Understanding the Publishing Process

No one, and we mean no one, can truly understand how difficult it is to write or sell a book until they’ve tried. Writing is a messy business full of angst and insecurity, frustration and obscurity. Yet woven in between all those messy threads are beautiful, thoughtful, insightful and powerful words that can move us to tears, make us laugh, and remind us how amazing the human spirit can be.


To begin, coming up with an idea for a short story or book, now that’s the fun part. This ‘Idea Phase’ is exciting and stimulating as your conscious and subconscious begins to work through the who’s and what’s, where’s and why’s of your story. This is where you let the creative juices flow!

The next part is the ‘Real Work,’ the countless number of hours you spend writing and regurgitating your ideas on the page. This could take six months or six years. Read this blog and it may make you feel better about the length of your writing time: READ MORE.


Then, if you’re not a seasoned writer like Stephen King or Jody Piccoult who can pop out a new bestseller every two weeks (slight exaggeration, even for them), there’s the ‘Rockin’ Rewrite’ phase. Working and reworking your book until you cannot stand the sight of those pages any longer (can you tell we’ve been there?).


This all sounds like great fun, yes?? For those of us who have a gut-filled passion for writing and word-smithing, in some slightly demented way, it truly is. But what comes next, you may ask? What should I do after my manuscript is complete? And unfortunately, this is already the wrong question.


If you have big dreams about seeing your book not only in print at the airport or toted by Oprah and have visualized your book in the hands of thousands of readers, all that book-to-print work should already have been begun (yessss, I know, passive voice), and well B4 your book is even done.


However, if you’re reading this, if you have a finished manuscript/story, and are now thinking “Oh, cr**, don’t worry, it’s really never too late. It just means it may take longer for your book to go to print. And when it comes to printing, there are essentially two journeys: (1) Find an agent then a publisher, OR (2) Publish your book yourself. And there are Pro’s and Con’s to each of these endeavors, and you can Google to search them all to decide what’s write for you.


As a small press, Relevant Pages Press opens door number two. RPP is a writer-owned press that helps other authors get their work self-published, offering all the services that come with that journey and a wealth of guidance along the way. Because we understand how difficult it can be, we’ve put together this Guidebook of Publication that will hopefully help you see the big, long-term picture and make the best decisions for you and for your work.

  1. Give It a Voice: Once you feel your story or manuscript is ‘done,’ the next step is to read your work out loud, in its entirety. You will hear your work much differently out loud than how you’ve been hearing it in your head. This works. Trust us. Read it and pay attention to the cadence, the flow, and the emotional/dramatic impact of your story, and more.

  2. Beta Readers: Next, find “beta readers,” people who will truthfully and thoughtfully read your work and provide feedback for you. No matter what, you can only take your work so far so solicit the help from others, avid readers, good critics, smart people to read it and tell you what they think would make it better.

  1. Listen & Learn: When you receive feedback, don’t make immediate changes. Allow opinions and suggestions to sit for a while inside your head. If one person offers a significant change, you may not need to listen. But if three or more readers say the same, then you probably should. Then, go back and do one final rework as best you can.

  2. Perfection: Before you submit your work anywhere, it should be the best representation of your writing that it can be. This means writing, editing, finding readers, and viewing/editing your work from all possible angles (see RPP post on this) before submission.

  3. Step Away: During the beta reading process, step away from your work and truly take a break. Your subconscious will still be working but taking a reprieve will help. And, just as importantly, during this time, you can work on other pieces of the publication process.

  4. Reading: Are you reading? No, seriously, if you’re writing and not reading, you’re limiting yourself. Read books in your genre. Read books people recommend. Keep a notebook of ideas or words that you like from other authors. You, of course, cannot plagiarize, but as any creative will tell you, there really is nothing brand new, written or sung, or painted or drawn… only work that’s been inspired by, lifted from, or instilled by another. Read to learn, read to grow as a writer for as long as you continue to write.

  5. Book Cover: Go to the bookstore or look online at other books in your genre (assuming you have already identified the genre). Make notes about what’s ‘on the shelves’ and hitting the big sales numbers on Amazon. What you do you like? What don’t you like? Form ideas in your head about color usage, font, use of white space, style, etc… so when you hire a designer, you can point them in a direction and go.

