My heart pounded like a jack hammer in my chest as I held that envelope in my hands. I braced myself, sent a prayerful gaze heavenward, then lowered it to read the letter that would change my life forever. A smile slowly spread across my face. It almost seemed too good to be true. The editor I’d sent a book proposal to wanted to see the entire manuscript!
I had a chance. Finally. There was an honest to goodness chance that I might be published.
I sent the manuscript. Three months later, I got the call. The call. The one where someone who is paid to know a good book when she sees it and make a writer’s dream a reality informs you that she is going to make your dream a reality by publishing your book.
I was on cloud nine. I don’t think I’ve ever quite come down from it, either. Suddenly I was a 21 year old published author promoting her books on her college campus.
But, that is the end of a story and the start of another one. Before I digress, let’s refocus on the question that inquiring minds want to know. How did I do it? Funny you should ask. Here are the basics of how you can seek publication, too.
1. Read the genre you want to write.
That sounds so much more fun and easier than “research your target market”. However, that is essentially what you’re doing. Don’t just read, though. Read critically. What are the strengths and weakness of the book you’re reading? How would you do things differently than the author? What makes you get lost in the story? What do you love about the characters? Or, if you’re writing nonfiction, what hooks you and makes you keep reading?
2. Write the book.
Publishers need to know you can write the book before they’ll agree to give you money for it. This is especially true if you’ve never been published before or if you’re switching genres or formats. Start with having a finished product to sell. No, it might not be perfect, but it will exist. That is a huge step toward your goal.
3. Find the right publisher.
Remember all those books you’ve read in your genre? Go back and create a list of their publishers. Now, research them. You can do this with a simple google search or through resources like The Writer’s Market Guide (which is often available at your local library or bookstore). You’re looking for their submission guidelines. These will tell you important things like required word count and whether they accept unsolicited manuscripts or if you’ll need to be represented by an agent.
4. Create a proposal.
Whether you’re going to send it to an agent or straight to an editor, you’re going to need a proposal. This usually consists of the first three chapters or your book, a synopsis, and a query letter. At least, it does for fiction. This may differ according to the genre and even the publisher so check and double check those guidelines. Once you’ve made the proposal as perfect as it can be, say a few prayers and send it off.
5. Wait…and wait some more.
The publishing business is slow. By slow I mean frustratingly, nail-bitingly, bang your head on a desk slow. Be prepared to wait. It’s going to take time to hear back from publishers and editors. They are busy people. That means the proposal you worked so hard on is going to their slush pile with all the other unsolicited proposals they’ve received. If you have an agent, your proposal goes to the slush pile of all the other agented proposals they’ve received. Eventually, they’ll get to it, read it and decide if they want to see more. Assuming you’ve completed step 2, you’ll have something to show them.
This is just an overview. If you have more questions for me about my personal experience in publishing or writing and publishing in general, feel free to ask me in the comment section. I’ll do my best to answer. I might even a blog post about it.
Now, go forth! Read. Write. Start working toward your dream.