Writing Secrets: What’s the secret to getting published?
I was asked this again just the other day, and my heart always sinks: “How can I get my book published?”
I understand, I really do. I know the feeling of desperation to have a manuscript noticed. The truth is, though, I just don’t know.
Being published is a mysterious process. My advice to those who haven’t yet written their earth-shattering opus, is: just write it. Don’t worry about what comes after. Enjoy the process. Do it for its own sake.
When I was busy with my first book, I tried not to think about being published. It seemed like tempting fate. I tried to see finishing the book as a goal in itself. I wasn’t entirely successful. After a good day of writing, I would sometimes allow myself just a few moments of a when-my-book-is-published daydream.
I’m no wiser now than I was then. There may be a certain amount of luck involved – being noticed by the right people at the right time – but there’s no secret. I don’t think there’s an easy way.
This is all the advice I can really give: be dogged – but with yourself as well as the publishing world. Be absolutely certain that your manuscript is as good as it can possibly be. Don’t show it to anyone important until it’s really finished. And by that, I don’t mean a first draft (or even a second, or possibly a third).
I also don’t mean moving a few words around or checking your grammar, although that’s also important. If you’re useless at spelling and punctuation, try to get someone to go through it for you. Your manuscript has to make the best first impression.
Your work may need several drafts. These might involve making structural and other significant changes. I know from myself, it’s hard to see a book’s flaws. You’re going to need another eye. Find someone who knows about books and writing, not just your best friend or your partner. What on earth do you think they’re going to say? They have to live with you.
Find someone who will be as harsh as possible. It’s better to take to your bed and weep for two weeks (Oh yes, I’ve done that) because you can still pick yourself up and do something about it. Once you’re rejected, you’re rejected. You can’t be unrejected.
That doesn’t change after the first book. Sure, your manuscript is more likely to be read, but it still has to pass the readers’ test.
Once you’re certain that it’s done, it’s a matter of doggedly submitting what publishers or agents ask for – usually three chapters and a synopsis. And be prepared to do that again, and again. Good luck out there.
Read Richard’s latest blog ‘Monday Motivation: Buttresses and rickety walls‘
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