81% of Americans want to write a book.
But less than 1% ever actually do.
Writing a book is time-consuming. Most people don’t have the time to do it—let alone do it well…even if they have a great idea.
But you don’t want to be like most people.
You want to become a published author so you can:
- Establish your credibility in your field
- Build an audience
- And create a new revenue stream
And you’re willing to put in the work.
…You just need some advice on how to get started and persevere.
You’ve come to the right place.
In this article, you’ll get an overview of the process–from start to finish—of becoming a published author.
You’ll also learn about an option that makes finally finishing a great book SIGNIFICANTLY easier and faster.
But I’ll save that for later…
How to Become a Published Author: The Writing Process
Writing a book is a full-time commitment. But the reality of a first-time author is having a day job or business, a family to tend to, or all of the above.
In essence, you likely won’t be able to make writing your book a full-time job just yet.
So how does anyone finish their book?
It is possible, but you have to follow a proven structure if you’re going to write it yourself (I’ll talk about an easier option shortly).
Busy people finish books by doing 4 things incredibly well:
- Create a writing schedule and stick to it – even if it’s an hour every weekday, they stick to it like it’s part of their job.
- Write a little every day – they utilize small wins daily to stay motivated and “eat an elephant one bite at a time” rather than expecting to finish in a week.
- Create a set of writing goals – create manageable goals and timelines based on your availability and stick to them. When you hit a milestone, celebrate it.
- Find a writing group/accountability partner – this is critical and often overlooked. You need people around you who will expect you to hit the goals you set.
I encourage you to follow these steps no matter which publishing path you choose. But the statistics I touched on earlier tell us that this advice doesn’t work for everyone.
Remember, only 1% of writers actually finish their books. That’s why I recommend a different solution for hard-pressed professionals and entrepreneurs: ghostwriters.
But not just any ghostwriter will do.
You need one with a proven process. I know firsthand–my first ghostwriting experience left me with an unusable manuscript after months of work and thousands of dollars.
At Best Seller Publishing, we ensure a manuscript that is not only well-written but actually sounds like you. And we accomplish this through our trademarked Enhanced Ghostwriting process. It’s the culmination of everything I learned through my horrible ghostwriting experience and it helps you create a best-selling caliber book in only a few months.
But even with the aid of a ghostwriter, finishing your book is only half the battle.
You also have to figure out the best way to publish and promote it.
The Steps to Becoming a Published Author in Each Publishing Path
There are two main publishing paths authors pursue: traditional publishing and self-publishing.
There’s also a third, in-between option that combines the best of both worlds.
It’s called hybrid publishing, and it involves paying a third party to handle the entire publication process—writing and promotion included.
But more on that later.
For now, we’ll cover the traditional paths to becoming a published author.
The Traditional Publishing Path
Traditional publishing involves a publisher buying the right to publish, distribute, and own your book.
You don’t spend a dime on the process, but there are many time-consuming steps required to pursue this path (especially if you’re chasing one of the “big five” publishers).
Here’s an overview of the process of getting traditionally published:
1. Market Research
First and foremost: you need to know which genres are hot before you start writing your book.
Traditional publishers choose to represent books they believe will bring in large readerships. Or in other words, books that produce high sales to give them a return on their investment.
It’s possible you may already have an audience to write for. If this is the case, it may benefit you more to choose a genre you know they’ll read.
Authors with a pre-built audience look very good to publishers. It means they don’t have to establish a readership for you or dedicate as many resources to marketing your book.
Either way, once you’ve determined the subject of your book it’s time to begin the writing process.
2. Write a Book People Want to Read
Anyone can have a good book idea. Most people can articulate that idea and even put it on paper.
But very few authors have a good idea, translate it into a story, and put in the time and effort to finish a book.
And even fewer writers can produce a finished story that people want to read.
Publishers are looking for the diamonds in the rough.
If you can present them with a well-written, completed manuscript, you’ve made it past the first big hurdle.
But part of ensuring your book is well-written happens during the most dreaded step for authors: the editing process.
3. Edit, Edit, and Edit Some More
That’s right: even if you score a deal with a traditional publisher, most of the editing process is still on your shoulders.
I’m talking developmental edits, line edits—whatever needs to be done to guarantee your book has the most potential before you submit it to anyone. Even your agent.
Agents alone receive hundreds of thousands of submissions just like yours. In order to convince them to pick up your manuscript, you’re going to have to show you’re committed to the process.
This means submitting a manuscript as close to perfection as possible. But how do you know how much editing you need to do?
You have a couple of options. You can:
- Hire an editor
- Find a beta reader
- Use your own editing chops
If you choose the third option, make sure you’re so thorough it feels like overkill. Double, triple, and quadruple-check for grammatical and spelling errors. Never submit your first draft. Have as many people read your manuscript as possible.
Look through your story for sections to cut. Look for sections to add. (This is the developmental editing I was talking about). You want your book to read as seamlessly as you can manage.
Then, once you’re happy with your final draft, it’s time to start looking for an agent.
4. The Literary Agent System
Agents aren’t absolutely necessary in order to become a published author (with a traditional publisher).
You can succeed in traditional publishing without one, especially if you’re going after smaller publishers.
But many authors find agents helpful in navigating the publishing process. They submit your book to publishers, go to bat for you during the acquisition process, and negotiate otherwise complicated contracts.
Agents are handy for first-time authors with little knowledge of the publishing industry.
If you do choose to seek an agent, you’ll need a query letter. A query letter is a one-page pitch about why an agent should represent your manuscript.
