Jun 10, 2009

How to Get Published

I've been writing seriously for about four years now. Not that long. When I was a kid, I wrote stories that filled up whole notebooks, that rambled and developed plots that resembled my first attempts at knitting--continually growing larger, developing alarming offshoots and lumpy clumps of uneven stitches. My junior high and high school journals were mostly poetry and sketches of the characters I wanted to write about.

That is the autobiography that almost any aspiring author will give you. I've read bio after bio on the placket covers: "I have always written. I have always loved stories. I wrote my first novel when I was 8 years old..." etc.

Heavenly Father has given many people the talent and the desire to write. So what is the difference between someone who makes it as an author, and someone who just continues to flail in the pool of "aspiring authors desperately seeking a chance... any chance!"

There are many lists out there. Mine is simply a compilation of what I have learned so far. Likely it will be revised a great deal in future. But here is what I have gleaned from my experiences as a writer so far.


1) Of course you have to be a good writer. This is a continual process; with each new manuscript you write, you will reach a new level of writing ability. It is likely that you will feel, in a couple of years, that your first two or so manuscripts don't even merit revision. Some say throw them out... I say start over and just redo it. Recently I completely rewrote (didn't even save the drafts I had) my very first novel. I love it so much more now. It remains to be seen if the novel is actually deserving of my love, but I feel now like I really have something to offer in the manuscript. SO: short version is-- read, read read (books on writing, good literature in the genre you're attempting) and write, write write, and revise, revise, revise.

2) Networking. Join a writing group. There is undoubtedly one in your area if you don't live in the middle of a rural farming community. If you do live in such a community, and there's no writing group already in your area (check with your local library) you get to start one!! There are always a few others who aspire to authorship. Get together with them and network, workshop. Give the manuscript to friend who you know will honestly evaluate it... good friends are brutal. Editors are going to be brutal by sending you rejection slips... at least good friends give you feedback.

3) Send it out. When it is rejected (it will be,) go back over it and evaluate. Mostly you'll be only sending out a cover letter... this is a particularly easy thing to revise. It's only one page. (I call it 1-page torture). If your cover letter is being rejected, either you aren't sending it to the right agents and publishers, or the letter itself isn't convincing enough.

4) Make sure you know your market. What kind of book did you write? Categorization should be easy, but it isn't... usually an author has a far more grandiose idea of what his book is, and the audience that it will appeal to. He can't help it; he has invested so much time and effort into it--of COURSE everyone wants to read it, right? Right???

Have someone with experience give you an objective evaluation. And then accept it, even if it crushes your hopes and dreams that your novel is the next Great American Novel. It's not necessarily a bad thing, to write the next Great American Romance Novel, or the next Great American Chick Lit Novel. The point is to get people reading your story, right? So sell it to the right group of people.

5) Make sure you are sending it to the right agents and publishers. Do some research. Don't just read about the type of manuscript they accept; look up what they have published lately. The summary in Writer's Market may indicate they have an interest in Romance novels, but if you find that their book list consists of Thrillers and Science Fiction novels, you know this isn't the likeliest agent for your Historical Romance novel. Even if they accept your manuscript, it's less likely they'll have the contacts (or even the personal interest) to market it.

6) Try the small stuff, too. If you win an award for a short story, or get a poem or essay published, that is a legitimate writing credit that you can list on your queries, making it that much more likely that an agent will be willing to risk a few of his/her precious minutes looking over an actual piece of your manuscript.

7) The issue of Dumb Luck. Here's the thing; there are agents out there who say that any beautiful writing isn't hard to sell. So you think to yourself, I'm a shoo-in! My gorgeous prose and carefully honed plot, embedded symbolism and subtle foreshadowing, is sure to bowl over the first agent that reads it.

Here's the deal: everyone has a different opinion of what constitutes "beautiful writing." Sure, there are a few examples out there that seem universal--there are the classics. But go give Dickens a good read, and you'll see that even universal standards shift over time. Submit, submit, submit... just like every high school and college English teacher will grade an essay differently, publishers and agents have unique tastes and opinions. (Of course, make sure that you're following grammar and form protocol. But that's a given--that's number one). The more you submit it, the more likely it is that you'll hit an agent that will find your particular manuscript appealing and interesting.


David L said...

I had thought this was going to be a great announcement.... Oh well. It's still a great list for an aspiring author.

Jeremy said...

Well, this blog post proves that you can come up with attention grabbing titles.

NoSurfGirl said...


Maybe I should change the title.... I didn't mean it that way!!

the nice one said...

i agree that the title was great but i was also full of excitement for a minute!!

Putz said...

i deon't revise,revise, revise...i write it once wth spelling and punctuation, grmatic errors and boy does that stand to the ends of time...i wrote ignoble enigma which used for my blogs and , 400 pages long and each page became a post...i think the problem with me is that i am too lazy for a writer...but i love to know people through their writing and my writing...so i am not a writer,i guess

Fred said...

That's why I blog. I'll never get published.

Anonymous said...

This was great! Seriously,it's just what I needed to read and was filled with sound,well-written advice. I guess we aspiring writers need to remember to never, never, never give up.