I’m still pretty new to the party on the published side of the writing fence, having only been published for about a year and a half now. However, I’ve published quite a few things in that time, so I thought I might be qualified to pass on some advice. This is based on my own experiences trying to fight my way into that yard where the grass seems so much greener. If you’re looking to leap over the fence too, here’s some things to give you a boost:
1. Make sure your skin is thick. You’re going to get rejected, maybe a lot, when you first start submitting things. Most authors do. Some agents or publishers will send you form rejection letters, some of them a short non-specific personal note, and some may even tell you why they’re rejecting you. Some might give you advice. Try not to take anything too personally. Listen to the advice if it seems relevant, but don’t let anything get you down. The best way to deal with the disappointment of a rejection is to look the work over again for ways you might make it better, then send it off to someone else. Don’t give up. And whatever you do, don’t reply to an agent or publisher and tell them to go to hell, no matter how much you want to.
2. Follow directions. This is very important. I have writer friends who have asked me, “How do you submit something?” There is no one answer to that. The only answer is: go to the agent or publisher’s website and read their submission guidelines, and follow them to the letter. Every publisher has guidelines they want you to follow when submitting. Every agent does too. Some only want you to query them. Some want partial manuscripts. Some want full manuscripts. Some want a query and synopsis. They all want these things formatted in different ways. No matter how many instructions are given, be sure you cover them all. If a publisher wants you to submit a partial manuscript triple spaced in Papyrus font only during the first Tuesday of the full moon during the heart of winter, you better do it or it’ll go unread.
3. Know the market you’re submitting to. Don’t send the wrong thing to the wrong people. Look up some of the books the agent handles or the publisher puts out. Target publishers who handle what you’ve written. Don’t send an adult horror novel to someone who only publishes YA books. Look around and see which publishers are publishing the books most like yours. You can also find out who represents authors writing in the same genre as you. Do some research and make sure your manuscript is going someplace it will be welcome.
4. Toot your horn a little. Even if you have no publications under your belt, you can find things to brag about. Before I was published, I would briefly mention classes and courses I had taken and how long I’d been writing. This lets an agent or publisher know you’re serious and dedicated to the craft. Don’t talk too much about these things, but when they ask for a ‘brief bio’ you can throw a few tidbits out to prove you want to pursue a serious writing career.
5. Network. I’ve gotten published in anthologies because I spoke to the editors and developed a rapport with them long before I got the acceptance. It’s easier these days with social media: say hello on Twitter or Facebook. Write an admiring email. Comment on blog posts. Find the people who do the publishing and say hello. You never know what might come of it down the road.
Any published authors out there want to share some of their own tips? I’d love to hear them! In my Wednesday blog post, I’ll talk about things to do after you’re published that will help you stay in the game.