I have more information about how to write a query letter here.
But before you start sending out query letters to every agent you come across, make sure:
- The agent you’re querying has a good reputation
- They have experience in representing similar genres
If you hear back from an agent who wants to represent you, ask for 1-2 weeks to consider their offer. This is common practice in the process.
Then, use that time to notify the other agents you’ve contacted that someone has made you an offer. You may receive one or two additional authors from competing agents.
You may also want to interview an agent before making a decision. You’ll be with them throughout the rest of the publishing process, so it’s important to feel comfortable with the agent you choose.
Now it’s time to wait. During the submissions process, your agent will pitch your manuscript to potential editors. It can be a lengthy process.
You might get an offer in a couple of days, a couple of months, or a couple of years—it’s different with every book. The most important thing for you to do now is to be patient.
You can still be productive during the waiting process. You may choose to start working on a new manuscript (it’s helpful to have a project to fall back on if your current book falls through), or query other agents who can help pitch your book.
You don’t have to stick with just one agent. And if your book has been stuck in the submissions process, it may be beneficial to have more than one.
If your agent finds a publisher that wants to work with you, congratulations! It’s time to negotiate a book deal.
6. Negotiating Your Book Deal
The publishing company will now determine how much to invest in your book. They’ll take a look at your audience (if you have one), conduct a profit/loss statement, and make you an offer based on how much they think your book will sell.
You should never accept the first offer. If you have a good agent, they’ll hash out the details with your publisher until you’re looking at a fair offer.
Your book may also go into an auction at this point (if you have more than one publisher willing to make a deal for your book). But before you accept anyone’s offer, make sure you’re aware that:
- Most traditional publishers will own your content
- You’ll likely have to make further edits and revisions
- Publishing companies have the right to pursue other options if you push too hard
Once you negotiate an advance, royalties, and any other details listed in your contract, it’s time to finalize your book.
And start marketing like crazy.
7. Market Your Book
You might be thinking: won’t my publisher market my book for me?
Some traditional publishers might. But most are banking on authors that already have an audience willing and ready to buy their book.
No matter which publishing company you sign with, you should plan on doing at least some of the marketing yourself.
Here are a few free ways to self-market your book:
- Social media
- Host a giveaway
- Book signings
- Do an interview
The Self-Publishing Path
Self-publishing means you take on the responsibilities and financial risks involved in the publishing process. You independently write, edit, publish, and distribute your book.
You also retain the rights and most of the royalties to your book.
1. The Editing Process
The editing process can be more of a financial burden to self-publishers. Though traditionally published authors still take on the bulk of the editing, there are experts to help and advise once a contract is signed.
Self-publishers must look elsewhere for their resources. Once the self-edits are made, you may choose to outsource the rest through independent editors or hybrid publishers (which we’ll talk about later).
After edits, the depth of the rest of the publishing process is up to the author.
2. Additional Costs
Remember: it’s up to you to fund additional services for your book.
Book illustrations, cover art, and formatting must be outsourced (unless you double as an illustrator, in which case you’re in great shape).
3. Self-Publishing Platform
Most self-publishers will use resources like Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or Barnes and Noble Press to list their books.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to pay delivery and production costs on self-publishing platforms. They can vary depending on book length, price, and royalties—more on that here.
The good news is that self-publishing platforms let you keep all of the rights and most of the royalties. You’re looking at a 70%-85% royalty rate depending on the platform.
4. Market Your Book
Finally, you’ll need to market your book. Whereas traditional publishers may lend a bit of help in this direction, self-publishers are solely responsible for their book’s marketing.
I’ll refer you to the free self-marketing ideas in the traditional publishing section.
Just remember that the more you can build (or involve) an audience, the better.
User-generated content is a great way to get people involved in your project.
How Hard Is It to Become a Published Author?
Publishing a book is a difficult journey no matter which route you take. Even if your book is truly one in a million, there are so many external obstacles that kill manuscripts before they see a book deal.
There are pros and cons to every publishing path. The right publishing path is different for every author.
But there’s one path we haven’t talked about today that provides a remedy to many authors’ pain points: hybrid publishing.
How Hybrid Publishing Can Help You Become a Published Author
Hybrid publishing involves outsourcing the tasks of publishing a book to a third party. This may include ghostwriting, editing, illustrating, and/or formatting depending on what the company offers.
At Best Seller Publishing, we offer the expertise and resources of a traditional publisher while allowing you to keep 100% of the rights to your book.
But what’s the difference between hybrid publishing and self-publishing? You still have to pay for outsourcing, after all.
Hybrid publishers are a one-stop shop for resources.
Rather than outsourcing every task independently, the hybrid publisher provides everything your manuscript needs, all in one place (including writing your book for you).
And if you work with the right one, you can quickly and affordably get your book written–overcoming the huge “time” issue all aspiring authors have.
Start Your Writing Journey Today
As I said: the publishing journey is different for every author. There is no right or wrong answer, no good or bad choice.
The most important thing is to just start writing. Pick up your pen (or tablet) and put that amazing idea on paper. Don’t let fear or indecision stop you from becoming the 1%.
And no matter which publishing path you take, I have a resource to guide you from Point A to Point B. It’s called Publish. Promote. Profit.: my Wall Street Journal bestseller.
For FREE (plus shipping), I’ll reveal how we help hundreds of authors become bestsellers.
Don’t miss out on this valuable insider knowledge to help you publish and promote your book.
And if you’re interested in hearing more about our Enhanced Ghostwriting process that can help you get your book written for you in a matter of weeks, click here.