“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.”
Caller: “Hello, I’ve written a book, and want to know, what should I do now?”
 I found your website and thought you could tell me what to do.”
NZSA. … We have quite a lot of useful information on our website and frequently asked questions, so perhaps you could start there. We have lists of assessors and editors, publishers, reviewers and industry websites..”
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: “ I suggest you first look at the list on our website of assessors and editors and get professional feedback on your manuscript. You have one opportunity to submit your book and it needs to be the best it can be. An assessment will let you know what rewriting it needs, and only when the project is assessed and complete, then it is time to look at publishers and the submission process, pitching, and your professional profile and presence and the best way to proceed.”


The NZSA Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (Pen NZ Inc) has been supporting the interests of writers since 1934.

Writers’ incomes in NZ average $16,400 p.a (2021 Horizon Research/CLNZ). Our advocacy around a range of issues that affect the book industry, in concert with other industry organisations we help support writers. NZSA’s advocacy addresses fair reward, creative rights such as The Review of the Copyright Act, the PLR Review, and offshore library purchasing (Read Local Buy Local) and benefits all writers.

NZSA provides ongoing communications about the book industry news,  administers prizes and awards, runs a Learning Hub of professional development events and assessment and mentoring programmes, and shares communications and opportunities for writers. A national office supports 8 regional branches that 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, the Burns Fellowship Committee, and Copyright Licensing NZ – to provide advice, and to liaise and collaborate across the sector.

NZSA supports the development of your writing as you progress through your career.

What happens at the publication end of writing remains a mystery for many. We know that around 45% of writers self-publish 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. Learn about the sector.
  • 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. Read this information on Submitting your work to publishers. NZ version – Winning submissions from ASA
  • Once a manuscript has had a structural edit and a copyedit and been 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 stores
  • Complete media interviews
  • Share reviews and interviews on your author website and social media pages through facebook, Instagram, twitter and snapchat
  • Keep marketing yourself and promoting your book.

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