BE MY GUEST: How to publish your first novel By Author Carolyn Haley

Carolyn Haley is not just an author but also an incredible observer of trends in the publishing industry. In today’s guest post, she answers the questions that pop up in the mind of every author going to get his/her novel published for the first-time. For example, which way to go, traditional or self-publishing? How to approach the market? Should it be wise to go for e-book or print or both? She shares the insights from her own experiences to motivate all the unpublished authors out there sitting with a manuscript in their hand, trying to decide what to do next. Let’s find out what she has to say:
Guest Post: 

How to publish your first novel 

By Author/Editor: Carolyn Haley 

These days, the fiction market is not a land of opportunity for first-time novelists. Getting traditionally print published has become as unlikely as winning the lottery! Although exceptions pop up now and then, generally, to sell your book it must either have blockbuster potential or slot into a genre with a loyal audience who expects multiple, similar books to follow.

My first novel bombs on all fronts. It’s a hybrid, mixing science fiction, romantic suspense, fantasy, and mystery into one speculative saga about psychic power. Instead of a big audience in any one genre, it appeals to a small audience in one genre. I don’t have enough stories in my head to crank out a book a year to feed a hungry readership. So there’s no reason for the average traditional print publisher to want me.

I bashed my head against this truth for years before finally accepting that I would never hold in my hand a hardcover with my name on it, bought and produced by a big-name publisher. But after two-plus decades of development, I was not going to bury my manuscript in a drawer!

By the time I faced reality, the e-book market had emerged. Like many people, I held it in disdain, as one step above vanity publishing—just another place where rejected novelists go in desperation to validate their efforts.

This snobbery vanished when I started meeting fellow readers, writers, and editors who were not only trying out Kindles and Sony Readers, but loving them. And now a younger generation is reading books on pocket devices and mobile phones. Hmm. Time to pick up my head and pay attention.

Also, a wise adage I’d heard years earlier kept echoing in my head: “Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

So I hit the Internet and spent many evenings compiling lists of e-publishers and comparing them against various “writers beware” sites. I read submission requirements and sample contracts, and studied covers and synopses. Eventually I focused on a Canadian e-publisher who sells books in all my genres plus a new one I hadn’t considered (New Age). She takes electronic rights only for three years, and has an art portfolio that suggested we’d survive the cover design process together. All that homework paid off and my novel came out through Club Lighthouse Publishing, sporting an eye-popping cover that contains all the elements I requested.

Success! That is, success in theory. Now we’ve got to promote the book around the world to achieve success in fact. Thanks to the Internet, connecting with the world is possible—and fun! There are so many avenues to explore, through which I’m meeting my eclectic audience. At the same time, I’m building a web presence for both my writing endeavors and my editing business. So my career has turned virtual in both of its channels.

Nevertheless, I’m self-publishing a print version of the novel to reach the people who still prefer bound-paper books. This is new for me, too—I still want to hold my book in my hand! Besides, it’s a little weird pitching something that’s essentially invisible. My print version, with its own ISBN, will contain the original and possibly my own artwork on the cover. It’s exciting and ego-gratifying to have total control!

As the alternative market continues to develop, many e-book publishers have begun offering dual packages, so that one’s book can be simultaneously published in both electronic and print forms. I like this idea for my next novel. Standards are slowly creeping upward to the point where first-time authors must formally submit their materials to electronic or dual publishers just as they have been doing to traditional print publishers, though it remains easier, overall, to get accepted by the newer, younger, smaller companies.

Sooner or later parity will be reached between print and e-publishing, but I’m willing to bet that more doors remain open wider and for longer in the electronic world than they will be in the print world. Meanwhile, the self-publishing options, whether paid services or something you do entirely yourself, will always be available.

Regardless, unless you’ve got a blockbuster or a perfect genre fit (beautifully written, edited, and proofread, of course), you’ll have the same challenges in marketing your novel, whatever the venue, as few publishers of any type have the budgets or inclination to promote all titles on their lists. What’s changed is the route and relative ease of getting a first novel out into the world.

About the Author:

Carolyn Haley is a writer and editor living in rural Vermont. Through her business, DocuMania, she writes a mix of articles for regional and national magazines, and commercial copy for catalogues and websites. She also helps other authors with diverse projects through editing, proofreading, production, and education. She has written a novel and non-fiction book. She is currently working on a coming-of-age novel “Louder than Words”. 
To know more about her current books, editing and writing services, visit her website: http://carolynhaley.wordpress.com/

About her Book:

Open Your Heart with Gardens
FINALIST! 2008 Indie Book Awards, Home/Garden and Nature/Environment categories

This non- fiction explores the whys and how of interacting with the living green world. It forms a volume in DreamTime Publishing’s “Open Your Heart…” series, which helps readers “master your life through what you know.” It looks at plants from a new angle ­- from hobby to healing, as sanctuary or for sharing, for art, entertainment, and even survival; gardens help us nurture our unique natures.

The narrative weaves together the author’s experience plus stories from people around America revealing how plants bring peace; empowerment; joy; refreshment; and other positive feeling or purpose to life. Tips on gardening across environments show how to fit plants into most any lifestyle, integrating the physical and the spiritual into a balanced whole. This book opens our minds to a larger world, which then opens new doors to opportunity and fulfillment. It all starts with gardens, just as gardens start from seeds.

To buy this book on Amazon, click here.


  1. I was so reluctant to self-publish my first novel -- even though I believed the manuscript was ready. It wasn't until a friend proudly told me he planned to write and self-pub his first book that I started taking the avenue seriously (and stopped worrying about what everyone would think).

    I wish you the best, Carolyn. And I look forward to hearing more about your work!

  2. @Kenya: Thanks so much for sharing your experiences as a first time novelist. I agree the initial inertia is always there, all one needs is a push in the right direction!


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