My road to publication was slow and messy but the good news is I made it! You can too. I have some tips for writers who want to avoid self-publishing and want to find a home in a publishing company.
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!
P.M. Griffin says
I agree with all of the above but would also suggest getting a good agent if that is possible. They know the market, have contacts, and are a major help in dealing with contracts and other legalities.
Joan Curtis says
Hey Pauline, I’d love to get a good agent, but that can be even harder than getting a good publisher! I had an agent with my first nonfiction. She was really worthless. The key is finding the right fit. Maybe getting a book out there will help smooth the process. But, then I wonder what’s the point? The changes in the publishing industry are making the role of the agent less and less meaningful. Sure there are contracts to deal with, but the small publishers seem to be fair to their writers. With larger publishers, well, that’s another ballgame altogether!
Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your experience with working with an agent. We need to learn more.
Patricia Gligor says
Great tips, Joan.
I especially like #6. As an unpublished writer, I tried for a long time (I’m not telling you how long) to find an agent so that my first book, “Mixed Messages,” would be considered by a BIG PUBLISHER. So much wasted time and effort! (Not to mention the bitten nails and pulled out hair.)
I finally began to look into small presses and it wasn’t long before I found my publisher who has since published my first three Malone mysteries. Thank God for small press publishers!
Joan Curtis says
Pat, it sounds as if you had an experience like mine. And, you write mysteries. I agree that getting an agent is very hard and a lot of time is spent doing so. But, it wasn’t wasted. I learned a lot in the process and I suspect you did too!
Susan Bernhardt says
Great post, Joan! Thank you.
Never give up! Probably the most important of all. Believe in yourself, be persistent, and keep querying until something happens.
And keep writing! Write everyday if you can.
Joan Curtis says
Thanks for stopping by Susan. It’s easy to say never give up. But, when rejections keep coming, it’s hard. Indeed, those of us who continue to write despite it all manage to make it. It feels like the little engine that could!
Heather Brainerd says
Wonderful post, Joan! It’s so important to encourage new writers, and your advice is very solid.
Marsha R. West says
Great post, Joan. I’ve FBed and Tweeted. I’m interested in how you did your little white rectangles ready for tweeting. What is that? Seems like a neat deal.
The hardest part for me between being published and not, is finding the balance between SM/marketing and writing. So far SM is winnning and writing is falling a far second.
Joan Curtis says
Yes, finding the right mix between SM and writing is the biggest challenge authors face. I’m having the same trouble–doing more SM than writing. But, I consider blogging and developing short fiction writing even though it’s not getting me very far on a new novel! We all have to set certain limits and try to stick to them.
As for the Twitter boxes within the post, it’s a Word Press Plug-in. Here’s the link.
My Web guy put it on my site for me. I really like it because you can highlight certain things and not only Tweet your entire post, but also certain highlights within the post. You get more Twitter bang for your buck.
Thanks for stopping by!!