Literary Corner Cafe

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Writing Tips - Getting Published - Part Two

You've written your novel, proofread it, made any changes you felt were necessary. You've printed out a very professional submission package, and now you're ready to send it to an agent or publisher. Congratulations!

6. Submit Your Package. As mentioned before, always send an agent or editor exactly what he or she asks for - no more and no less. If you're sending a large package, e.g., the entire manuscript, purchase a manuscript box at your local stationery or office supply store, otherwise a sturdy manila envelope will do. Always, always, always address your submission package to a specific person, never to "Agent" or "Editor." Take the time to find out which person in the agency or publishing house would be most receptive to your manuscript. If you want any materials returned, make sure you include a stamped, self-addressed envelope(SASE). Most agents and editors are open to "simultaneous submissions," but if you accept an offer, please be courteous and let everyone else know you have.

7. Have patience. It can take any where from one day to six months to hear from an agent or editor. Response times vary greatly. I had one agent respond to me more than a year after I'd queried her. I was a little surprised, and by that time, I already had an agent, but it just goes to show you that patience is a necessary part of getting published.

8. Don't become discouraged. Did you know that Kathryn Stockett's wonderful gem of a novel, The Help, was rejected by forty-five agents before she found one that liked it? And even after that agent agreed to take it on, it was several years before it sold. Was it worth it? I'd say so. The Help has been at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list for ages now and it shows no sign of slowing down. Tinkers, the book that won this year's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction had a rough way to go as well. It was turned down by every major publishing house in New York. It finally found a home with a very small press and went on to win the Pulitzer. Not every sale takes this long, however, or is this difficult to make. Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian sold two days after her agent submitted it to publishers.

9. Keep working. Don't sit and worry and fret while you're waiting on your book to find a home. Get busy and write another one. Writers are more than artists. We're also craftsmen, and our craft gets rusty
unless we hone our skills on a daily basis. Make writing a habit. Hopefully, you've already found your best "writing time," that time when you're most creative and most able to concentrate and work. It may be from six to nine each morning. It may be from six to noon. It could be from two in the afternoon until six in the evening. The time doesn't really matter. What matters is that you're consistent and write every day. Even if you don't feel your writing is very good, even if you find yourself sitting at your desk producing nothing, make sure you sit there. The words will come...eventually.

10. Rewrite if asked. If you're lucky enough to have your work accepted on the condition that you rewrite, then by all means, do it! You may think you know more than your agent or publisher, but believe me, you don't. Agents and publishers live in the world of book publishing. They know the market inside and out. They know what's going on almost before it happens. Rewriting is worth it, and it doesn't mean your original work is bad, only that the market requires something different. Don't take it personally, just do it.

Following these ten steps certainly won't guarantee you'll be published, however not following them will almost certainly guarantee that you won't be. Talent is important, craft is important, but marketing yourself and your work is a necessity. Make sure you do it right. And when your book is finally published, go out and celebrate! You'll have earned it.

Good luck, and happy writing!

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