How I Published My First Book -- And Tips to Publish Yours!

Publishing your first book. It is the first step for any aspiring writer and can often be the most difficult. Just try typing “publishing a book,” into Google and you will find endless entries showing millions of suggestions and steps to achieving this goal.

For years, the goal of publishing my first book loomed over me. Although I knew this was something I wanted to achieve, the challenge appeared too great — especially at the very beginning of my writing career. However, something incredible happened when I started talking to people about it: I eventually secured a publishing deal.

Sharing with Others

When I was in college, I started working at the Rare Books and Manuscripts department of the library. Here, I met like-minded people who shared my love for learning and books. As everyone came to know me, they joked, “the second thing you know about Maggie after her name is that she is from Muncy, Pennsylvania.” Here I should preface: I love my home. My village in the middle-of-nowhere has played a huge role in my life and I am constantly trying to share it with whoever will listen.

Well, it just so happened that people did listen. After hearing about my passion for my hometown, a colleague approached me about writing a book about Muncy. I couldn’t believe it — writing my first book and it was about my hometown. Sharing what I am passionate about with others led me to begin what I consider one of my biggest accomplishments.

Don’t be afraid to test out your material with other people. Although it might not directly lead you to a publishing deal, sharing your interests with others allows you to develop your ideas with a willing audience. Your material can get a “test run” before presenting it to a publisher. If you are passionate about something—whether that be your home, your writing, art—don’t be afraid to share it with others: you never know where it might lead you!

My home in the Susquehanna River Valley!

My home in the Susquehanna River Valley!

For the Love of Writing

When I first pitched my book to the publisher, it required a lot of research from my end. I had to present my publisher with pictures, documents and research which would give them an overview of the layout of the book. For me, this meant weekend trips home to root through our historical archives and learning much more about the history of the town. When I presented my book to the publisher, the hours spent understanding what it was exactly I wanted to write about was clear. Understanding is essential to any publishing process—both from you and the publisher. A writer needs to understand everything about the book he/she is setting out to write: its purpose, the structure, an outline. As always, things can be reworked and reimagined, but having a strong understanding of what your goals are in writing will always give you better success with a publisher.

Once the publisher was happy with my pitch, I began the long writing process. For me, this meant interviewing locals, meeting with the local historical society and scouring newspaper databases for information. I’m not going to lie — this was a demanding task. If I didn’t have the drive to write the book, I don’t know how I would have completed it. And this is where a love of writing is important. Whatever your subject, be sure that it is something that you are willing to devote time and energy to writing. The reason why I was able to publish a book in the first place was because I was passionate about what I was writing.

One of the first documents I used for my publishing pitch.

One of the first documents I used for my publishing pitch.

Commitment to the End

While the writing process was long, I wasn’t even finished once I submitted it to publication. My publisher required that we also schedule a few local events to promote the book. I ended up having a Launch Party at the restaurant where I used to work which was scheduled on the day the book was released to the public. Managing this event meant that I had to purchase books to sell, send out promotional material to local businesses and organize the venue. Depending on your publisher, they might manage the entirety of promotion, but most times it will be up to you to promote your new book. It is important that once you publish the book, you do not end the process there. Remember why you wrote the book in the first place — to have people read it! Talk with local bookstores to see if you can schedule a signing or author meet. Use social media to alert your friends. That same drive that pushed you to write in the first place should be used to get the word out to others. Even after the book has been published, it is important to stay committed to your writing.

And, of course, don’t forget to celebrate!

Looking for more tips on publishing a book?

Check out best-selling author Jerry B. Jenkins on “How to Write a Book”

Not sure which publisher to go with? Take a look at this database on publishers for different subject areas