I currently have the privilege of working with a small publishing company based in Pakistan. It has reminded me of the uphill struggle independent authors face when trying to get their work published and that is without the added complication of English not being your first language. You may have a dream but are you worthy.
Traditional publishers only accept manuscripts from agents. These agents according to Literary Agents Undercover receive between 500 and 1500 manuscripts a month in the UK and US. Out of these they will chose between 1 and 6 authors to publish. Their argument has always been they are the guardians of quality and the manuscripts they reject are not worthy of publication. However, many celebrities, politicians and sports people have books published every year. Therefore, traditional publishing must have an element of commerciality not just quality.
Most authors will spend 12 months producing a full length novel of between 80-100,000 words. This manuscript then needs to be checked and formatted for print and e-book. Assuming you have mastered all these skills you are then ready to submit it to an agent. If you are then rejected by numerous agents representing traditional publishers your only option is to look for a small publishing house or publish independently with Print on Demand through Amazon and Smashwords.
To level the playing field on quality you can invest in online courses, books, blogs and YouTube videos. With topics ranging from structure, plot, characterisation, pace and language to help build a better story. To refine your manuscript there are editing tools such as ProWritingAid and Grammarly along with beta readers, editors and cover designers. Be warned that once your book published reviewers will not be shy in giving you their feedback, both good and bad. A rule of thumb about bad reviews is, are they credible? Have they just written one line and are unable to support their criticism? Have they set up an account only to write a bad review for one book or several books?
To compete on a commercial basis, you need a website or at least a landing page on which to build your e-mail list. Again, there are a multitude of courses, blogs and books on social media marketing and building an author platform. Independence means you can set your own price and use this as a promotional tool to help build your platform. Outside of the initial book launch traditional authors complain that the publishing company do little or nothing to promote their books. Being an independent author is a steep learning curve and you do need to learn many different skills, but in a world which is constantly changing, this is not a bad thing. It makes you more resilient and adaptable, giving you a greater chance of having a lasting, rather than a short lived career. Better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all. I wasn’t considered good enough to study O level literature, but that didn’t stop me applying and being accepted on a doctorate.