Thursday, September 17, 2009

Answer to "How do I get my novel published?"

During my husband's and my vacation in South Africa, I am going to resurrect and pre-schedule some "oldies but goodies" posts that I've made in the past on my blog. I hope you enjoy these while we enjoy our photo safaris in Zulu Natal and tours of the Cape Town area. Here goes:

Recently I was asked, yet again, that question that all published fiction writers are asked: "How do I get my novel published?" Contrary to the askers' hopes, there is no magic bullet, just a long road of hard work. Here's some general advice I give all writers. Networking is important in all careers, but especially writing. So is honing your craft. To do both, I suggest that writers join two professional writing organizations, first a nationwide one for your genre, such as Mystery Writers of America or Sisters in Crime or Thriller Writers of America for those who write mystery/suspense. Then, you should find a local writing organization that has periodic craft workshops and helps local writers form critique groups. Go to those workshops to keep on learning as much as you can and join a critique group, where you review and critique each others' chapters at usually-twice-a-month meetings.

Finishing the rough draft of a novel is a far cry from bringing it up to a publishable state, and getting others to tell you where the pace slows, the logic is flawed, or the characters are stale is the best way to take a good hard look at what needs to be fixed. When you get tired of editing your manuscript multiple times, you need to start trading information with other writers in your genre as to who the best agents are to query for the type of book you've written. And learn how to write a pitch-perfect query letter and have others review it.

Query a batch of 5-20 agents. Some will ask you to submit the first few pages of your novel with the query, some will ask for a synopsis, some will want both, some will only want the letter. If you don't get any requests for partial or full manuscripts as a result of those queries, you know you have some more work to do on your manuscript or your query letter or both. Go back and polish both again and get some fresh eyes to look at them.

In the meantime, enter some writing contests to get feedback and write some short stories in your genre and submit them to publications. Contest placements and short story publications are good milestones to put in your query letters. Lastly, realize this process can take years (5-7 is the average) and be very discouraging. That's another reason why you need to company of fellow writers--to commiserate with. Good luck! And realize that anything worth having is worth working hard to achieve.


Anonymous said...

It's good to point out how the process can take years. I was really, really lucky to get picked up within a year of graduating college, but working through even just that year was pretty harrowing. Folks need to remember that books are a labor (of love), and as such can take quite a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to come to fruition.

Terry Odell said...

Have a great time in Africa -- we were there about 2 years ago. I had a job that took us to Cape Town, so we added 3 weeks of touring beforehand. Happy photography!

Sheila Deeth said...

Have a great vacation. And this is a great post to keep me working on my dream.