How to Get Published - Top Ten Tips
I often receive letters from unpublished writers asking for advice on how to go about getting published.
Here are the basic steps you need to take to get your book to market:
- Write the complete book.
Most agents and publishers wonít look at partials from a newbie writer. They want to be sure that you can finish a book, and finish it in the polished style of the first few chapters.
- Target the right publisher.
Find out what publishers print books like yours. Look in Writers Market (a reference book at the library) OR find similar books to yours and see who publishes them. Donít send that horror story to an inspirational publisher!
- Get the publisherís submission guidelines.
Go to the publisherís website and find out if there are any submission guidelines or tip sheets for prospective authors. Follow the guidelines religiously. This will show the publisher that you are professional.
- Get an agent.
Itís a competitive world out there in the book biz. An agent on your side can really help. Many publishers donít even accept manuscripts from unagented authors. An agent gets 10-15% of whatever you make on a book. The ethical ones don't charge a reading fee, so be careful of signing with an agent who charges fees.
- Send out a complete proposal.
A proposal consists of a query letter, the first three chapters of your book (or about 60 double-spaced pages), and a synopsis. A query letter is usually a one-page document that describes what kind of book you have written, why it stands out or what other book or movie it is like, a one-paragraph summary of the plot, and your credentials, awards, and other writing background. Before you send out your proposal, be sure you know the name of he editor you are sending the proposal to. In the old days, before the web, this was a truly difficult task. Now, itís a piece of cake. If you need help writing a query letter or synopsis, you can find examples and instructions all over the web or in self-help books for writers. Most publishers and agents accept queries by email, but check their websites just to be sure.
- Play the waiting game.
But donít sit there doing nothing. Start your next book! You might have to wait 2-6 months for a publisher to get back to you, and a month or so for an agent to respond to your query.
- Prepare for rejection.
If you haven't heard back in 6 months, it's probably bad news, but it doesn't hurt to write and ask what's happening. And keep in mind that hardly anyone ever sells their first manuscript. Itís just part of the learning process of becoming a writer. However, if you get a personalized rejection letter, you know youíre getting very close to being published! If an editor gives you feedback on how you could change your story to make it better, you can probably ask them to look at your book again in the future. If you get a flat rejection, be polite and accept it with grace. You wouldnít believe the horror stories Iíve heard from editors about the rudeness of writers. Donít be one of the rude ones. Editors have amazing memories! And they often change houses. You never know when or where youíll run into that editor in the future.
- Prepare for success.
If a publisher likes your work, expect 6%-8% royalties (that's around 30 cents a book), a small advance, and a 1-2 year wait to see the book in stores. Then prepare to promote your book. But thatís something Iíll talk about in another set of writing tips.
- Get a website.
Even unpublished writers are creating their own websites to prepare for the future. It canít hurt to start building one now.
- Join a writerís organization.
Iím a romance writer, so I joined Romance Writers of America. In such a group, you will make many contacts and learn valuable technical skills, as well as receive a monthly magazine with writing tips and publisher updates. I became published only after joining this very supportive group of people. There is a national organization and local chapters in major cities.
© 2008 Patricia Simpson