  6. Book Endorsements: Find people who will offer a write-up of your book. Preferably, other authors, but writers of any kind and in your specific genre are best. Sometimes, they do ask you to write your own endorsement, so be prepared. The more, the merrier when it comes to endorsements, as they can be used on your book cover, in blogs, and on social media.

  7. Social Media/FB: If this is your only book, create a Facebook page for your book. If you plan to write multiple books, create an Author Page on FB.  If you have a FB account already and wish to turn that into your promotions page, then be sure that nothing inappropriate, controversial, political or other is posted on your page. Then, link to other authors in your genre, to industry specialists, to anyone noteworthy who may be interested in your work. Find ‘friends’, get followers, and try to make FB work for your ‘business’ as best you can.

  8. Social Media/Instagram: A picture is worth a thousand words. Create an account. Take pictures of your office, your manuscript, your cat laying on your desk, and then your book once it’s out. Ask readers for photos of themselves reading your book. Get pictures of your book in different cities, different countries. Be creative. Have fun!

  9. Social Media Tips: Don’t get carried away. Social Media can find blood in a stone, when it comes to how much time one can invest. Use your time wisely. Use a program like Hootsuite to set up weekly posts if you can. Be consistent, yet don’t post too much. Be appropriate, have fun, and spend the money to boost posts when you need to.

  10. Book Publishing: Be knowledgeable before you hire someone to help get your book to print. When you have a plumbing problem at home, you ascertain the exact problem, you then get multiple quotes to find the best ‘fixer,’ and you make sure they get the work done. Do the same with someone you hire for your book: be informed, do your research, and stay in the know. But don’t ask the editor for book cover ideas, or ask your cover designer for social media help, any more than you’d ask your plumber to make your bed.

  11. Budget: If you know how to do all the publishing work yourself, great. Some people can. If you cannot do the work and need to hire, then budget accordingly. Back to the plumber analogy, if the husband of the house can fix the leaky pipe, that’s great. But if he’s not a hands-on kinda’ guy or prefers playing golf to home repairs, then hire someone you must. Again, do your research on pricing and people. There are people out there who charge too much and deliver too little; you’ll find that in any industry. But if you will hire help to publish, then be prepared to pay for what work you need.

  12. Book Launch: This is the final coup de tat of your finished product. Where should you have your book launch? How much can you spend for it? Will your books be shipped and delivered in time (believe it or not, some people don’t think of this)? Will you have food, drinks? And what unique qualities can you bring to your launch that will tie in creatively with your book? Solicit help, use your neighborhood resources, or hire someone to help you with this, if you simply don’t know where to begin.

  13. Ongoing sales: The process of writing and publishing is time-consuming and tiring. Unfortunately, some people think that after their book has come out their work is done, yet this couldn’t be farther from the truth. And for those who’ve been there, they understand that the real work of selling has just begun. You should be setting up book signings, both locally and as far as you’re willing to go. Be creative in where you do your signings. Find locations and venues that tie into your work. (My best book signing ever was outside The Original Pancake House in Alpharetta, Georgia. I asked them if I could after I drove by one Sunday morning and saw a line of people waiting to be seated out the door. Captive audience, and I sold 40 books that morning and got some great pancakes, too.)

  14. Keep selling: Sell, sell, sell. One author I know carried her first book around with her wherever she went, as well as multiple copies in the trunk of her car. When people asked her about it, she sold them a book right in the parking lot. Give your local libraries copies of your book. Do readings at schools if you have a YA novel. If it’s historical fiction, find your local historical centers and museums. Think outside the proverbial box and always be selling, because when you don’t sell your self-published book, no one will.

  15. Keep writing: And just when you think you’ve done enough… you need to start writing again. When you’re not selling your first book, you should be researching and/or writing your next. Unless you’re a famed author, there is no rest for the weary writer.

  16. In sum: Write, read, and sell… sell, read and write. And love it all, or find another line of work, because writing is not for the weak or foolhardy, but for those who have a story idea that bursts from within, waiting to be released.