Guest Posts,  Writing

Meant to Be: 6 Steps to Discovering the Right Publishing Route – Guest Post by Amazon Bestselling Author, Grace A. Johnson

Heya, writers!!! Before I jump into today’s post and introduce who the fabulous Grace Johnson is, I just wanna give a few quick announcements about some things coming up on the blog!! First off, aaahh, the leaves are falling, your folks are probably getting the pumpkins out or you’re already jamming to that awesome Christmas music! But for some writers you’re probably getting everything ready for the craziest writing season of the year! I just love this time of year so much and I love how something about all the writers madly working away to reach that coveted 50K, staying up late, consuming unhealthy amounts of lemonade or coffee if you’re that kind of writer XD, and writing for hours at a time just inspires me to work harder on my own stories. And if you’re the same way, whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo or not, never fear cuz TWN’s got your back. This year, I was really wanting to do something to help all of y’all awesome writers out with your stories and Kat and I talked it over and I came up with something that some of y’all might be really interested in! Teen Writers’ Nook is going to answer your most burning writing questions! Anything you’ve wanted to know, whether that’s on the story concept itself (plots, characters, etc.,), marketing and author platform building strategies, publishing questions from querying to agents to self-publishing, tips to get motivated to write, how to handle criticism or rejection, how to start a blog… literally anything you want to know related to writing, we’re going to answer them!!!! or well, we’ll try to, lol. So anytime between now and November 13, drop in any question you have, as many as you want, and as many times as you want!! And then we’ll compile it into one big post that’ll probably release near the end of November! To submit, just fill out this google form here as many times as you want!!!

Also, just another quick announcement! For anyone who’s familiar with the Ascendance Series by Jennifer A. Nielsen, I’m going to be returning the countdown as we all get excited for the release of the fifth (and sadly final *sniffs*) book in this fantastic series!!!!!!!! I’m going to be collabing with the INCREDIBLE Alexa from A Fangirl’s Hideaway, so this is something you’re not gonna wanna miss if you’re a false prince fangirl like me. ;P We hope you’ll join us as the countdown begins a week from tomorrow!!!!!!

Now ’nuff announcements. Lemme introduce to you the amazing, inspiring young author who’s gonna take the stage on TWN. Grace A. Johnson is a good friend of mine and the Amazon bestselling author of Held Captive, an adventurous Christian historical romance novel. She’s also written a ton of of short stories, novellas, and novels, (and was that really talented author featured in Imagine. ;P) and you can find out more about her by clicking this pink thingy. Now, let’s be honest, with the million of different ways to go the publishing route, it’s hard to know what’s the best path for you!! I feel like this is something a lot of teen authors have so many questions on and not enough answers, so I just KNEW it was a topic that needed to be talked about on TWN and who better to bring us this post, than the lovely Miss Johnson herself!!! I am just SO excited to be bringing you this post today, so I’m just gonna hush up so you guys can get to it. I present… the post.

Well, hello there, my fellow TWNers! I’m sure Issabelle has already introduced me, but hey, why not TMI (#toomanyintroductions) y’all?

My name is Grace A. Johnson, and I’m Issabelle’s favorite author a self-published author of two novels, a novella, and six short stories. Recently, a lot of my writer friends have been quizzing me about publishing—self-publishing in particular—so something I’ve been wanting to do is compile all my information and advice into one post. I’ve been procrastinating it for forever now, so when Izzy asked me to write an article for TWN and mentioned that a lot of y’all are looking into different routes of publishing, I knew it was time.

I rushed into publishing when I was thirteen years old—I did minimal research and didn’t even know about half of the options out there. That’s a mistake every writer should avoid making, because your first choice in publishing can make or break your career.

There are six steps you should take toward discovering the right publishing route for you and your novel, and that’s what I’ll be sharing with y’all in the post. Before we get into it, though, a word from the wise:

The first thing you need to do before making any kind of decision—especially one as monumental as publishing your first book—is to pray about it. Seek the Lord and His will for your story. He has a plan for every word you write, whether you think so or not, and if you ask Him, He’ll lead you in exactly the way you should go, trust me.

The publishing route you take should never be a last resort or the second best. There is only one right route for your novel, and settling is NOT an option.

Step 1: Know the Routes

When I started considering publishing, I knew of only one option—traditional publishing. There was, in the back of my mind, the idea that I could always pay for a company to print copies of my book for me to sell…but that was definitely a last resort. (Please note that no writer should ever consider such desperate measures. Your book deserves more.)

