1. Go to conferences. For many writers it is hard to get away from their desks. They prefer to stay behind the computer and work away. But, you’ll never meet other writers, agents, editors and readers unless you go to conferences. Which conferences to go to? I suggest finding those that do not require a lot of travel. Also, depending on where you are in the creation of your work, select a best conference that suits your needs. For example, if you are looking for an agent, go to conferences where you can have a one-on-one with an agent. If, on the other hand, you need some help with writing dialogue or creating suspense, go to conferences that have particular workshops that will help you.
2. Enter contests. You don’t necessarily enter to win, but you enter to learn and to give yourself a deadline. If you must have your work finished and polished to send off to a contest by a certain date, you will have something to work toward. I was lucky. The first story I wrote won second place in a national contest sponsored by Reader’s Digest. It was later published as an original piece.
3. Meet with other writers. You do not have to share your work with other writers, but you can share ideas. Often other writers have resources for you.
Check out the Critique Circle if you don’t have a writer’s group. http://www.critiquecircle.com
4. Keep writing. Often it’s hard to keep writing when the prospects for publication seem so dim. In reality it is hard for everyone. When you finally get a Congratulations letter, you want to have several things ready to go. Trust me. You will be inundated with requests from the publisher as well as requirements for creating a social media platform once you get that yes letter. You will find less and less time open for writing. So,
5. Learn the industry. By this I mean learn how to submit your work and whom to submit to. Keep a close eye on what is being published. How does your work fit in? Sign-up for webinars or go to conferences where you can learn the correct way to submit a query letter or cover letter.
6. Look for small presses. My experience is that with the changes in the publishing industry,
As a new writer without an agent, you don’t have a chance with a large press. You must get an agent to even get your foot in the door. But, the catch is many agents will not accept new writers. They have a full stable of writers, and they do not want to take a risk with you. I had one agent tell me she loved my query letter (used it as a model for writing query letters), but she did not ask for more of my work because she already represented a very similar writer. Duh! You will learn that you must submit to agents who represent writers like you. Essentially you’ll get mixed messages as you pursue agents. My recommendation, go directly to the small presses. Many respond within 3 to 6 months.
. You will not make a lot of money writing fiction. Okay, maybe John Grisham was reading this twenty years ago and he proved me wrong. But, how many John Grisham’s are there out there? Don’t count on it. Write because you love it, but keep your day job!
8. Learn to accept rejection. In fact some rejections are not rejections. Several years ago I received a rejection for my amateur sleuth mystery submission. I had received so many rejections, I simply put this new one in a file. Years later I went through that file. I re-read that letter. The agent had not out and out rejected my novel. In fact, she said she liked it, but had some suggestions. She did not ask for more but it was clear I needed to follow-up. Be careful to understand when you are rejected and when you may have a crack in the door. Most of your letters of rejection will be auto responders. “This is not for us.” Many agents today do not even respond. They tell you if you have not heard in three months, consider it a rejection. Rejection is hard, but everyone, even the best writers, have experienced it. We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep on writing!