfied with your choice. Ask them for author references and also about books they've edited that were published and successfully sold. Although many POD publishers offer editing services, the quality varies, so you may want to find your own editor.
Of course if you are hoping to publish with one of the big publishing houses, you may want to start by hiring an agent. Many agents specialize in certain types of books, so you will want one who promotes books in your genre. NEVER pay an agent a "reading fee." Their payment comes from a percentage of the book's sales. Again, vet the agent thoroughly. Make sure he/she has a proven track record for getting the book to a good publisher in a timely manner. It may be to your advantage to sign a contract with only a few months’ term as was suggested at a recent NMBA meeting. The agent should be able to get it to a publisher in that amount of time. There is no reason for an agent to take months and months to get your book accepted. Agents should also be instrumental in helping you promote your book since most publishers have cut back on the heavy promotion they used to do. So much more is being expected of authors when it comes to promotion. You may even enlist the services of a good publicist. (For ways to find a reputable agent, see my post, “Do You Really Need an Agent,” May 2, 2011.)
If you think that your book will be for a small niche market, you may want to deal with smaller publishers directly without an agent. They may not have their own editors on staff but can suggest several from which to choose. They can also suggest effective publicists. You should have a literary lawyer review all contracts regardless of how you publish. If you live in Santa Fe, contact the New Mexico Book Association (email@example.com or (505) 660-6357) for information on local editors and agents. You may also contact Southwest Writers in Albuquerque (firstname.lastname@example.org or (505) 265-9485), and there is the New Mexico Book Co-op, too, ((505) 344-9382; for e-mail go to http://nmbookcoop.com/ContactUs/ContactUs.php where you will find their contact sheet). These organizations have people who are much more knowledgeable than I am and can advise you further. If you live elsewhere, Google for writing organizations in your area.
Although it may seem easier to work with an agent or editor in your community, these days, it's just as easy to work with one anywhere else in the country. Check national organizations for suggestions. Also go to your local library and ask to see the Writer's Digest Market publications that list agents and editors. There is usually a section that shows the range of fees editors can charge. Fees can be negotiated.
If you decide to self-publish and/or e-publish, explore the POD companies and compare them carefully. Stay away from IUniverse and ExLibris. They are expensive and have tricky contracts. Go to the following sites for valuable cautions:
Your cover design is critical to interesting potential buyers. It’s worth spending money to have your cover designed by a professional. Look at the covers of bestsellers to see why they are so eye-catching. For more information, consult your local writing groups. Also, go to the following Writer’s Digest blog: http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2011/02/17/10TipsForEffectiveBookCovers.aspx.
A publicist can prove invaluable in promoting your book. You can negotiate fees by deciding how much of the work and which tasks you will do on your own. Publicists do have media contacts and are experts at press releases. Again, you need to vet your choices.
I would hope that an underlying message in all of this is the importance of joining local writing groups and networking with members. Other writers’ experiences can be incredibly invaluable, and the support of like-minded individuals makes the solitary life of a writer less lonely.
Happy writing—and please feel free to comment or ask any questions about this post. Just click on the “Comment” button.