Because my thoughts were on only traditional publishing, I had no idea what to do when none of the companies I wanted to publish my novel accepted unsolicited queries and the only one that did never got back with me. (Of course, I could’ve gotten an agent…but, like I said, I did next to no research and didn’t even consider getting one. But more on that later…)

Traditional Publishing. Usually the top on everyone’s list—for multiple reasons. You get the full meal deal when you sign with a publisher—top editors and designers working on your novel, a popular name on the spine of your book, and a wellspring of readers already at your fingertips.

But there are other ways to go…some of which might be even better.

Self-Publishing. Self-pubbing has a bad rap because of the way it started out, but now more and more readers and writers are beginning to see the merits of self-publishing. You have full control over your book and rights, all the freedom you could dream of, and the ability to publish whenever, wherever, and however you want.

Independent Publishing. A TON of people confuse indie publishing with self-publish, but they’re actually quite different. With self-pubbing, you produce the book yourself (usually with the help of a self-pubbing platform, like KDP, Draft2Digital, or IngramSpark). But with indie publishing, you’re publishing with an independent press—which means it’s a small company that’s not owned by a bigger publishing house. Because it’s a little like trad and little like self, you get the best of both worlds—security with a press, plus their brand and resources, but also more freedom and more control.

Hybrid Publishing. Hybrid publishing refers to two different things—a publishing company that operates with a different  revenue model than traditional publishers and publishing through two separate routes, often both traditional and self. I’ll be focusing more on the latter. More and more traditional authors are turning to self-publishing to publish novels at their own pace and have more freedom; while more and more self-published authors are gaining more traction and being signed by traditional publishing houses. Straddling both worlds gives authors more readers, more popularity, and a farther reach.

Now that we know all the different options out there, it’s time we start narrowing it down to which one works best for your book!

Step 2: Examine Your Needs

To do that, you need two lists. (Yes, lists. I love lists. Everyone should make at least one list a day, just for fun.) The first is a list of what you and your novel need. Do you need increased royalties? Do you need a readership at your fingertips? Is your novel marketable? Or is it more unique? (If your book falls into three or more genres and even more categories with no set classification, it’s unique.) Do you have the time and resources to market the book yourself or would you rather have experts for that? Questions like these and so many more will help you determine your needs and wants—be it freedom and control or a stress-free publication process.

Personally, I desired the freedom away from contracts, editors, and a restrictive market that either turned my novel into something entirely different or took away my rights. I wanted the ability to write passionate Pentecostal pirate novels without feeling ashamed of my writing or having certain elements removed. I wanted to cater to readers, not a market and a select number of critics. I wanted my word baby to be cared for by someone who loves it (me) and not a publisher focused on making money. (Not to mention, I want the ability to edit, update, or rewrite my work whenever I want to.)

Now, make a pros and cons list for each option (this step kind of bleeds into the next, so you may want to do both at the same time). See which one caters the most to your personal needs and your desires for your book. Keep in mind that these needs and wants will change as time goes on and you write more books, get a job or go to college or start a family, and reevaluate your goals as a writer. Plus, you never know when God is going to lead you into something different, something better!

Step 3: Do Your Research

This is simply one of the most important—and therefore most obvious—steps. Research. Google stuff, read books on publishing, explore blog posts and articles, check out guidebooks—whatever you can do to learn more about each publishing route, what they entail, and the different platforms and companies associated with them.

As you’re researching, make that list of pros and cons I mentioned. Talk to your parents, your fellow writers, your best friend, whoever you can think of to act as a sounding board for ideas and to give you feedback. Better yet, if you’re leaning toward traditional publishing, talk to a lawyer or legal advisor about contracts and rights.

This is a step I skimmed through, only doing the bare minimum of research—mainly because I hate research. (And I became a historical author why?) I wish I hadn’t now, because I keep learning more and more about each route and the different platforms and all the aspects and facets of publishing. Had I looked into what self-publishing takes before I pressed “publish” for my first novel, I might be an Amazon bestseller right now. Or I would’ve at least edited my novel better and hired a cover designer…

So, take it from someone who wishes she did…research, research, research!!!

Step 4: Ask an Author

On that note, there’s nothing better than gaining insight from someone who’s been there, done that. Authors—even the famous ones—are actually more talkative than you’d think, so try reaching out to some of your favorites and asking them about their publishing experience! They may have information on their website or blog, or even written a book about publishing, that you can check out, but it never hurts to shoot them an email with some tailored questions to get an idea what they went through and might would change if they had a do-over.

