About the Episode
How exactly does a novel go from a story idea to a physical book in the hands of a reader? From Beta Readers to Pitching to an Editor to Post-launch follow-up, we’re taking a high-level look at the publication process on today’s episode.
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[00:00:00] If you are a fiction writer with a novel to share with the world, you’re probably wondering how exactly do you get that story to your reader? Well, today we’re going to cover that high level publishing process from idea to finish product in your reader’s hand. Hi, I’m Rachel Fahrenbach and I help Christian Writers craft and publish a novel that has an engaged audience ready to buy it.
Okay, let’s get into it. Now, I need to say it up front that there’s a lot to the publishing process and as I go through the different components, you might just start feeling overwhelmed and thinking my book is never going to get published.
Or you might start to think, this is going to take forever for my book to get published. And while that can feel really frustrating sometimes to a fiction writer who has the lovely idea they want to share, unfortunately that’s just the reality. Production takes time and there’s a lot of people involved, and so every time your manuscript [00:01:00] has to go through the hands of somebody new, that just takes time.
So patience. Patience is the name of the game. When you are a novelist, you’re gonna have to have lots of patience. It’s gonna take time. It’s there’s, you just can’t get around it. It’s gonna take time. However, it’s worth it. It’s totally worth it to keep moving forward, to keep going down this path to publication.
It’s worth it because story is powerful. It moves people, it makes people feel like they’re seen. It makes them feel like they belong to something. It is a powerful tool and you get the privilege of being a part of that if you have patience. Okay, so the one more thing I need to say before we really dive into all the steps of this process is that I’m going to follow what we’d call a traditional publishing model when I’m moving through the different [00:02:00] components. What do I mean by traditional publishing? Traditional publishing is when you work with a publisher. So this would be in the Christian fiction realm.
This would be. Bethany House or um, Tyndale or Revell or, um, I’m trying to think of somebody else. You get the point. It’s working with a, an established publisher. They take on the cost of the production of the book, and um, you get a royalty from that book that is a traditional publisher, so, That’s what we’re going to talk through today.
And then as it is appropriate, I’m going to mention where self publication would or independent publishing would come into play. Now, a self-publishing or independent publishing is when you take on the responsibility for the production cost, but you also get to retain the full profit. You don’t receive a royalty, you receive the profits from your book sales. So there’s where those two [00:03:00] things differ.
Now there is such a thing as a hybrid publisher, a or a vanity publisher, and it kind of merges the two worlds together a little bit. . I would say it’s probably very close to the self-publishing model except for you’re working with the hybrid publisher, um, instead of having to farm out each individual production pieces to different people. Okay. So having said that, let’s get to it.
So where does the publishing process start? Well, it starts with an idea, right? You’re washing the dishes and suddenly there’s this character and their troubles and their their journey, and it all comes to you. And it comes to you in a scene or it comes to you in a snippet of dialogue or it comes to you in a question, what would happen if, And you capture that idea down and you begin to write and you flush out this manuscript, you write these things and you get the idea onto paper. Now, that’s [00:04:00] where most people think the novel writing process ends, and it does not. It is only the beginning. Writing the story is only the beginning. Now it is like the key component of the book publishing process is a very important part of the book publishing process, but it is not the only thing.
It is actually a small snippet in the grand scheme of. So what’s next? Once you’ve, once you’ve written your story idea, now you might see me, if you’re watching this on YouTube today, you might see me looking down at my notes a lot. That’s just because I don’t want, there’s so many steps. I don’t wanna miss one, and I don’t wanna like forget something along the way.
So next, this happens while you are writing your manuscript, okay? You need to build a platform. I know, I know you might be like, What in the world? Why do I need to worry about social media or an an email list or all [00:05:00] these things that most nonfiction writers need to work on? Why do I need to do that when I am a fiction writer, I’m writing a novel. It’s not the same thing as like self-help now. Yes, you are totally right. Completely 100% right. It is not the same thing. However, you still need an audience to buy your book when you get done writing it, right? And that’s what platform building is. It’s not saying, Hey, look at me. I know everything and I can help you do this. It’s saying, hey, I have this story idea. I’m writing it down for you and I’m so excited for you to read it. Building a platform as fiction writer really focuses around priming the pump. You’re getting an audience ready for when that book releases. You’re getting them excited. You’re inviting them into your community. You’re inviting them into the journey of book publishing.
