Not long ago I had an exchange with a writer in the very first steps of trying to get her work published. It occurred to me that those of us who've been writing longer know things about the process that she, and other early writers like her, maybe haven't learned yet. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of things that seem important for writers to know while trying to get their worked published someday. Hopefully it will help someone out!
*Tell the story you want to tell. You are going to be spending a lot of time with and a lot of energy on making your manuscript into the best version of itself, so make sure you’ve found something worthy of that investment. Don’t worry about chase publishing trends. By the time something is popular on the book shelves, the next trend is probably already developing behind the scenes.
*Revision is where most of the work is done. Getting your manuscript to be the best it can be means going back to work on it several times over, even after you think it’s finished. That work is going to be a living document right up until there are copies sitting on store shelves waiting for your autograph. Don’t shortchange yourself, or your manuscript, on revision. Give it the time and effort needed to become what it can be.
*Find critique partners who understand what you are trying to accomplish in your writing. Finding voices you respect and trust is valuable. Objective feedback will help you see things about your manuscript you likely wouldn't have noticed on your own. Be open to what these people have to say.
*When you feel confident that you’re ready to submit, craft and proofread your query letters, but don’t go too far down the rabbit hole in overthinking them. Queries are meant to be introductory business letters. Keep them straightforward and professional.
*Do your research before you start querying. Be sure the agents you approach are currently accepting queries and represent the kind of project you’re offering. Be open to whatever possibilities come your way. When you reach that happy day that someone offers to represent you, make sure you feel comfortable about that prospective relationship and the way your new agent works.
*Be polite and respectful in all of your interactions. The writing is the art, and it’s easy to get caught up in the passion you feel about your work. Once you enter the realm of publishing, however, it becomes about business. If you hope to work as a professional someday, treat it all that way.
*Agents don’t charge to read manuscripts. If they say they do, you should probably avoid them.
*Patience and persistence aren’t just virtues, they’re necessary to your survival as a writer. At least some part of the process is going to take much longer than you want. There’s nothing your frustration can do to hurry things along.
*Everyone who has ever published a book, or even tried to, has had a different experience. It’s pointless to compare yourself to other writers and what they’ve done; in fact, getting caught up in that mindset can become toxic. Each writer will have a unique publishing experience. Your path is yours and yours alone. If seeing your work published is in your future, it will happen when all of the right moments converge.
So that’s what I’ve got. Did I miss anything? Go ahead and comment below if you have more advice to share!