Skip to main content

From Blog to eBook to Agent and Book Deal: 9 Tips for the Publication Journey

Kris Spisak shares 9 tips for writers who are looking to break out—all from her journey with starting a small grammar blog to landing an agent and a book deal.

There are two ways that I can tell the story of my first book publication. The short version is that I started a blog on writing tips in 2012; I self-published a collection of my favorite 100 blogs in 2015 as an e-book; and in 2016 I signed a literary agent who liked what I was doing, and signed with a traditional publisher a week and a half later. Thus, Get a Grip on Your Grammar: 250 Writing and Editing Reminders for the Curious or Confused (Career Press, 2017) was born.

(Common Writing Mistakes Writers Make—and How to Fix Them.)

I like that story. It’s a fun one to tell; but as in any publishing story, the path to holding my first book in my hands is a bit more complicated than that. There was a lot of strategy involved that helped my chances of success. Here are the secrets to the longer version of my story.

9 Tips for the Publication Journey

What I Learned on My Publication Journey:

1. Don’t Wear Publication Blinders:

If you asked me about my passion, I wouldn’t say “grammar”, as my book title might imply. I’d say my passion is language itself—storytelling, wordplay, and provoking thought with little squiggly shapes on paper. I’ve published poetry, short fiction, and more business articles and blogs than I can count. While some might argue that the more time you dedicate to your genre, the better you will become, I’d contend the opposite. Write diversely. Experiment with different forms and different audiences. The more you collect words together, the better chance you have of something catching fire.

2. Allow Yourself to Play:

When I began my blog, I wasn’t aiming for publication. I was jotting down reminders for my editing clients, business clients, and friends. I was trying to make them laugh while I explained language use without any grammar jargon. I found my voice and style more easily than any project ever before because there was no internal or external pressure on my process. Allowing yourself time for creative play isn’t a waste of time; sometimes, as you scribble and poeticize and probe the possibilities, you might stumble upon something brilliant you wouldn’t have otherwise.

[The 12 Dos and Don'ts of How to Write a Blog]

3. Find Your Support:

Other writers understand the highs and lows of the writing life better than anyone else. My critique partner gives me deadlines, a renewed drive for my projects, and delicious appetizers. Central Virginia is lucky to have a powerhouse writing community, James River Writers, where I have found my writing tribe and my source of continued industry education. Writing does not have to be a solo endeavor

4. Research the Online Marketplace:

When I was about 100 blogs in, my readers began asking me when the book was coming. I smiled politely at first, but in this moment in publishing history, I realized there was nothing stopping me from seeing what would happen. My e-book experiment began with researching Amazon, and I was surprised to learn how much an author could do to improve their chances. A book has a better shot if it can be found in multiple niches of a genre. Testimonials and an Author Q&A can be added to a book’s Amazon page to capture both an author’s professional presence and a collection of keywords that will boost its findability. In the indie pub world, there is so much more to consider after polishing your book, giving it a well-designed cover, and pressing “publish.” These strategies change, of course, so authors would be wise to do their homework.

*****

Query Letter in 14 Days

You've devoted hours, days, months—even years— to writing and editing your novel or nonfiction book. With all that time invested, it's natural to want recognition for your hard work and dedication. Take your writing one step further and tackle the publishing process. When you enroll in this online course, you'll learn the details of the query letter format and how to write a query letter that catches the attention of agents and publishers.

Click to continue.

*****

5. Experiment with Marketing Techniques:

I played with Facebook and LinkedIn ads, BookBub and its competitors, and even guest blogging. Whether it was these efforts, my energy spent on Amazon, or a combination of the two, a few months after publication I had an offer of a buy-out of my project from a major dot com. I’m not quite sure which piece of the puzzle hit, but when I was on the phone with an exec from across the country, talking conditions and dollar amounts, I knew my little self-publishing experiment was working.