You’re inviting them into the story. [00:06:00] That’s what you need to be doing as you’re writing your manuscript. Gathering people into your community while you’re writing your novel so that they’re there for you when you publish the novel.
We’re gonna be talking more about platform building in future episodes. So make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast. Make sure that you hit subscribe on Apple or Spotify or wherever you will. Um, listen to this podcast or if you’re on, um, YouTube right now. Hit the subscribe button, like this video so that you don’t miss any content, especially when we’re talking about things like platform building as a fiction writer, because I know how hard it is. I know how hard it is to wrap your mind around it, and I wanna help you. Okay. Back to the whole process.
So that’s happening simultaneously with your novel writing.
Next, you’re going to. Engage Beta readers. Beta readers are different from advanced copy readers. Okay. Advanced. Yeah. I [00:07:00] think Advanced Copy readers or Advanced Reader Copy. Advanced copy readers, Yes. Arc. That’s the acronym. Anyway, they’re different. They are two different sets of people.
Beta readers come in right after you’re done writing your novel so that you can get feedback on what’s working and what’s not working. After you get their feedback, you go back to your novel and you do some content revisions, right? You incorporate the feedback, you tighten up scenes, you um, you really make sure that the story is being told in the best way it can be told.
And then this is optional for fiction writers. Not optional if you are self-publishing, but optional. If you are going the traditional route, you could hire an editor to go over your manuscript. Now this is looking for content, um, this is looking for typos and you know, grammar that’s not making the cut.
You know, that’s what this editor’s [00:08:00] doing. Mainly they’re making sure that your sentence structure makes sense and that it flows and they kind of help you tighten up your prose and make sure that you haven’t made any glaring errors before you submit it to an editor. So you can hire people to do that. Uh, there are, it ranges in the pricing.
It’s helpful just to get another set of eyes on it. Now that you’re not gonna ask this of your beta readers, okay? The your beta readers are giving you feedback on what’s working in the story and what’s not.
An editor is going to get into the nitty gritty of how the sentence is conveying that storyline. Okay?
Next, you’re going to create a book proposal. In traditional publishing, most publishers. If you are a first time author, are going to require that you have your completed manuscript and that you have a book proposal. A completed manuscript is not a perfected manuscript. [00:09:00] What I mean by that is the the publisher is really just looking for the fact that, have you fully fleshed out this idea? Do you know where it’s going? Have you worked out all the kinks? Have you kind of, you know what this story is about, where it’s going, how it’s getting there.
You’re not still struggling to work out those details. That’s what they wanna see when you’re submitting your book proposal. All right, so then you create a book proposal. You might create a one sheet and a query letter. This all depends on what the publisher wants. Now a word about crafting a book proposal for self-publishing.
Now you might be like, Why would I need a book proposal if I am self-publishing? Well, here’s the thing. Book proposals are really a business plan. That’s true whether it’s nonfiction or fiction. It’s. Plan or a business proposal that’s saying, Hey, this is the product. This is who I think it’s for. This is [00:10:00] when I think it’d be completed.
This is how I think we should market it, and this is why I want you to join me in doing this work. It is a request for collaboration. It is a business plan. It’s giving the publisher a reason to invest their time, money, and energy into this project with you, regardless of if it’s nonfiction or fiction.
Now, The same thing is true as a self-published, independently published author. You need to understand where you are going with this product. You need to know who you’re writing it for, what your end goal is, why, um, how you think you’re gonna get there. What ways you’re gonna market it. All these things, because you wanna set yourself up for success, you want your book to sell after you release it.
So whether you go the traditional route or the self-publishing route, A book proposal is a very key piece to the publication process.
Okay. Then [00:11:00] you are going to query agents and editors. Now most publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. This means you’re not being introduced by somebody or they haven’t met you already at a conference or something along those way. Like they don’t know you. They have not asked for your manuscript. They don’t know you. That’s unsolicited. And most publishers do not accept those. The people who do are the literary agents. Now, not all I literary agents are open to first time authors. So do your homework. Look on their website, see what they’re accepting, see what they’re, um, querying process is what they are asking from you.
