I have a lot of friends who have supported me along the way. However, I had more than one moment when the advice given from a heartwarming friend (she knows who she is) secretly made me cringe. The publishing world is a business, and, like any business, there is a very right way, and a very wrong way to proceed. Some ways are so wrong that it will cost your career.
I’m going to pause for a moment and address self-publishing. None of the advice I give is intended for self-publishing. That doesn’t mean it can not be applied to self-publishing. It simply means I am only addressing the traditional methods of publishing. Whether or not self-publishing applies, I don’t t know. I haven’t researched that avenue to speak as one who would know. I am pursuing the traditional routes of publishing and therefore, will address only what I experience along the way of traditional publishing. Back to topic.
It never ceases to amaze me, how much research goes into bringing a book to life. Not just the world, the culture, the language inside that book, but the publication world itself. With this article, I look to break it down for you.
So you have an idea. You have the details. You develop it. It grows. You write it down, and you polish and rewrite, edit and revise, throw it away. More on that process here. Start over. Pull the original from the trash and bend it and break it until it resembles a logical, awesome story with a middle, a beginning, and some stuff thrown together at the end. You polish it and make sure your commas are all where they belong and voila! You have a manuscript stored on your flash drive…Now what?
Now, you decide. Self-publish, traditional publish, or don’t publish and enjoy the fruits of your labor. In this case, I opted for traditional publication. On to Writer’s Digest.
If you are a writer, then there is a good chance you know about Writer’s Digest. If you don’t know, Writer’s Digest is the be-all-end-all in a writer’s world. It is a massive educational tool founded by Chuck Sambuchino that launched books, a magazine, writer’s conferences, newsletters, advice, and teaching tools for agents, writers, editors, publishing houses, even bookstore owners. The who’s who of the writing world is found there at Writer’s Digest. It is the writer’s starting line for information. For an author, this is where we live.
Naturally, this is where I spent the last six years. On those dreadful days, when I needed to not look at Kallan because we were having a fight, I went to Writer’s Digest and learned the ins and outs of the business. 50% of what I explain in this article, I learned from Writer’s Digest, the rest came from what I’ve learned elsewhere along the way. When a manuscript is complete, you mosey on over to Writer’s Digest or a bookstore and buy/rent/borrow/steal their copy of “Writer’s Digest” (Don’t steal it). From “Novel and Short Story”, “Guide to Literary Agents” to “Writer’s Market”, these books list every company, publisher, magazine, and agent who is looking for clients (writers) and also, their guidelines on how to approach them. You can spend over a year thumbing through these collections and articles of how-to. I did. In truth, a writer should be reading through Writer’s Digest once they decide to be a writer.
After spending tiresome hours, days, and weeks, reading what each publisher will do for you, you select one. Hold on a moment…What’s that?
You shove aside your eighth cup of day-old coffee that now features the newest gnat swim resort, and you see the single line: “Agented submissions only.”
Most big publishing companies, only accept solicitations from agents.
“BUT I’M WRITER!” You scream while pounding your fist on the desk spilling the gnat spa and resort all over your $90 ergonomically correct keyboard. Now what do you do?
After a quick trip back to Barnes and Noble, you return “Novel and Short Story” and purchase “Guide to Literary Agents”. Now…Back to square one.
Eight gnat-infested coffees later, you find it. The skies open pouring a beam of golden light down onto a single name as celestial bodies sing, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH”. The agent that will get you the career you want! Eureka! On to the query letter!