[20 literary agents actively seeking writers and their writing]

6. Endure, Endure, Endure:

I have a lovely digital folder of rejection letters where literary agents have told me that “this was a really close call, but …” or “I might regret it, however… .” I have a hand-written notebook that tracks every query I’ve ever sent, and I’m scared to count how many pages are full of Xs rather than highlighted checkmarks. Am I still pushing forward full-steam on projects that seem almost there? Absolutely. But I didn’t allow these rejections to define my publishing journey. I asked myself what was working well in my creative life, and my answer was my blog and my e-book. When I shifted my thinking away from my novels and toward a writing reference book, I drafted a new query. After years of rejection letters and close calls, I was on the phone with my future literary agent within a few hours of my sent email.

7. Dive into Digital Data:

Of course, getting on the phone with my future agent would have never happened if my initial correspondence wasn’t full of data. After a year or two of blogging, I began to closely track spikes in my web traffic. By posting consistently, studying search engine optimization, and building a web reputation, I had a number of blogs make their way to the front page of Google’s search results. When my query included my website analytics, my number of high-ranking blogs, my social network numbers, and my writing tips email newsletter audience, I know I gained major credibility.

8. Network, Network, Network:

As a local editor and a regular volunteer within my local writing community, a couple years ago, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel on the editing process. My future agent, Lisa Hagan, was sitting on that panel. At the time, deep into fiction work, I remember thinking that it was a shame she didn’t represent novels since we connected so well. I cannot tell you how happy I am that we connected so well. If I never offered to volunteer for my local writing community, this connection never would have happened. In addition, by being active in the literary scene, I’ve been able to make real connections with authors I’m in awe of. Because of this, in my query letter, I was also able to discuss names of writers who could potentially blurb my book or help in its publicity, and these names came out of true relationships.

9. Relax When You Can:

The pressure we put on ourselves to finish, to publish, to build our audiences, and to sell our books is sometimes a bit overwhelming. Being a writer is more than a hobby or occupation. It’s a lifestyle—and one we need to shape with kindness to ourselves at its core. If the journey to publication is all stress and agony, the passion that swept you up in the first place will disappear.

In the summer of 2012, I started a blog. That’s neither the start nor the end of my publishing story. I’ve seen my first book launch. I’ve signed my name on its title page. I’ve booked school, community, and writing conference events around it. I don’t know the long or short version of the next chapter of my journey, but I do know the above steps will remain critical along the way.

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

From having reverence for the original to making it your own, author Nikki Payne shares four tips for writing a modern retelling.

Faint vs. Feint (Grammar Rules)

Faint vs. Feint (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use faint vs. feint in your writing with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples. Plus, we answer whether it's "faint of heart" or "feint of heart."

6 Books to Cozy Up With This Winter | Book Recommendations

6 Books to Cozy Up With This Winter

Here are 6 book recommendation perfect for winter reading.

12 Things to Consider When Writing Fight Scenes in Fiction (FightWrite™)

12 Things to Consider When Writing Fight Scenes in Fiction (FightWrite™)

Trained fighter and author Carla Hoch shares 12 things all writers should consider when attempting to write effective fight scenes in fiction.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unreal Character

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unreal Character

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character turn out to be less than they seem.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 15th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

Valeria Ruelas: On Teaching Tarot, Brujeria, and Witchcraft

Valeria Ruelas: On Teaching Tarot, Brujeria, and Witchcraft

Author Valeria Ruelas discusses the process of writing her new book, The Mexican Witch Lifestyle.

What Is the Hook, the Book, and Cook Query Pitching Technique for Writers?

What Is the Hook, the Book, and the Cook Query Pitching Technique for Writers?

Find out what "the hook, the book, and the cook" are in relation to writing query letters and pitching books to literary agents and book editors. This post answers the question of what each one is and how to successfully assemble the pieces.

Romance Retellings of Literary Classics

Romance Retellings of Literary Classics

Author Chloe Liese makes a case for the romance genre being the natural home for retellings, and shares some tips on how to write a successful romance retelling of literary classics.