And at what stage in your manuscript completion are they willing to accept query letters and or Proposals. Now, most literary agents are gonna ask you for a query letter first, and then they might request your book proposal. Some are gonna say, Hey, just send me the book proposal right off the bat, and others are gonna ask you for one sheet and we’ll get more into [00:12:00] one sheet, book proposals all those things in a future episode. But right now just know that you are going to have to craft these documents before you query agents. And most likely you’re going to have to query an agent, not an editor. Though, sometimes at conferences you can actually have one-on-one appointments with editors, and at that point you would be querying the editor.
And querying is just a really fancy word for saying, Hey, this is my idea for a book. This is my project I’m working on. Would you like to collaborate with me. Okay, next up we’re getting there guys. We’re moving through. After the querying process, you are going to be offered a contract either by an agent or an editor. Most of the time by an agent. If you are given a contract by an agent and you contract with them, they will then go out and pitch your book to editors. If you are contracted with an editor, you [00:13:00] oftentimes will go and then get an, an agent. An literary agent is really there to to advocate on your behalf for the best possible book deal, for the best possible representation from the publisher for your book. They’re there. They’re for you. They’re on your side. They’re your advocate. They’re your wingman. So they’re gonna pitch to an editor. An editor is going to take your idea and say, Yes, I am very interested in this. And then they’re gonna pitch it to their pub board. Okay. And that pub board decides what titles they’re going to acquire for a certain year. Yes. Not the current year you’re in, most likely two years down the road. It takes about two years for this entire process to move through. The editor’s going to pitch the pub board. The pub board will decide if they’re gonna wanna acquire your title to be published as part of their, um, their release is for its specific year.
[00:14:00] After the pub board gets pitched to and they decide yes, they wanna acquire with you. That’s the point at which you’re gonna contract with the editor, with the publishing company, um, and you are going to begin the publishing process with the publisher.
Woo. Are you still with me? We are only a part of the way through the whole publication process, but we are getting there. All right. We’re about halfway through. I know it’s a lot. I just want to take a second to remind you. It’s, it can feel overwhelming. There’s a lot of pieces to it where there’s a lot of moving parts to this process and it does take time.
So once again, I just wanna remind you, hit the subscribe button so that you don’t miss future episodes about how to navigate all those different components of the publication process. Next step, and I’m looking at my notes because I gotta remind me myself, where we’re at in all of this.
All right, So this remaining part, like I said, typically [00:15:00] takes place over the course of two years. A release date is set and deadlines are given. We’ve gotta get things moving. We have to know when we’re gonna hit those deadlines. Everybody has their part to play and everybody gets different deadlines along the way.
After that, a manuscript undergoes editing. They undergo developmental edits. So developmental edits are sometimes called content edit edits as well, or even sometimes line edits. But I think really developmental edits are different than line edits. It’s just the terminology. Different kind of edits get kind of thrown out there.
A developmental edit or a content edit is really about the overarching story and how your prose is conveying that story. Is a dialogue authentic, are the scenes vivid? Uh, does the story make sense? Does the action of this character fit with their, their, um, their character ? That’s the kind of [00:16:00] things that are really flushed out in the developmental edit tighten up your book, deepen your book, and strengthen your book.
Line edits are more about the continuity throughout the book as well as the individual lines, the sentences that they are strong within themselves, that they’re not grammatically incorrect, that there’s no typos, all that thing.
So editors go line by line and make sure that each sentence is working and that what you’ve mentioned as a sunrise in the beginning of the chapter is not a sunset at the end of the chapter when only an hour has passed as that kind of thing. Um, just making sure that there’s continuity throughout the whole book.
Also, your book is going to go through proofreading, so remember how I said that when you are doing a book proposal that, and the publisher requests that you have a finished manuscript, and I said, It’s not a perfected manuscript, it’s a [00:17:00] finished manuscript? This is why, because your manuscript is going to go through these edits.
It’s going to get perfected. And so you, um, don’t let perfection get in the way of you making progress on pitching to, um, an literary agent or an editor. Okay?
So once the manuscript has been edited, then it goes into production. We have layout and design, we have cover design, We have getting endorsements. We have all of the things shaping the book from, you know, a Word document into an actual physical book or an ebook, hard cover paperback. There’s a whole world of actual book production that we’re not gonna get into right now.
