Welcome to Publishing 101

Two weekends ago, at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 2013 Colorado Gold conference, I delivered a two-hour workshop titled “Publishing 101.”

After the workshop, several people requested that I carry the content over onto the blog, to create a more permanent resource for writers just starting into traditional publishing.

This is the start of that series.

For the next few weeks, I’ll take you on a tour of  the traditional publishing process, as seen through the eyes of a publishing attorney and debut author. We’re not ignoring alternative paths, or trying to say that one is better or worse than any other – just offering perspective on one possible option.

Today, we’ll start with overview concepts that authors hoping to publish traditionally should know:

1. Exercise the power of social media carefully, even before you’re published. Silence is golden, Twitter is not your therapist, and Google is forever. Talking about queries, agents, editors, and every other part of the process is tempting, but remember that publishing professionals use Google too, and many will search you online before making an offer. Your professional writing career starts now, so don’t let the Tweet button go down on your anger.

2. Be prepared to use social media and to learn smart self-promotion. All authors–regardless of publishing path–must now do most of their own promotion. Learn early, and well, that “self-promotion” is more than “BUY MY BOOK.” Successful promoters are content providers first. Even before you find an agent, figure out what makes you special; blog and tweet to that strength.

3. Consider whether you want to publish with a large press or a smaller one. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Among them: large presses often have better distribution, but small presses usually offer the author more freedom and input.

4. Most important of all: Learn about the publishing industry before you dive headfirst into the pool.Don’t query in haste and repent at leisure – treat publishing as you would any other job or business endeavor. The good news? There are many resources for authors seeking to learn about publishing – including my Wednesday posts. The bad news? It does take time and effort to learn the business – but I promise, that knowledge will pay off.

Next week, we’ll continue our series with a look at How to Find The Perfect Agent. And in subsequent weeks, we’ll go behind the scenes of the submission, contract, and publishing process, in depth, so you’ll know what to expect when your time comes.

Have questions about this or other publishing law and business topics? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.