Last week, I released my third traditionally published book. What readers see is a glossy cover displayed at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon. What they don’t see is all the work that went into that cover and the 55,000 words beneath it.
Lots of people read books. But very few people understand what it takes to write one—or to bring an idea to fruition in the form of a book release. As writers, you need to know the inside scoop on how to get from point A to point B. Here is a brief explanation of the seven steps to releasing a traditionally published book—from my personal experience.
1. Write a book proposal.
This is essentially a business plan plus sample chapters that serve as a pitching tool for your book idea. It’s what industry decision makers (agents and acquisitions editors) read to determine if your book is worth publishing. Without a book proposal, you won’t get past the front door of a publishing house. It’s the first and arguably the most vital step to publishing a book.
2. Pitch the book to publishers.
Here’s where you or, ideally, your agent goes to work sharing your book proposal with a variety of publishing experts. It can take months to get your book to the right people at the right time. Be patient with this step, and if you have an agent (which I highly recommend), trust him or her to guide you through the jungle. Agents know a lot more about the industry than most writers do.
3. Sign a book contract.
Once a publishing company offers you a book contract and your agent has finalized the details, the publisher will send you the contract to sign. That contract contains lots of information about what the publisher expects from you and what you can expect from your publisher, including deadlines and the anticipated book release date. Once you sign it, you are obligated to deliver!
4. Write the book.
Most publishers will give an author 6 to 12 months from the date of the signed contract to complete and submit the full manuscript. This is when you need to manage your time well and commit to writing steadily to ensure you meet the deadline. Publishers have a production schedule mapped out from your deadline to release date; therefore, missing your manuscript due date can throw off the whole process. It’s important to find time to write every week so you don’t get behind.
5. Edit the book.
Once you’ve submitted your manuscript, your editor will guide it through three stages, typically communicating with you for input and changes:
- Developmental edit—This is a big picture review of flow and content.
- Line edit—A copy editor will comb through your manuscript for technical edits.
- Galley review—You’ll get a chance to review and approve the final formatted manuscript before the book goes to print.
Somewhere in this process, you’ll also get to review the cover design and back cover marketing copy.
6. Pre-launch marketing phase.
Your publisher might schedule a call with the marketing team a few months prior to release to outline the plans and expectations for promoting your book. You will be responsible for various aspects of the process. Depending on what your publisher is willing to pay for, or what you’re willing to fund, you may or may not engage a launch team, produce a trailer video, create social media images, write guest articles, and much more.
7. Post-launch marketing phase.
After the book is officially released, you will continue promoting your book through media appearances (radio, podcasts, video interviews) and possibly book signings or speaking events. You never really stop promoting your book; however, after a month or so, your publisher will stop actively pushing the book and will move on to their next line of new releases. So the window of time one month before and after your book hits shelves is a crucial season for building awareness and gaining momentum.
What’s next for you?
If you are contemplating writing a book or starting a blog, my course Write Like a Pro can give you tons of industry insight and training on how to reach the next step in your writing goals.
Or—if you’re confident now is the time to make your non-fiction book dream a reality, I’m teaming up with the Blythe Daniel Agency to offer an exciting two-month Book Proposal Bootcamp in the fall. I’ll guide you step-by-step through the process of writing a powerful book proposal, and as part of the program you’ll get a guaranteed 30-minute meeting with literary agent Stephanie Alton to pitch your book idea. Spaces are limited, and you’re hearing about it first, before we spread the news officially in August. That means you can snag a spot before anybody else does. See more details here or email me at becky (at) beckykopitzke.com for more info.
What to Read Next: Four Solutions for Overcoming Writer’s Block