But just know that all those different components happen. They all take time. There’s a mil, there’s a million people involved, but, um, they’re necessary for your book to actually be a physical copy in somebody’s hand. Then [00:18:00] after production is all, um, set up and moving forward. And these two might actually overlap, but pre-launch promotion begins.
Okay? As I mentioned, you’re gonna get an author copy. That’s where you get the physical book to see, uh, advanced reader copies are going to go out to, uh, different people who might have some influence over buying decisions. So these are book reviewers. These are other writers in your industry and in your genre.
These are people who are, um, you know, maybe speakers and influencers in the online space. So your book goes out to them to start generating a buzz about the coming book. Then you’re gonna move into the book launch phase. And this might include like doing things like podcast interviews. This might include getting a book launch team and asking, um, those team members to start promoting on their social feeds about your novel.
Along [00:19:00] the way during this part of the process, you’re asking for presales, uh, you’re telling people to go buy the book, go buy the book, even if it’s not released yet, because, and you’re gonna offer bonuses and it’s fun. You can get real creative with this. But there’s a, there’s a couple different reasons for this, but mostly it’s to try to hit some best seller list on Amazon when you, um, when you actually release the book, there’s a whole whole thing with that. And so just know that that’s part of the pre-launch is trying to get sales presales, all right.
Then you finally come to book launch day. Whew. It’s typically a Tuesday in the book industry.
Books typically get released on Tuesdays. And you might do a book launch party. A book launch party is meant to sell copies and celebrate your book. Now, people do different levels of book launches. Some just do a celebration book launch with their family and friends. Others do like a full blown [00:20:00] event that they invite the general public to, and as part of the ticket is a copy of their book.
And so, and it’s a book signing and it’s all the things, and it’s meant to generate promotion and buzz about the novel. You might be tempted to think, Okay, we made it to book launch today. We’ve gotten our book released. We are done with the publication process. I can start writing the next book, Pump on the breaks.
You are not done yet. You are now into the post launch phase of book publishing. And that post launch Faith continues for like a year after the book releases. And you might be floored by that. You might be like, I have another story in me. How am I supposed to like, pump on the breaks, go for another year promoting this, and then start the next story? Well, you don’t have to wait until this is all done to start the next story. It’s hard. But you can do these things simultaneously.
Like for instance, when the book moves into the production stage, it’s kind of [00:21:00] out of your hands. So unless you’re doing that developmental edits with your editor, you’re really not working with that manuscript. So, really once you’re done with those developmental edits, it moves outta your hands and you can begin the next manuscript and you can begin working on that. But, Once that book comes out, you need to be talking about it because the more you talk about it, the more sales you make.
and As I said before, this is what happens typically when you’re working with a traditional publisher. Now, where things differ or where things deviate with a self publication is really in that production side of things. So once you have the manuscript done, once you’ve done the beta readers, once you’ve done an edit with a editor and you get it proofread, you are now going to deviate from the whole pitching and all that, you’re going to deviate from that and you’re gonna come back in at that setting the release date, um, [00:22:00] maybe going through another round of edits. Then you’re going to go into production cover, design, layout, all those things. But then you’re going to continue staying with the whole pre-launch launch, post-launch strategies. So self-publishing really is more about taking on the production responsibility for the production side of things. Uh, but really everything else stayed the same.’
so you can kind of see now how writing the novel is just one small though, very important. Do not mistake. Me for saying like, Oh, it’s not important that you work on crafting a really great novel. No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying it’s just one small piece in this larger production process.
And so the majority of the production process lands in not the realm of the art of crafting a novel. It lands in the realm of business marketing production. And unfortunately, when we go to workshops on writing, when we go [00:23:00] take classes on writing, typically they talk about the craft of writing and they don’t get into all those nitty gritty details about the business of writing.
And so you’re left wondering, how do I go through this production process? Well make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast as we’ll be continuing to talk about these things, how to navigate the business of Christian fiction. Well, Thank you for joining me today. Until next time.
Be sure to check out my RESOURCE page for Fiction writers. I’m adding new resources to it often, so make sure you check it out!
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Hey! I'm Rachel and I'm so glad you're here today!
I help Christian fiction writers figure out how they can make an impact and an income from their storytelling while keeping rest a priority.
You can learn more about how I’m in your corner here.
And you can learn more about my personal journey here.
One last thing, if you’re looking for a bit more rest in your life, be sure to check out the Rest & Reflect guided journal.