12 Steps to Publication

It takes 12 strikes to achieve a perfect game in bowling. (See last Friday’s video.)

It made me think there are 12 things that need to happen in the publication process. Each must knock down all the pins to achieve publishing success. With that simplistic idea in mind, I came up with the following:

  1. Idea – A book has to start somewhere
  2. Write chapter – if not the whole book
  3. Platform building – become the focus of an audience for your book
  4. Book proposal – find the niche, perfect the pitch
  5. Agent – find the right business partner for your venture
  6. Acquisitions editor – the agent helps with finding the right editor for the right book
  7. Publication board – the editor has to convince the rest of the team to invest in your work
  8. Contract – negotiated by your agent with your input
  9. Editing steps – developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, proofreading
  10. Production steps – work done by the publisher, hopefully with your input (cover design, interior design, typesetting, galleys, ebook conversion, etc.)
  11. Marketing / sales – the efforts by your publisher to get a return on their investment, along with your help and cooperation
  12. Repeat – did you think you were only going to do this once?

Would you add or subtract a step?

Remember you can only have 12 in this game of lists.

Yes, this list is based on a traditional publishing model. But many of the steps are still there if you do this on your own. In fact, everything in steps 9, 10, and 11 would be your responsibility.

23 Responses to 12 Steps to Publication

  1. Avatar
    Melissa Henderson August 10, 2020 at 5:33 am #

    Wow! Yes, there are many steps to publication. Keep writing and have patience.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube August 10, 2020 at 10:04 am #

      And each “step” has multiple steps within them.

  2. Avatar
    Roberta Sarver August 10, 2020 at 6:05 am #

    It’s a good thing I didn’t know all this when I started writing my WIP. I would have been totally overwhelmed. But yes, it is doable.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube August 10, 2020 at 10:06 am #

      There is the old joke about the writer who was about to have brain surgery. The doctor asked, “what do you do for a living?”
      “I’m a writer” was the reply.
      Doctor said, “When I retire, I’m going to write a book.”
      Writer says, “When I retire, I’m going to be a brain surgeon. It’s that easy.”

  3. Avatar
    Brennan S. McPherson August 10, 2020 at 6:37 am #

    Moving from Idea to Write Chapter takes more than what would seem apparent at first glance. And after writing the chapters, you will almost certainly need to edit it thoroughly for story structure, character dev, pacing, etc. before getting an agent.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube August 10, 2020 at 10:07 am #


      Bingo. “write chapter” seem innocuous until you actually have to do it. And then realize that was only chapter one.

  4. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 10, 2020 at 7:16 am #

    Well, THIS was a challenge.

    The idea’s the beginning,
    and then you start to write;
    while you’re platform-building,
    form proposal (make ’em bite!).
    Finding agent takes you for’ard
    find acq editor, with tact,
    and the publications board
    may off up contract!
    There’s edits, and the red-ink pails,
    but production can be neat,
    then marketing, and hoped-for sales,
    and then, dude, you repeat
    for if you’re real, not just pretending,
    the author’s work is never-ending.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube August 10, 2020 at 10:08 am #


      Brilliant as always.

      I’ll have to read this one out-loud when I teach about writing!


      • Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 10, 2020 at 4:21 pm #

        Steve, thank you for this; I’m honoured past words, and you have brought a light to a day that has been more harsh that those in recent (and distant) memory. Cancer is winning; it has, however, not yet won.

        I’m grateful, and so very glad to be here.

  5. Avatar
    Lisa August 10, 2020 at 7:42 am #

    I appreciate the generous ideas and information you share. Thank you!

  6. Avatar
    Margo August 10, 2020 at 8:23 am #

    About number two, building platform, didn’t they kind of revise the recommendation a year or so ago, acknowledging it’s a lot easier to build a platform after you’re known than before?

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube August 10, 2020 at 10:09 am #


      Not heard that one before. It suggests that the book is the first block of the foundation for a platform. That is partly true.

      But if you are to attract a major agent, a major editor, and a major publisher….you better have a major platform in hand.

      • Avatar
        Bryan Mitchell August 10, 2020 at 12:35 pm #

        When I started researching the business of writing, I thought platform unfair for first time authors. But honestly, nothing would be worse than to put out a novel where you invested time, creativity and money only to find a few dozen folks purchased your masterpiece the day it came out. I really hope that doesn’t happen to anybody. Spending thousands on marketing and advertising for that sort of turnout can ruin a business.
        These steps somewhat change with self publications. The agent and publisher leaves the equation but a lot of the work they do ends up in the hands of the author, who must invest in professionals. Unfortunately, professionals won’t do it for an “IOU” or for 50 dollar gift cards you earned with your rewards card. Without a traditional big house publisher or a small publisher investing in your work, the importance of having readers ready to read sticks out.

  7. Avatar
    Mary Hunt August 10, 2020 at 10:00 am #

    You make it sound so easy, Steve!

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube August 10, 2020 at 10:10 am #


      Spoken like someone who has done this many times. And you have! LOL.


  8. Avatar
    Megan Schaulis August 10, 2020 at 10:28 am #

    I love that only four of twelve steps are truly in the author’s control! Apparently it takes a village to successfully publish a book.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube August 10, 2020 at 10:33 am #


      A client of mine visited the headquarters of his publisher. As a debut author he was quite curious about the operation.

      He met 35 people who were involved in the editorial, production, marketing, and sales of his book.

      Afterwards he told me of being amazed at how many people knew of his book and were able to speak to their part.

      I agreed that this was one of those bits of info that few writers get to see first-hand. And then mentioned that if he were publishing independently he would have to become all 35 people….


      • Avatar
        Megan Schaulis August 25, 2020 at 12:14 pm #

        Becoming all 35 people…I think that’s why traditional publishing will adapt often but never die.

  9. Avatar
    Kathy August 10, 2020 at 2:08 pm #

    A great list that summarizes all those steps! Thanks! It helps to focus our efforts.

  10. Avatar
    Pastor Rick Craig August 14, 2020 at 2:52 pm #

    Hi Steve,
    I have been writing for months and within the next few weeks I will be finished the first step: Getting it all out and then editing as the next round! After reading your 12 steps to publication, which I found enlightening, I am both affirmed in my expectations but also the stark reality of the laborious steps ahead. Can you tell me if items 5 – 10 are moving parts that co-mingle daily/weekly, or are they really in chronological order with each step needing to be satisfied before moving on?

  11. Avatar
    Guy Graves October 1, 2020 at 2:04 pm #

    As a former pretty good bowler, I never bowled a perfect game of 300. I did come close in the 240s, I think. Wow, I thought something less than 300 would be success. It seems like, the research and selection of the “right agent” earlier in the 12 steps might get us closer to the 300.

    I have been researching Publishers Marketplace and learning more and more, however this process is so daunting.


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