Never actually got a book published yet, though there are a few articles, pictures and puzzles out there from the 80’s with my name under them mind. All I can say is this, if you want to get published and be a writer, don’t, you are rubbish!
Still here? Good, there’s your first rule. If you aren’t thick-skinned, they will eat you alive and spit you out.
It’s decades since I was serious about being a writer and there were times when I worried about deforestation from all the rejection notes I received. OK, maybe not a forest, but they numbered well into the hundreds. This wasn’t because I was rubbish, or even mediocre, this is normal. It’s all about finding what works for you. Yes, maybe you heard of someone who got published first time, but people have been known to win the lottery with their first ticket too, and getting chosen is very much a lottery. Unlike the lottery it’s not pure luck and being professional will vastly improve your chance of a signing, but there’s a lot of other factors that have a bearing, like the limit to how many books get published in a given year, by a given publisher, or the genre suddenly not selling so well, or something in the world news making the story suddenly too contentious to print.
There are many, far, far better sites dedicated to this than my few notes, but here’s my tuppence worth.
OK, this assumes you have got all the basics down, but let’s make sure.
- Spelling and grammar checked
- Literal errors checked
- Clean, tidy, organised print-outs and presentation
Coffee stains on the cover or scribbled on the back of an envelope doesn’t really work!
- Full contact details – yours
- Full contact details – there’s (erm, theirs!)
If you can’t make the effect to get a contact name, why should they bother?
- Stamped, self-addressed envelopes for any returns, replies
- You have thoroughly researched your subject/plot and your target audience
OK, what can I expect ?
Ever tried speculatively sending out resumes for a job? Well, this is worse!
Unless you get lucky, you will be ignored. Yes, this is rude and maybe things have changed over the years, but literary agency are extremely busy and get rafts of submissions, the vast majority received being dire. Assuming it gets this far and the agent believes it’s outstanding enough, possibly even best-seller quality, they still have to pitch you, an unknown, to publishers who themselves deal with a number of agents, are even busier and have exacting requirements and not enough time or resources. Unless your work stands out as the best of the best out of thousands AND arrives at the opportune time, it will at get sidelined.
- It is highly likely you won’t even get an acknowledgement, even if you go to the trouble and cost of including return postage.
- There is also a tiny, but still real chance that you’ll manage to find an unscrupulous agent that will not only ignore you but will actually steal your ideas or work and pass it off as their own.
- If you do get a response, depending on the reviewer, expect:
- A very high probability is will be returned unread.
- A chance you will get constructive advice and or criticism – value these like gold!
- A small chance they will be returned with a rude, frankly abusive letter.
That says far more about the editor than your work, so just ignore them for the bullies they are – there are some very arrogant people in publishing.
And yes, all the above have happened to me, and to others I know. If you can’t handle rejection, don’t even try.
All I can say if don’t give up the day job, but if you believe in yourself, never give up either.
I actually wrote this back around 2001. Then, for various reasons (excuses), I stopped writing altogether. I’ve never quite given up and indeed am slowly working on another novel, but I haven’t written for over a decade. (Closer to 3 decades, truth be known). At just one page a day, that’s over 4,000 pages I’ve NOT written. Or about ten novels worth… No matter how hard it gets, never give up if you believe in yourself. Even if it’s pure drivel at the start, you’ll improve over time.