An aspiring author recently asked how they could get a real publisher. Good question. Let's explore the process:
1. Write a book, but not just any book - a great book. Take the time to research similar titles, as well as your target audience. Are you writing for the Young Adult (YA) crowd? Romances appeal to most women and are the most popular genre. How about Sci-Fi, mystery, fantasy, and futuristic? Let's not forget contemporary works, historical novels, and women's fiction.
2. Okay, you now have a first draft. Read everything you can get your hands on to improve your skills, go to workshops and writers' conferences, visit writing blogs and soak up as much as you can. Go home and apply those lessons to your writing.
2. Now that you have re-written your first draft, find a critique partner to read it and suggest changes. Don't cry when it comes back with lots of red ink.
3. Writers conferences often have authors present who will do paid critiques. Invest in one. (If this seems like a long process, it is. You don't produce a publishable manuscript overnight.)
4. If you can afford it, hiring a professional editor can provide a great learning experience, as well as polishing your work. Make sure you select someone who will be compatible and knows what they're doing. (Many offer to do sample chapters for a fee.) I found my editor on LinkedIn, Deirdre Lockhart, of Brilliant Cut Editing.
5. The next step is to obtain an agent. The best place to meet one is at a writers' conference. Attending agent/editor panels at a conference can provide insight into what they're seeking in the way of genre. Most conferences also provide one-on-one appointments with agents and editors.
6. If an agent or editor asks you to send them either a partial or full proposal, make sure that's your top priority when you arrive home. Visit their websites for guidelines and follow them to the letter. Allow yourself five or ten minutes to do a Snoopy Happy Dance and then get to work.
7. If the agent/editor sends a rejection letter, put it in a file and continue writing. Tip: These folks like to see you've written more than one book. After all, would you want to spend hours of your time to work with someone whose creativity dries up after a single story?
8. If an agent/editor gives suggestions on how to improve your writing, take them seriously. The first time I met with an agent, he told me to go home and learn how to write fiction. Ouch!
9. If you land a contract with an agent, it's a big step. Getting a publishing contract is another set of hurdles, but it's not impossible.
It takes time, patience, and perseverance to get a traditional publishing contract. Many people opt to go the Indie route (self publishing), but do your research before diving into that pond.
Although the journey is long, enjoy it. Once writing gets in your blood, it's hard to walk away.
Writers: What questions do you have about the publishing process for fiction writers? (We'll talk about non-fiction next week.)
Readers: Are you surprised at how much is involved in the publishing process? Please share your thoughts.
Photo Credit: Mario Alberto Magallane Trejo
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