“I’ve written a book, what should I do?”

At NZSA we often get calls that go like this:

NZSA. “Good Morning, Society of Authors.”
“Hello, I’ve written a book, and want to know, what should I do now?”
NZSA. “Are you a member?”
“No. But I found your website and thought you could tell me what to do.”
NZSA. … “Well, we are a membership organisation and advice is one of the benefits of membership. We have quite a lot of useful information in the public sections of our website and frequently asked questions, so perhaps you could look at that.”
Caller. … “I can see that but I thought I’d ring and you could just quickly tell me what to do, or which publishers to go to and how I can sell it?!”
NZSA: “Well, that would be a very long conversation and we are a membership organization. I suggest you first look at the list on our website of assessors and editors and get professional feedback on your manuscript, what rewriting it needs and then consider the best way to present it and proceed.”
Caller. Getting indignant … “That won’t be necessary. I did a course at the National Library! My neighbour has read it and says it’s fantastic. My sister has done the cover. I just want you to tell me where to send it, why can’t you do that?”


Why Indeed! How long have you got?

The first thing a writer should do is join the union! The NZSA Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (Pen NZ Inc) has been representing the interests of writers since 1934.
Writers’ incomes in NZ average $15,800 p.a (2020 Horizon Research/CLNZ). Our crucial advocacy around the Review of the Copyright Act and the PLR Review, needs your support, so we can protect your creative rights to be entitled to earn from your writing.

NZSA provides ongoing communications about the literary scene, administer prizes and awards, a Learning Hub of professional development events and options and share opportunities for writers. A national office supports 8 regional branches who offer monthly meetings; and NZSA is represented on industry boards and committees such as PLR Advisory Group, We Create, The Coalition for Books, the Book Awards Trust and CLNZ; provide contract advice, and liaise across the sector.

NZSA supports the development of your writing as you progress through your career and is an organisation run by writers, for writers.

What happens at the publication end of writing remains a mystery for many. We know that around 45% of our membership self-publishes both in book and digital form. Digital books can be uploaded to Ingram Spark, Amazon, to distributors like Draft2Digital, or via other providers.

What you do with your print book to promote and support its release follows the same trajectory whether you a releasing a book yourself, or via a traditional publisher. Here’s just some of the steps you will need to think about:

  • Join NZSA and a local writing group and get regular feedback on your writing
  • Take a creative writing course
  • Send your manuscript to an assessor for detailed feedback. Listen to what they say and do it. You get one chance and want your book to be the best it can be
  • Use Startwrite, Complete MS and Youth mentorship programmes working with a professional writer to progress your manuscript
  • Enter competitions: flash fiction, poetry, short stories and begin to build a literary CV
  • Establish a writers’ profile: website, photo, biographical information for your author persona, samples of your writing – a list of publications, start a newsletter that people can sign up to
  • “Kill your darlings”. Write, re-write and re-write. Polish
  • Think about how you will sell and market your book (before it is finished, before it is printed, before it is designed)
  • Research local publishers to see whose list would suit your book. Target those publishers and research their websites to see what the instructions are for submitting
  • Once a manuscript is complete with structural edit and proofed, think about formats for that genre
  • Invest in a professional designer for both the layout of the book and the jacket design and artwork
  • Contact the National Library and request an ISBN
  • Order an EPS of the barcode (send them the ISBN) for the back cover (can be scanned in store) from Barcode Technologies
  • Cost the project: quotes for printing, design and editing, manuscript assessment, booksellers’ discount, GST and establish the NZRP – NZ recommended retail price
  • At least 6 months before release contact distributors, unless you will do this yourself. Distributors have sales agents who approach bookshops and book chains
  • Prepare an ATI – Advance Title Information sheet for the distributors, containing information about the book, information about you. All ordering and sourcing details. Include any readers quotes
  • Load the title, ISBN, price and release date and availability information into the two Global bibliographic databases: Bowker and Neilsen
  • Booksellers buy at least 3 months ahead of release – Whitcoulls looks at new titles 5-6 months ahead of release. Your book needs to be presented to bookshops 3 months in advance of release date
  • Create a publicity and marketing plan: this may include a launch, creating a review list, prepare a media release and biographical details, consider special interest groups who you should target direct sales (eg gardening groups and specialist retail and media gardening outlets if it is a gardening book)
  • Send out your review copies and information three months ahead to long lead media i.e. glossy publications, organisation newsletters
  • One month before release send out your review copies and media release offering interviews. Or hire a publicist to do this
  • Do not do any interviews or media before the books are in the shops or available to buy (less than 10% of people will seek out a book they hear or read about more than once – if the shop doesn’t have it then, they forget it)
  • Books release into the store
  • Complete media interviews
  • Share reviews and interviews on your author website and social media pages through facebook, Instagram, twitter and snapchat
  • Keep marketing yourself

Things are always changing in publishing: joining NZSA is the best way to stay up to date with new technology, treads, marketplaces, and resources.