Being published is the shared dream of nearly any writer who has touched pen to paper or fingers to keys, getting published for the first time can seem a little daunting however. If you’ve daydreamed of your creation sitting on a bookstore’s shelf, you’ve certainly faced the struggle of jockeying for a publisher’s attention; or at least heard the good-intentioned but demeaning, “You have more chance of going to the moon than getting published.”
Though it may seem so, being published isn’t impossible. If you can keep your nerve, you’ll one day have that freshly bound hardcover in your hands. The first plunge is truly the hardest, and there are some steps to follow and tips to keep in mind when working towards your goal.
1. Write your book.
“Duh”, you think — but really. It’s very rare for first-time writers to be given book deals out of the blue; publishers are not likely to trust you with advances if you have no previous work to inspire confidence. The first step in getting published is knuckling down and creating something that will entice readers and then publishers. Create something you can be proud of.
2. Bring your book as close to perfect as you can manage.
Now you’ve created your masterpiece, and you want to send it out into the world! But whoa, Nelly, finishing the book isn’t the end. Having a manuscript that is revised, proofread, and test-read is imperative in getting it to print.
Publishers can be rather unforgiving with pieces that haven’t been maximized to their full potential. First impressions are everything, and a bad first impression with a publisher can be a shooting your writing career in the foot. Once the first draft is done, don’t rush into publishing; take the time to consider it, rewrite it, edit it, and get second opinions before moving on.
3. Don’t be afraid to seek out help.
The help of friends and self-editing is instrumental, but don’t shy away from obtaining a professional eye. Hiring a proofreader can be the deciding factor between a rejected manuscript and an accepted one. Perhaps a misplaced comma or spelling error is minor, but if your publisher is off-put by an error disturbing the momentum, you may lose that perfect deal.
4. Create a reputation.
“If I had already been published, I wouldn’t need this list,” you say. True, but I’m talking on a smaller scale – a less successful scale, but a valuable one nonetheless.
Particularly when you’re aiming for a famous publishing company, having a few references in your belt is important. Write flash fiction for analogs. Submit smaller pieces to contests which offer a prize of posting your work on their site. Self-publish nonfiction, articles, and/or short stories. Ghost write for other authors — even if you can’t reference the particular books, publishing companies will be impressed by your experience.
A new writer who has no experience vs. a new writer with writing references… They’ll be more willing to try their luck on someone who has a bit of history.
5. Do your research.
The internet is your friend, so take advantage of this wealth of information by Googling different publishing companies who are looking for submissions. Their website usually lists authors they’ve worked with, books they’ve published, and their general prestige. Make sure they’re reputable before sending off your manuscript born of sweat and tears. You could end up having your work stolen otherwise, and you’d be surprised how difficult plagiarism is to prove.
6. Create a solid query.
There are several templates to be found online for creating a query. Make sure you follow the regulations; most publishers will discard queries which are not properly formatted. They’re busy people; they cannot have mercy on every submission and will weed out those which are not 100% up to par.
7. Don’t be sparing in your queries.
The math is in your favor – if you send out 300 queries, the odds are one will respond, rather than if you only sent out 10. Every famous author has their horrible accounts of rejection letter after rejection letter, but those who were accepted were ones who persisted despite this.
Make sure you’re sending your queries to publishers in the right genre – sending your paranormal romance to a historical fiction adventure publishing company will likely bear no fruit. Focus your efforts, but don’t be afraid to exhaust every opportunity on your selected path.
8. Follow the guidelines.
Just as important as properly formatting your query letter, it’s crucial to research the publisher’s submission guidelines, following them precisely. Those rules are there for a reason, and after long days of reading manuscripts, a publisher will not be generous if you didn’t put in the simple effort of reading their guidelines.
9. Presentation is everything.
If a publisher responds to your query, scream into a pillow, do some flailing jumps, some awkward dance moves, breathe, and then sit down to reply. Don’t be afraid to show the publisher your enthusiasm, but in a composed fashion. Gushing with emoticons will make you look unprofessional, and publishing is indeed a business to be treated seriously. Reply with rationed excitement and be objective. This will form respect between you and your publisher, making the business relationship bloom instead of dying on the vine.
10. Be quick in communications.
This is an important business tactic no matter the field, and being published is no exception. If you wish for your work to be a success, you have to hang onto the pole once the publisher bites the bait; making them wait hours or – worse — days for a reply will discourage them from working with you. Take your publishing deal seriously, so they will be motivated to take your book seriously as well.
11. Be willing to make compromises.
It may be your baby; you may have worked hard on it; you may want the publisher to get down on one knee before they ask for rights to it. But we’ve all heard of the author who has their book adapted to a movie but has zero say in its creation. There are a few reasons why authors agree to this. They wanted the money, they wanted the honor of having their book adapted, and they wanted to share their work in a new medium.
They made a compromise – not getting perfection in exchange for getting something very valuable.
When a publisher contacts you, they may make some conditions you’re displeased with — cutting a scene, changing the title, ect. ’t be a doormat – some publishing companies may wish to undercut you – but be willing to compromise. Weigh the options and be open to making concessions in exchange for having your work published. In the end, having the book in your hands will make the deleted scenes or the different cover worthwhile – the screaming elation doesn’t lessen because of those acceptable changes.
Getting published is a hard and sometimes lengthy long process, but it is obtainable. If you have the determination and the persistence, you can strive and achieve your goal. Then you’ve done it — you’ve gotten published, and your book can sit as a great accomplishment on the shelf forever. These eleven tips will put you well on your way.
About the author
Cheyenne DeBorde is a freelance wordsmith who has ghost written several published historical fiction novellas and adventure-horror short stories. She works as an editor and content writer while endeavoring to publish a novel under her own name.