In case you haven’t heard, my very first novel, Between Octobers, is being published this June.
I know, you’re surprised. So was I.
But then, I was like:
People ask me all the time, “Hey, A.R., I wrote a book, can you help me get it published?” And I’m always like, “Oh yeah, just do what I did: become awesome.”
In truth, no one has ever asked me that question. But if they did, I would have to tell them no, but I can offer some advice on steps to take, maybe point you in the right direction.
There is no definitive guide book. Well, there might be thousands of how-to’s, but I never could get past the irony of buying a book to find out how to write one, polish it, get an agent, and land a publishing deal so people all over the world could buy my book.
Reaching the point where you’ve got yourself a book deal can be very rewarding, but it’s not something that happens overnight. You gotta work for it.
**DISCLAIMER: Before I get into this first part, I feel it is important to divulge that, though I am signed with a wonderful, professional publishing company that does a lot for me, I do not, nor have I ever landed a literary agent. But that does not mean I don’t know how to get one or where to look. Having a literary agent is important to some writers. They are a link in the chain of command if you are seeking traditional publication.**
That said, HERE WE GO:
As a writer, you always want to, “put your best foot forward.” Doing that requires a finished manuscript. This is day one stuff; the most basic, most important step. You must have a finished manuscript. And finished, by any literary agent standards, that means completed, polished to the best of your ability, passed around to beta readers or critique partners who have helped you locate and seal plot holes and eradicate obvious grammatical errors.
In case you are wondering, a critique partner is a fellow writer or friend who agrees to take time out of their busy life to trade manuscripts with you. You offer insight and advice to one another. CP’s often ask questions about plots or details that you, the writer, have never thought about. They are helpful and essential. When it comes time to find one, go for the gold, my friend. Find someone who reads the genre/category your book falls into and trade manuscripts.
The critiquing process is difficult for some writers more than others because it involves pointing out flaws in your work. Believe me when I tell you that, if you can’t hack this part of the job you’ve chosen, you’ve got a tough road ahead. I like to think of criticisms as steps on a long staircase. I must go over each step to get to the top. I understand it can be painful to hear, so it is important to remember, writers, to be kind with your remarks. Critiquing does not have to be brutal, but it does have to be honest. I find the most honest way to offer and receive criticism is in the form of a question. If you don’t understand something you read, let the the writer know, rather than saying it stinks. (i.e: I’m lost, what just happened?) Often times these small issues are merely a difference in writing style and are easily resolved over time.
Finished also means your story is well researched. Research, in any story, is imperative. They say, ‘write what you know,’ but inevitably, you will come across a topic that you know little to nothing about, and that is why you must try to learn enough to make people believe you know what you are writing about.
You have a finished manuscript. Now what?
Next comes the heady process of SUBMISSION, or as I like to call it: HELL. This step is where that author platform (click there or here, since opinions on this differ) comes in handy. Start early and you won’t be sorry.
Here’s what you’ll need to get educated on the process of submission:
You need a query letter.
You need a synopsis.
A blurb. Even if you are self-publishing, you still need a book blurb. So, please, do yourself a favor and learn as much as you can about this process. It is how to get your foot in the door, how you entice readers to want to read your book.
Okay, I’m glossing over this part. I have to. It’s just so detailed, so varied, that it would be impossible to say there is one method for everyone. The best way, though, is to keep learning about it. Enter contests. There are thousands of them out there. Many are free, some you pay to enter. But #PitMad is one of my personal favorites. I participated one year. I got nowhere, but I learned a lot.
Now, you’ve got your finished and polished manuscript, a killer query, a ridiculously awesome blurb that starts with your wicked tagline. Now what?
If you are actively looking for literary agents, I suggest trying this really awesome site, Agent Query. It’s got a plethora of info on agents who are looking for manuscripts, the genre they prefer, and links to the agency websites. But before you go running off to slip that manuscript into the mailbox, you should take a careful look at who you are submitting to. Here is a great place to find endless advice about landing the right agent.
ALWAYS follow the submission guidelines listed on the publishers or agents websites. ALWAYS. They get hundreds of queries a day and their time is valuable. The instructions are there for your benefit. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, please, follow them.
The Waiting Game
You need a lot of patience. Sorry, no links for this one. Patience is, as they say, a virtue. You either have it or you don’t. And if you don’t, you will. Because everything in publishing takes time. Since you will be waiting, you may as well make the most of your time and keep writing.
Once you submit your finely tuned query and synopsis, as well as any other thing the agent or publisher may ask for… all you can do is wait. Most publishers or agents will give you a timeline for responding with the coveted ‘yes,’ or more common, ‘keep trying,’ or ‘this business is so subjective….’ This window may stretch anywhere from 30 days to 6 months, depending on how many submissions they get and what time of year it is. During the holidays, the response time can double or triple. Be patient.
Don’t give up.
Keep learning. Click the links above or use Google or Bing–whichever resources you can find to get more information.
Learn how to write better through reading. A lot. You can look at the styles of other writers and their story structure. It helps, I swear.
Keep going. Keep fighting. Keep trying. Keep creating.
You are the only one who can tell your story.