Literary Corner Cafe

Monday, May 3, 2010

Writing Tips - Getting Published - Part One

Are you dreaming of becoming a well-known writer, or have you actually written a book and now want to get it published and into bookstores? It’s not impossible, though I’m not going to kid you – it is difficult. However, if you follow the ten steps below, your job of writing and publishing your first book will be much easier.

1. Finish the Book. If you’re trying to get a fiction book published and you’re a first time novelist, i.e., no track record, you’re going to have to finish the entire book before any agent or publisher will even consider your work. Editors might like your idea, but they want to make sure you can deliver the goods – on time and extremely well written.

2. Target Your Book to a Specific Audience. We’ve all heard of "crossover" books. Books that are "literary science fiction" or a "horror romance." This might work for established authors, but first time authors will have to have a clearly defined audience in mind when either they or their agent markets their book. Be aware that editors will definitely want to know who your intended readership is. If you can’t answer that question, editors will infer that you simply don’t know enough about publishing to be published yourself. Try to define your book in one sentence.

3. Do Your Homework. This one applies whether you have an agent or not. Various agents and editors tend to specialize in various types of books. Some agents specialize in literary fiction, some editors in mysteries and thrillers. Whether you’re searching for an agent or a publisher, know what each specific agent and editor wants. You can find this information in books like Writer’s Market or Literary Market Place.

4. Send an Agent/Editor What He Asks For – No More, No Less. Some agents and editors want to see only a query letter first. Others initially want to see a query letter and the first three chapters. Others want an outline. Still others want the entire manuscript. If you’re bypassing an agent (and I don’t recommend that), there are some editors who will read manuscripts submitted by the author, and there are editors who will only read manuscripts submitted by an agent. Your job, in marketing your work, is to know exactly what an agent or publisher wants and then to submit that – no more and no less. Not until someone asks you. So, where do you find who wants what? Again, Writer’s Market and Literary Market Place are two excellent sources.

5. Make Sure Your Submission is Professional. The best way to make an initial bad impression is to submit a poorly or unprofessionally prepared manuscript. You must print (laser printers only, no dot matrix) or type your manuscript on very high quality white (nothing else but white) bond paper. Never use onion skin or erasable paper. If you do, you can count on your work not even being read no matter how good it might be. Make sure you double space your manuscript and leave one-inch margins on all sides. Don’t justify your right margin, however. Number your pages (what if a busy editor drops your manuscript?), and for goodness sake, use spell check. Use a 12-point font in either Courier or Times New Roman (I love Times New Roman). Never mix fonts and don’t use boldface or italics unless the words are supposed to be in bold or italics in the printed book. The Writer’s Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats will tell you all you need to know about preparing a professional manuscript. Several agents and a few editors will allow you to submit your work electronically, but don’t count on this. Most are going to want a hard copy. Take a leaf from the Boy Scouts and be prepared.

(To be continued)

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