Thursday, July 8, 2010
Unpublished to published
If you google “Strategic Book Publishing”, the third result is my post on why Strategic is a scam.
Strategic also has a thread on the Absolute Write Water Cooler and a warning from SFWA, but for some reason my post comes in right after Strategic’s own sites. I’m happy whenever someone comments that they searched for information on this vanity press and found my blog, but a more recent question was,
So what can an unpublished author do to get published?
I replied in the comments section of that post, but that question is one other writers might have as well. And it might be a good idea to follow the What Not To Do with a more positive post.
There aren’t any secrets, though, and each successful writer has his or her own path to publication. If I had to condense my experience down to three steps, they would be:
Most manuscripts and query letters are rejected on the basis of errors in technique. As Teresa Nielsen Hayden put it in Slushkiller:
Words are supplanted by their similar-sounding cousins: towed the line, deep-seeded, dire straights, nearly penultimate, incentiary, reeking havoc, hare’s breath escape, plaintiff melody, viscous/vicious, causal/casual, clamoured to her feet, a shutter went through her body, his body went ridged, empirical storm troopers, ex-patriot Englishmen, et cetera.
It’s not just a matter of being typo-free. I’m pretty good with spelling and grammar, but during the edits for my first novel I realized that there were far too many semi-colons in the manuscript, not to mention repetitions of “though” and “at least”. I’ll be keeping an eye out for those with subsequent manuscripts.
And then there has to be a gripping, saleable story. The best technique can’t disguise an idea that’s been done to death, or a manuscript with the pacing of a ground sloth.
Do the research
Investigate before sending your manuscript anywhere. Check what Preditors and Editors has to say, or do a search on Writer Beware. Ask writers currently with that agent or publisher about their experience – but try to pick writers who have been there for over a year. In the honeymoon phase, problems don’t always crop up and those which do might be overlooked in the happy glow of acceptance.
Look up any books put out by the publisher. Check their prices and cover art, read excerpts and see if they have professional reviews.
Get a subscription to Publisher’s Lunch. It’s a free e-newsletter which will keep you up-to-date on whatever’s happening in the industry and which provides plenty of leads when it comes to agents and deals. If someone ever claims that major publishers don’t buy manuscripts from unpublished writers, they haven’t seen this newsletter.
Follow the guidelines
This one’s straightforward. Whatever the guidelines are, follow them. My editor at Samhain Publishing knows I’m working on the sequel to my first novel, but when I send that manuscript to her it’ll still be accompanied by a synopsis, a blurb and everything else requested in the guidelines. It’s a way of showing your professionalism and acknowledging theirs.
And that’s pretty much it for getting published. No one you have to know, no degrees you need to get, no money you have to spend. It’s simultaneously the most rewarding and the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
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