First, you have to write the damned thing.

Shaunta Grimes
Apr 16, 2018 · 4 min read

I have a strategy for blogging that involves checking out Quora to see what questions people are asking.

I checked Quora this morning and saw this.

Good answer, Orson Scott Card. Good answer.

So, yes. If you want to publish your book, you must do as Orson Scott Card says and finish it.

(Unless you’re going indie and decide to publish serially. Then you only need to finish the part you’re actually going to publish, I suppose. But whatevs. The point is that you have to finish whatever it is you want to publish.)

It’s not even a chicken and an egg thing. You cannot publish what you haven’t written.

You can publish what you haven’t edited. You can publish what you haven’t tried to sell to a traditional publisher. You can publish long. You can publish short. You can publish poetry, blog posts, picture books, and 500,000-word tomes that would make literary agents insta-delete your query letter.

You can publish late — long after you should have just shipped that thing.

You can publish early — before your work is polished well enough to avoid being ripped apart in Amazon reviews.

You can publish pretty much anything.

But you cannot publish it until you’ve finished writing it.

I may not agree with everything Orson Scott Card has to say — especially about non-writing things — but we’re on the same page here. Finish the book, please.

But then? Get brave.

The real answer to the Quora question is just one word. YES.

Yes, you should finish your book, all the way down to a solid edit (a professional one if you’re going to self-publish), and then YES you should push that baby bird out of the nest.

That is how writing careers are built.

Let me say that another way. You cannot build a literary career out of files on your hard drive that you never let anyone read. Or out of half-finished stories that get abandoned every time a shiny new idea bites you in the ass. Or out of completed novels that you never feel are good enough for public consumption.

Yes. Please, publish.

Now that we have that established, let’s go a little deeper.

If your goal is traditional publishing, then this isn’t actually a simple yes or no question. Being published is out of your hands. Or it will be, once you get brave enough to put your work out there into the hands that can get it done.

You’ll need to write a query letter and send it out to literary agents. Not one or two. Not a carefully selected list of ten. Once you know your letter is doing it’s job (it’s only job is to get an agent to request your work), then send that sucker out wide. To everyone.

Last summer I needed a new agent. Once my query letter was bringing in a ten percent positive response (one in ten agents asked to read the manuscript,) I sent it to more than 140 agents. I had seven offers to represent me. Which is mind-blowingly awesome. For a couple of weeks there, I felt like one of those movies that’s up for all the Academy Awards or something.

But the hard truth is that I had more than 130 rejections, too. I was getting rejections after the agent I went with sold my book.

The moral of that story is send your query wide. Please.

If you land an agent, they’ll go through the same process in an effort to land you a publisher. And then voila. You’ll be published!

If you’re planning to go indie then you are the publisher. Publishing is 100% up to you. Which means you have the responsibility of creating the most professional work you can. It’s your job to hire an editor and a cover artist. It’s your job to position your book in the market place.

And yes. You should do all of that.

And then yes, you should publish.

And then? You should write the next book.

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes, is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming middle-grade novel The Astonishing Maybe and is the original Ninja Writer.

Shaunta Grimes

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