Posted by: Katie B | March 23, 2010

How to get published: Part #1: I finished my book! Now what?

The Palms

OK – you’ve written a book.  You poured your heart and soul into it.  Your friend likes it, your mother loves it, and your spouse has abstained from saying anything.  You’ve read tons of books and yours is by far better than half of what is on the market.  You’re ready to get published, or so you think.  So, how do you start?  Where do you submit first?  Agent or editor?  Large house or small boutique?  They are going to be fighting over your manuscript, and so you have to choose who you submit to wisely.  Right?  Umm, well, maybe if the muses tap dance on your laptop.  But for the rest of us, the best thing to do is STOP. 

For first time writers, I’ve heard it dozens of times, I’ve read it dozens of times, and I’ll tell it to you here:  DO NOT, repeat DO NOT submit your work just because mom likes it.  If you have not gone through the following steps, you will find yourself wasting a lot of time and money submitting your work only to get rejected…and potentially losing the opportunity to re-submit once your manuscript is polished to perfection.

Believe it or not, your work may not be as publishable as you think.  (Sorry)  Not to say that it isn’t good.  But the business of publishing and the art of writing are two very different (and often adversarial) things.  If you want your piece to get published, you have to make sure it is ‘publish worthy’ and not just well written.  Believe me that taking the time to get this part right is not a waste.  And since every publishing house and writing agency is searching for different material, you have to find it the right home.  This means more time and homework.

Feel free to ignore my advice.  You might be that lucky one in a million.  But for the rest of us, I suggest the following:

Join the SCBWI (or some other writer’s association) and start researching the industry.  A good association will have seminars on getting published and will help break down the mountains of information about agents, editors, etc.  They may also have networking events where you can meet professionals face to face and hear what they are interested in.

Visit your local library.  There are loads of how to books on getting published, writing a novel, etc.  There are also detailed resource guides; in particular the Writer’s Market, which is known as the writer’s bible.  

Meet other writers.  They can be an incredible support network and information source about the marketplace.   Different from the library, I find the real-time exchange of experiences from other writers easier to disseminate.  It is also the most current.

Go to a First Page Session (bring a tissue – it may hurt).   You will have the opportunity for professionals to critique the first page of your piece.  If they don’t get past the first page, they will never read the full book.  Think about it…This will probably be very eye-opening.  I’ve seen many a first writer realize a painful ‘ah-ha’ moment during these sessions.  And the feedback the professionals give on others’ works can be just as poignant as your own.

Take everything you learn, rework your piece, and go to a Mentoring Session.  Same critique idea but for a larger portion of the manuscript.  And it is face to face.  With a professional.  Yup.  You should be ready.  Bring more tissues.

Join a critique group with other writers.  Can’t stress this one enough.  And it’s free!  If you only do one thing on my list, please do this.  Why?  Because you are not allowed to submit your book, not even once just to see how it does, until your critique group tells you it is ready.  It is the only way to know for sure that you will not be wasting time, money, and future opportunity.

Last thing is: keep writing, keep submitting, keep working and don’t give up.  Getting published is not as easy as you think (you have probably realized this by now).  Behind every published work is years of toil, and the ability to develop a think skin.  You have the best chance of success if you don’t give up!

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