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Sending a Novel into the World — or — A Babe in the Woods

This is a guest post by Marco Etheridge.

You might be someone who dreams of writing a great novel, a novel that will hold readers spellbound. Taking up paper and pen, or more likely laptop and keyboard, you begin to write. Perhaps you are lucky enough to have some beta-readers, friends and family whom you can torture with a first draft. Fueled by their encouragement, you grind through the rewrites, the editing, the proof-reading. Then comes the happy day when you have brought forth a completed novel, a new and sparkling creation into which you have poured your heart and soul. Your baby, this fondling novel that you have created, is now ready to venture out into the jungle of publishing. Poor thing.
For an author, the completion of a novel is but the first step on a long road. In the halcyon days of my youth, back when double-spaced sentences were the norm, there existed the Golden Myth: The Big Contract. Advances! Royalties! Talk-Shows! The thing is, sometimes, for the very lucky and the very few, it actually happened. There were writers at the sharp tip of the iceberg, breathing the rarified air of the NY Times Bestseller list. These literary lions had publicists and agents, marketing gurus and hotshot editors. At the heart of the Golden Myth was the debut author rocketing to a place amongst these giants of literature. What a lovely fable it was.
In the less-mythical world of modern publishing, the process is normally not so meteoric. Should you desire a traditional publishing contract, you will need a great pitch, a lot of research time, and a very thick skin. Several hundred query letters later, and possessing a file fat with polite rejections, you may have to consider other options. 
There are approximately 500,000 authors selling books on Amazon, and that is just one platform. Therein lies both the salvation and conundrum for debut authors. For salvation, it is quite possible for a debut author to publish on Amazon, Smashwords, and other eBook sites. The process demands determined editing, proof-reading, and hard-won lessons in formatting, but it can be done. For conundrum, your novel is now one small tree amidst a forest of other novels. Using a very conservative figure, more than 100,000 English-language novels were published in 2017. Thus your new novel, whether traditionally or self-published, is wandering in a densely packed jungle of other books, each one crying out for attention.
During those first intoxicating days following publication, you watch your novel’s progress into the world. As friends and family buy your book, hope wells in your heart. Electronic publishing allows almost instantaneous views of one’s book sales, which is both a blessing and a curse. There comes a day, alas too soon, when the friend and family pool runs dry. Sales of your book languish. Your infant novel is now truly on its own. 
Welcome to the world of modern-day publishing. Gone is the era when authors wrote and publicists publicized. It is now the authors who must do the selling, the trench work, the pimping. Publishing houses and agents want authors who have built a "Platform" of online presence, social media marketing, author websites, and the like. It matters not whether you are fortunate enough to have a traditional publishing contract, or are self-published. For both new and established authors the mantra of publishing is: "We are all in Sales.”
The reality of selling your book is that you must become an entrepreneur. The path of the Author becomes the journey of the Author-Entrepreneur. It is a journey full of new and bewildering twists and turns. Meta-Data, Categories, Giveaways, and Search Engine Optimization are just a few of the lessons that lurk along the way. The entire process can be boiled down to one simple question: How can I get my novel noticed by potential readers?

Lest I paint too dark a picture, new authors take heart. There is hope! The nuts and bolts of self-marketing a novel far exceed the scope of this blog post. Fortunately, there is a plethora of information available on how to market one’s book. Writers love to write, and they love to write about the perils of writing.  There exists a wide array of books, articles, blog posts, and podcasts, all dedicated to helping aspiring Author-Entrepreneurs. A simple internet search will reveal many tricks of the trade, tricks that will require diligent work, but which will yield results for your novel. I am obliged to extend my deeply heartfelt thanks to all of the writers out there who have so graciously shared their experience and knowledge.

Authors take heart! Thank you for writing new books. The world needs books, now more than ever. So write a book, publish the book, repeat as needed. Be well, be happy, and keep writing. 

An ex-resident of Seattle, Marco Etheridge lives and writes in Vienna, Austria. When he isn’t creating great fiction or being a good Hausmann, he explores the world with his lovely wife. If the sun is shining too brightly, or the birds are too chipper, Marco studies German grammar to create a suitably dark mood for creativity. Marco’s debut novel, The Best Dark Rain: A Post-Apocalyptic Struggle for Life and Love, is available on Amazon.

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