Columns > Published on March 5th, 2015

The Spork of Publishing: What to Consider After Finishing Your First Novel

So you’ve written a novel. At least 50,000 words of fiction. You’ve created characters with the strength of your imagination, and you put them through hell. Maybe not everybody survived. The important thing is that you survived. You wrote a book. Regardless of whether it’s a good book or a bad book, you still wrote one and that is no easy feat.

Now is the time to celebrate. Pop open a beer or streak through your neighborhood. Get all that excitement out of your system and prepare for your soul to be crushed. Writing the novel is only the first step in a staircase that never ends, one that spirals and spirals into infinity.

Become an Editing Machine

But what is the next step? Well, that would be to actually finish the book. Let’s say you just recently completed the first draft. It’s important to understand that just because you’ve reached the end of the book, that doesn’t mean it’s finished. There are rewrites and many other stages of self-editing left to go through. Even after you’ve read the book a dozen times and made countless edits, wait a good month and go through it again with a pair of fresh eyes. I guarantee you spot some obvious errors.

Writing the novel is only the first step in a staircase that never ends, one that spirals and spirals into infinity.

If you have any semi-intelligent friends, ask them if they’d be willing to beta read the book for you and provide feedback. I don’t recommend asking family, as they will most likely lie to spare your feelings. The same might happen with friends. Ideally, you should connect with other writers either offline or online and share your manuscripts with each other. They don’t care about you and thus don’t mind being brutally honest.

You need brutal honesty. Anything else is a waste of time.

The Spork of Publishing

Once you think the book is finally done—at least, as done as it’s going to get—you are left with a couple of choices as to how to proceed. Assuming you want other people to a) pay you for your writing and b) actually read what you’ve written, there are three different routes you can choose from. Just please be cautious of fraudulent publishers and agents who are out to scam you. You should never have to pay someone to publish you. Their job as the publisher is to make money off readers, not off you.

So, with that said: You can self-publish, publish with a small press, or go with one of the Big Five.

The most money and biggest audience reach can be found with the Big Five, which include corporations such as Hatchette, HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan. They have the budgets and expensive marketing campaigns small presses struggle to achieve. I’ll admit I don’t know much about agents, so I’ll just say that if you do want to break into the Big Five, then you will most likely need to acquire an agent. Read up on them online. Visit, which contains an abundance of valuable information pertaining to all sorts of publishing and agent-related subjects. Hell, you can even search LitReactor.

Now, in contrast to the Big Five, when you self-publish, you are the budget. There is no team of publishers and publicists on your side. There is just you. You are not only responsible for marketing, but it is also up to you to hire competent editors to rip the book to pieces. Don’t think just because you edited it yourself that you’re done. No writer can successfully edit their own book. It doesn’t happen. You’re just too close to the project to make unbiased decisions. And not only will you need to have the book edited, but you’ll also need someone to format it, lay it out for print and eBook formats. And don’t forget about cover design and jacket layout. The front cover is probably the most important aspect of a book, besides the content. Whoever told you not to judge a book by its cover was lying to you, and they should never be trusted again.

Now small press, on the other hand, is sort of the middle man between self-publishing and publishing with the Big Five. Small presses do not possess any remarkable budgets, but they do offer the essentials, such as editing and design. They should also have some sort of marketing strategy, just not as strong or extravagant as the Big Five.

With any of these publishing options, you can expect to self-promote yourself until you’re bloody and raw.

Always Be Hustling

And that’s where my next point comes into play: you must always be hustling. Even right now, despite the fact that you haven’t finished your book, you can still be promoting. If you can build an audience before your book has even been released, then you might be onto something. Publishers want to accept a book they know will sell. If you already have fans waiting to buy it, then that increases the odds of a publisher wanting to work with you.

Now, I’m not talking about going on Facebook and begging everyone to buy your book. I’m talking about being a human being. You are a person. You have an opinion. Start a blog. Keep it updated. Always keep it updated. If you don’t have anything to say, then rethink your chosen profession. Connect with other writers, online and offline. Buy and review small press and self-published books. Make yourself known. Don’t just suddenly pop up as someone with a book to sell.

Nobody gives a shit about commercials.

The publishing industry is a strange beast. Prepare to be chewed up and spat out.

I can sit here all day and say what you should and shouldn’t do, but in all honestly, I don’t know. No one knows. We live in wild west times. Anything could work if you play it right. So have fun with it, and remember, we’re all going to die, anyway.

About the author

Max Booth III is the CEO of Ghoulish Books, the host of the GHOULISH and Dog Ears podcasts, the co-founder of the Ghoulish Book Festival, and the author of several spooky books, including Abnormal Statistics, Maggots Screaming!, Touch the Night, and others. He wrote both the novella and film versions of We Need to Do Something, which was released by IFC Midnight in 2021 and can currently be streamed on Hulu. He was raised in Northwest Indiana and now lives in San Antonio.

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