Bird Face Wendy

Things relevant to reading, writing, publishing or marketing teen fiction.

How can I get my book published? 10 Points of Advice

on July 9, 2018
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Perhaps every author who has one or more published books hears that question on occasion. Or the plaintive statement, “I need help getting my book published.”

My heart always hurts for the unpublished author in need because I remember being desperate for help and for answers myself.

The good news today, as opposed to when I was writing my first novel, is the Internet holds much of the information writers seek. The bad news is that a lot of time is still required to apply that information and get results.

My publisher is small and not associated with any of the big-name publishers or their imprints. And I know nothing about self-publishing or about writing and publishing non-fiction books. But I’ll share what I feel might be helpful in getting a first novel published.

  1. Read blogs by experienced people in the publishing industry. One I recommend is Jane Friedman. She shares her knowledge about getting published in fiction and non-fiction, traditionally (large or small) and through self-publishing. She even delves into fiction genres and sub-genres.
  2. Join one or more writers groups in your city or state. All the better if they are chapters of larger organizations like Romance Writers of America, Historical Fiction Society, American Christian Fiction Writers, or the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If dues are not easy for you to pay, select only one group with a local chapter that has published authors as members. Don’t be afraid to ask if they do. You will learn from many of the members, but the published author will have even more to offer.
  3. Take advantage of critique groups available through the organizations you join. They may work in person or online only. The goal is to learn from one another and to share information from outside sources during critiques. In other words, why did something in a particular manuscript not work well? What would work? Critiques should not only tell you what is wrong with your writing or story but how to fix it. Leave the group if it doesn’t supply what you need, and find another one.
  4. Learn to write a good query letter and a short synopsis of your book. Look for information online (such as Jane Friedman’s blog) on how to do both. Practice. Ask for help from your critique group(s).
  5. Seek Facebook groups of writers and authors in your genre—and also groups labeled “indie” if you think you might want to self-publish. You’ll get the inside scoop on many aspects of writing and publishing your genre, and it won’t cost you a dime. (Note: Be sure you know which genre you are writing.)
  6. Read novels similar to yours. Know how to compare your story to those. What is it about your book that is similar to another one? What is different? Often, an agent or acquisitions editor asks for such comparables. If not in the initial query, in a full proposal if it is requested. (Proposals contain a lot more than can fit in a query letter. Research what to include in a proposal in case you must provide one.)
  7. Research the publishers of books similar to yours or those you enjoy reading in your work’s genre. (Check the books by authors in your favorite Facebook groups, too.) Visit the publishers’ websites, and look for their submission guidelines. Do those publishers accept queries directly from an author, or do they only work with agents? Sometimes you can learn an author’s agent by reading the acknowledgments in his or her book. Whom does the author thank? Sometimes you’ll see a whole name you can look up to see if that’s the agent.
  8. Before you query anyone, be sure your manuscript is finished. You must have a whole story—beginning, exciting middle, and ending. And not just the first rough draft. The whole manuscript might be in the second round of critiques and doesn’t need to be completely polished yet, but be sure the first few chapters are! What if you query a publisher or agent and receive a fast response requesting sample chapters? They’d better be as good as you can make them, or you won’t be asked for the whole manuscript.
  9. While in the query process, keep submitting chapters of your manuscript to your critique group(s). There’s always room for improvement. But don’t discard old versions of your manuscript. Rename new versions in case you want to return to an earlier one because you prefer the way a particular sentence or scene was originally written. (That happened to me.)
  10. If you receive any feedback from an agent or editor you’ve queried, seriously consider it. Take the advice and learn from it. The fact that they took the time to give you a personalized reply means your work might have potential. Then improve your work and query some more.

AND, especially if you are a young writer in your teens or twenties . . .

Keep reading advice on writing by your favorite author/agent/editor bloggers. Read books on the writing craft. Most libraries carry some on self-editing, story structure, dialogue, characterization, setting, description.  Purchase used books online that you can refer to again and again. One of my favorite authors of self-help books for writers is James Scott Bell. If you can afford a magazine subscription, you can’t go wrong with Writer’s Digest. If not, be sure to visit the website for helpful articles.

Many authors advise attending live writers’ conferences, which can be costly but often pay off when an author connects in person with an agent or publisher. I’ve attended only one conference, after I was published. I’d wanted to attend a number of them, but it just didn’t work out for me. Online conferences are available, too, at which you can pitch your project. Bottom line: It is possible to acquire a publisher or agent—or learn how to successfully self-publish—even if you cannot attend conferences.

 

 

 

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