Some authors I personally recommend reaching out to (or just reading some of the posts on their blogs) are Kellyn Roth (self-published), Hannah Linder (self-published and on her way to becoming a hybrid author), Julie Lessman (hybrid author), Tamara Leigh (hybrid author)…and up-and-coming self-published authors like Jenna Terese, R.M. Archer, E.K. Seaver, Kristina Hall, and E.C. Colton!

Or…better yet, leave me a few questions in the comments or reach out to me on my site! I’d be glad to share more of my experiences, help you make your decision, and pray for you!!

Step 5: Test Things Out

Once upon a time, back when trad was king, this wasn’t an option. You couldn’t just test the waters and dabble in a little bit of everything—but now you can! You can try submitting flash fiction, poetry, and short stories to magazines, literary journals, and collections (like Imagine, for instance) to see how traditional and indie presses work. This will give you an idea of how contracts and rights operate, as well as experience working with editors and publishers!

For self-publishing, you can try out sites like Wattpad, Webnovel, and others or Kindle Vella to get a taste of publishing freedom. OR, if you’d like a little more than a taste, try publishing a short story, novella, or poetry collection through Kindle Direct Publishing (the quickest and easiest self-publishing platform). If it’s an experience you enjoy, then you can try other platforms with more reach (like IngramSpark or Draft2Digital) until you find the one that works best for you!

Another idea is to get an agent—or at least query for an agent. You’ll get an idea of what traditional publishing is like—from the long waits to the rejections—and, if successful, launch yourself into the world of trad!

There’s nothing more helpful than hands-on experience!

Step 6: Make the Choice

Well, we’ve reached the end. You’ve done it all—prayed, researched, made lists, brainstormed, procrastinated, tested the waters, talked to people, read books about publishing books, scoured the internet—all of it. And now the time has come to finally make the choice.

Don’t just jump into it, like I did. Prepare yourself. Finish your book and polish it as best as you can. No matter what route you choose, I suggest getting beta readers, editors, and fellow writers to help you shape your story into the best book it can be! Start an author site, a newsletter, a blog, a street team, and grow your readership. Join communities of published writers to integrate yourself into their world. Create a Goodreads and/or BookBub account. Grow your social media presence through platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Spotify, YouTube, and more to help influence your book.

Act published before you get published, to put it simply. Trust me, you’ll want a community of readers and followers before you ever make the plunge. I’ll put it like this…I didn’t do any of this, and it took me until my seventh book to gain a readership that will help me influence my new releases. Don’t wait ‘til #7, you guys!

Once you’ve established a name for yourself and a readership, you’re ready to take the plunge—but it doesn’t stop there! Publication is only the beginning!!!

I hope this article was able to put publishing into perspective and give you a better idea of how to start on the road to publication! Feel free to let me know what you thought, ask questions, and share your own experiences in the comments! Thank y’all for reading this loooong, boring post, and thank you SOOOO MUCH to Issabelle, Katherine, and Alana for having me!! It’s been a pleasure, girls!

Grace A. Johnson

Grace A. Johnson is a teenage Christian fiction authoress, book reviewer, and avid reader. She lives in beautiful (but humid) South Georgia, surrounded by farmland and forestry, with her parents and six younger siblings. She has written four novels, three of which are published, and a smattering of short stories and novellas, which you can find on Amazon. She’s also a homeschooler who loves learning about history, linguistics, art, and the world around her. You can find her on Goodreads, Pinterest, BookBub, or blogging on her website at www.graceajohnson.com. Join her for a virtual cup of tea and a free short story when you sign up for her e-newsletter!

Aaaaahh, didn’t y’all just LOVE THAT??!!!! Aaaah THANK YOU SO MUCH to Grace Johnson for agreeing to guest post and for the awesome tips!!!! The choice about which publishing path to pursue is a really tough one to make, and if you have any more questions or just need a listening ear, TWN is always ready to have your back!!! Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below, and I shall catch y’all on the next post. *waves*

Issabelle Perry is a devout follower of Jesus Christ and an extroverted, slightly crazy, teenage published author of YA fantasy. On the rare occasion when she's not plotting and pursuing her next story idea, you can find her reading, blogging, graphic designing, searching the web for odd facts about the middle ages, hunting for Narnia in wardrobes, or envisioning herself wielding a magnificent sword (but due to her clumsiness, let’s hope that never happens). This self-proclaimed exclamation mark enthusiast and obsessed fan of LOTR and The False Prince (by Jennifer A. Nielsen), is a co-founder of Teen Writers' Nook where she and her sisters are dedicated to motivating and supporting young authors. What she's probably doing right now is fangirling about her favorite books to random people, trying to figure out how to fit the five new books she bought on her overflowing bookshelf, or scanning the pantries for chocolate.

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