Publishing Fiction Books

NOOB, How to Guide

How to start, Editing & Beta Readers, Plot & Conflict.

Traditional Method

You need agent representation most likely. You send queries to agents. The agent should have contacts at the publishers. The agent sends the manuscript to publishers.

If the publishers like it, the agent, publisher, and you sort out any contract issues. The author receives an advance and royalties.

The publisher expenses producing the book comes out of sales before royalties are paid, typically, contracts vary. The other cold hard fact is even if an agent picks it up, the book averages a 1 in 50 shot of being published. Some agents sell more, some less, than the industry average.

The publisher’s name on the book carries clout. The fact the publisher will send out Advanced Reader Copies (ARC) to potentially hundreds or even over a thousand readers is a deal maker.

At some point though, some of the marketing is still going to fall on the writer. The writer will be expected to maintain professional accounts on social media.

Some people who are traditionally published, never make above the advance.


I’m almost certain if you travel this route, you’re going to need to be on twitter, and most likely need a significant number of followers. I hear 10,000 is a good starting point for a writer seeking representation.

Twitter is very special, a lot of users are writers, a fair sum of agents poke around on there. Special pitch days happen where people tweet out queries, and some agents are watching and do ask for full manuscripts. Book deals have been facilitated on twitter.

The Great American Novel

I’m not saying don’t do this, this is the writer’s dream. I believe self-publishing is an even harder journey. I have my reasons for self-publishing, one is my health gets flaky sometimes, and tomorrow isn’t promised. I reached the point on stuff: put it out there or continue to delay.

Querying Agents

I only did this for a few years, there are a million resources to explain and help with this. I’m just putting this in so you can google querying agents and start your journey on this path.

You very likely still need help from editors before taking this step. If it’s full of holes, they are likely not interested.


This is a good step, if you can finance it. I’ve always done this on a shoestring budget, it’s super hard to break into. Some people drop a book into the wild and sell 10,000 copies the first year.

I hear stories about people consistently making a few thousand dollars a month doing this.

The vast majority of people who self-publish fail. You have so many hats you wear from business owner to marketer to book formatter to writer to editor. That’s the short list.

Every step of the process requires a high skill level and the ability to learn and adapt. This is not a process for people who aren’t interested in lifelong learning.

Big Players

Amazon is the #1 bookseller on Earth. They have an entire Kindle Direct Publishing platform you can load books into, and control almost every aspect of what you want for your books.

This is a free process for the writer Amazon will just take a cut of every sale.

Ebooks are easier and less work than print books. It needs a graphic cover and a polished manuscript file (docx), and you can load it. Print books require a more specialized PDF cover.


This platform last time I used it was for ebooks, and they will send your ebook to a variety of other platforms. Supposedly their formatting science is quite good, and you don’t have to submit a perfectly formatted book.

As far I know, you need to submit a properly formatted ebook in a docx file.


This outfit is similar to Draft2Digital, but it has very strict formatting policies, and last time I used it you had to do formatting to their standard.

A nice thing about smashwords is coupon codes, so you have more control of your book’s pricing.

Formatting a Fiction Book

Agents and publishers want Standard Manuscript Format, which despite the name varies wildly from one agent to the next. Usually, the agent will give you a sample manuscript format to work with.

8.5x11inch page, 1inch margins all around, 1/2inch indent on new paragraph starts, double spaced throughout. 12-point times new roman.

The font, header page/title page, headers and footers, is where variations start cropping up.

Chapter breaks should start on a new page.

A final print or ebook should be single spaced, with a 1/2inch indent on first lines of paragraphs. Font is 12-point times new roman, but so many writers want to use a specialized font of some kind. It’s their book, and it’s a battle I’m too old to fight over.

Some people will use block text, with no initial indent, but the single space inside a paragraph, and double space between paragraphs.

Two spaces after a period or one

I’m not fighting about this. I type two. I have since I was in typing class 30 years ago. I find it easier on me. If I sub somewhere, it often says they want one or two. And nowadays it seems everybody wants one.

I can pull my double spaces to single spaces on one global find and replace, and I think my print copies look better with two.

Stick to one you’ll likely be happier.

Short Stories

These can be submitted to magazines and anthologies, posted on an author website, used as content on ebook retailers to hook readers into longer works.

Short fiction is easier to hand out to friends, and it’s easier to use in a classroom setting.

These links were good at the time of this posting, these are sites with listing of markets for fiction.
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