Win the Publishing Game: 7 Steps to Getting Published

Chess_game_bishop_266216_lIt's the holy grail, the reason so many of us write: publication.  Whether you're writing a book, or an article, or a poem, everyone wants their work to see the light of day.  After all, if you're writing, there's an assumption that some day, somewhere, somebody will read your work.  If nobody does, the process feels incomplete.

And, really?  It's not so hard.

HAHAHAHAHAHA.  I just fell off my chair because I laughed so much.

Because while the steps to follow are not particularly hard, getting your book (or article, or poem) to the right person at the right time can be a challenge.   Rejections ensue.  We get discouraged.  But then we pick ourselves right back up and do it again, right?  

I hope so.  Because a huge part of this business is playing a numbers game.  As in, sending your work out over and over and over again. Here are the rules of the game to follow:

1.  Write an awesome book.   Work that baby the best you know how.  Edit it and revise and rewrite until you are so proud of your work you could just burst.  Because your ego might a few times during this process, and its helpful to feel secure that you've done your very best.

2.  Package it correctly.  As in, learn standard formatting, which does not include, um, single spacing.  I have actually been at writer's conferences where people raised their hands and asked if sending in hand-written manuscripts was okay.  This was quite a few years ago, but still.  Imagine.  If you don't know how to format ask the Google.  It knows everything.

3. Do your research.  This article assumes you'll be submitting books to traditional publishers and/or small presses.  If you're hitting up traditional publishers, this means you'll be going through an agent first.  And agents have certain things they are looking for, as do small presses.  It is up to you to figure this out.  Do not send a non-fiction query to an agent that only accepts fiction, and vice-versa.  C'mon, you're smart, you can figure this out.

4. Follow instructions to the letter.  I don't do well at this–I'm the sort of person who gets a new gadget and starts pressing buttons rather than reading instructions.  But in the case of the publishing world, you want to read up on exactly what they want you to send them and then do just that.  Don't send your full manuscript when they've asked for five pages.  Don't send an email query when they've requested only snail mail submissions (rare these days, but it still happens).  Send exactly what they ask for.

5.  Think good thoughts.  Really, mindset is three-quarters of the battle in this game.  Stay as positive as you can throughout the process.  When you get a rejection–and unless you are God, you will–take a few minutes to weep and wail and then get over it and send out to the next agent in line.  (By the way, forget that crap about no simultaneous submissions.  You could be 89 when you get published otherwise.)

6.  Keep track.  I mean of your submissions.  Though this can be difficult, since some agents refuse to deign to respond to queries if they are not interested.  (This is a pet peeve of mine, because it is just plain rude.  How hard is it to hit reply and say no thanks?)  But I remember getting confused, as some agency descriptions sound similar, as to which agents I had queried, even though I kept good records.

7.  Rinse and repeat.  For as long as it takes.  Once your manuscript is finished your job, at least part of the time, is to send out ships and see what comes back.  You should always have at least 5-10 queries out.  Take heart–there are a lot of agencies, and a lot of publishers.  You could play this game for a long time.

And then will come the day when you win!  The day when an agent emails you and says she would like to represent you or a publisher emails and says they want to bring out your book.  And then it is all worth it.  Trust me.

How many times have you sent out your book?

Photo by elvinstar.

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12 Comments on "Win the Publishing Game: 7 Steps to Getting Published"

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Guest
03/14/2013 04:43

Absolutely great advice, and like you, I tend not to follow instructions very well, so I guess if that’s the case then I guess I really can’t complain if I don’t exactly get the feedback, or results, that I wished for.

Guest
J.D.
03/14/2013 04:47

Nice post, Charlotte. Yes, keep track of the queries you send. This is particularly helpful if you dust off a manuscript that is two or three years old.

Guest
03/14/2013 06:12

Rinse and Repeat is the hardest thing to learn. We want results to be immediate, but life isn’t like that most of the time. Thanks, Charlotte for the reminders.

Guest
03/14/2013 07:24

So true, and not just in writing but in all areas of life.  We get sick, we go to the doctor and expect a magical pill to solve it all.  Others arenas, too.  The one thing I see with writers over and over again is that they give up way too soon.  Thanks, as always for dropping by, Zan Marie.

Guest
03/14/2013 07:28

Very good advice, J.D.  It's really embarrassing to be looking at an agent's website and think it looks familiar but you can't be sure if you've submitted to them or not!  (Many of the websites do look similar.)

Guest
03/14/2013 07:29

Ah,  Don, as a fellow non-instruction follower, you warm my heart!  I wear that badge proudly, but in the case of submitting to publishers, I've had to buck up and learn to do exactly what they ask.  Sigh. 

Guest
03/14/2013 17:08

Thank you for this, Charlotte! I’m sending my manuscript to readers on Friday (tomorrow!) and hope to start submitting to agents by early summer. This is perfect timing for me!

Ps- sorry I didn’t get to see you when you were in town, I’m now on my second round of antibiotics for strep :-(

Guest
03/14/2013 17:57

Oh yay, congratulations Amanda!  It's so exciting that you are making such progress on your novel.  You know I'm a big fan of your work.  We missed you at dinner when i was in Nash, but I hope that your strep gets knocked out this time.

Guest
03/15/2013 13:53

Thanks for pointing out that “no simultaneous submissions” is crap. I am always rankled when I see this rule, but I am a newbie and did not know if I was feeling unreasonable! :-)

Guest
03/15/2013 14:45

The "no simultaneous submission" rule benefits agents and editors and does nothing for writers.  With all due respect to those in the publishing world, half the time (or more) they don't even respond to the submissions we send, so what are we supposed to do, wait not to hear?  It makes no sense not to submit simultaneously.  They just don't want to be disappointed if someone else has snapped up your work by the time they get around to reading it.

Guest
03/17/2013 15:49

I’m just like you, Charlotte. I never read instructions when I get a new gadget. But I sure would read and follow instructions if I was submitting my book to a publisher. Thanks for these tips. They are all spot on.

Guest
03/19/2013 16:07

I’m glad you found them helpful, Sandra. And yes, submitting to publishers is no time to be rebellious about following directions!

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