Whenever I tell someone that I've written a book, I’m usually asked what the book is about and when it is coming out {I swear, friends, I’m not being coy about the release date, I don’t know it yet and I’ll tell you why in a bit}. But many, especially fellow writers, are also curious about how and why I obtained a traditional publishing contract, especially since most authors these days are going the self-publishing route. So, here’ the scoop.

For those unfamiliar with the publishing world, a self-published book is one that the author takes full responsibility for producing and distributing. The author may hire specialists to edit, design, print {if releasing hardcover/paperback versions} and distribute the book, and will incur all of the costs associated with this work. The benefit of self- publishing is that author owns all of the rights to the book and keeps all of the profits the book generates. On the other hand, a traditionally published book is one that is produced and distributed by a publishing company. The publishing company will absorb the above-mentioned costs, and likewise will keep a large percentage of the book’s profits and own many of the rights {as defined in the publishing contract}.

When I finished writing my manuscript, I didn't know a thing about book publishing. In fact, that very moment went something like this: Typing the words 'The End' and staring at them in disbelief for at least ten minutes; hitting 'save' about 15 times, closing the document, then reopening it to make sure it really saved; thinking "holy shit, I actually finished it, now what?"; and googling "I wrote a book, now what?" It took a few weeks to sort through the answers, to read up on the pros and cons of each type of publishing, and to define my goals. Ultimately, I decided to pursue traditional publishing because I believed it would give my novel the greatest chance of success. I wanted the guidance and experience of a professional publishing team beside me, even if it meant relinquishing most of the potential income. 

The next step was having my manuscript professionally copyedited to fix grammar and formatting errors. Then, like most first-time authors with grand illusions of my book becoming a New York Times best seller and next summer’s box office blockbuster, I wrote a query letter to ten top literary agents {people who represent authors to big publishing houses that will generally not accept unsolicited manuscripts}. I mean, Terry McMillan’s agent HAD to love my plot synopsis because even though no one in the literary world had ever heard of me, it was just THAT good. “Move over Stella, here comes Athena!” she would declare after reading my riveting two-paragraph plea.
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Aww, thanks Ryan Gosling. You just earned yourself a roll in my movie!
In the days that followed, every time my inbox chimed my heart would skip a beat. But as rejection letters and reality trickled in, I began to consider the more likely path of self-publishing. The problem was that producing a quality book would take time, resources, and, most of all, money that I wasn't confident I could muster. So, I decided to take a different approach and research small, indie publishing companies that might be more willing to take a chance on me. That’s when I discovered my publisher. After a few months of emailing back and forth, I finally received an acceptance letter. Cue the doves flying off my laptop screen and church choir singing Hallelujah!  

Having a publishing contract means a lot of things. It means feeling excited and validated. It means the beginning of a career that I really, really want. It also means edits that are sometimes painful and unfair, and a lack of control over the production timeline {the reason why I don’t have a release date yet}. But above all else, it means that I am one giant step closer to having my book in your hands.