Do I have any tips for getting published?
1. Get hold of a guide on how to prepare manuscripts, either online using a search engine, or borrowing or buying something like The Writer's Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats. Even though many publishers take electronic submissions and have their own formatting needs for that, nothing beats a hard-copy manuscript and cover letter which looks absolutely professional.
2. Follow the rules. Subscribe to a writer's magazine...there are many out there which cover all forms of writing, and there are also genre-specific mags, and all of them have good articles by seasoned professionals which give you information on how to look for publishers, query them, and submit your writing. The idea is to not look like a rank amateur, and when you know the ins and outs, it's easy.
3. Get, borrow, or find online a list of current markets. This will give you the names of editors, their editorial needs, and a short rundown of what they want and don't want. Always write or email editors...never phone! They generally consider it a waste of their valuable time to get a phone call from someone they do not know and whose talents are completely unknown to them. Bookstores, libraries and writers websites are great sources for information on markets. At bookstores that let you sip a cappucino while you peruse their books, you can grab a Writer's Markets book off the shelf and take notes without buying the book. I guess you really are paying in part, given the price of a good cuppa joe these days! [grin]
4. Fiction and non-fiction have different rules. Generally, you can submit short fiction and poetry with a cover letter "over the transom" (unsolicited). Your submissions will be read by an assistant to the editor from what is called "the slush pile" and if it's something which that particular reader thinks will work for their needs, it's bumped up the line for consideration. Novels need either a strongly written query letter before sending out, or a literary agent. In general, it's bad form to send an entire manuscript over the transom. It'll most likely be ignored by the staffs of most publishing houses, who have enough work reading the solicited novels they get from agents or through queries. Usually, the first three chapters and a strongly written and complete synopsis is sent when an agent or editor requests it. You will only need a literary agent if you begin to sell a lot of short fiction, or if you are only selling novels. Your chances of selling a novel are hugely increased if you work with an agent who is experienced and excited about your work. There is plenty of information out there on how to find an agent.
Non-fiction can be submitted unsolicited or with a query letter, but be prepared to submit it to another editor the minute you get a rejection letter. While some publishers will take "multiple submissions" (manuscripts sent to several publishers at a time), most don't. Rejection letters are usually form letters stating that your submission doesn't meet their editorial needs at this time. Sometimes an editorial person will write a personal note about why they have rejected it, but don't be discouraged. Your "baby" may simply not be right for this particular editorial team. Read it to see if it needs a little tweaking, then send it back out to another publisher.
The bottom line? Do your homework. Use the internet to your advantage by checking out sites with information on how to get published, and stop by prospective markets (magazines, periodicals, online and offline) to get their "guidelines." These spell out in detail what their needs are and how best to approach them with your writing. You might want to print out the guidelines for each publisher and put it in a binder, so you will have them accessible when you have that perfect piece to offer them. And check back with their websites every three or four months, as their needs may change.
That's it in a nutshell. Writing is a joy, but as a business it's a highly competitive field and like all occupations, you need to learn the lingo and approach it like a serious business, even if you're only planning on a part-time career.
Hope this helps! Good luck!
Copyright © 2002 by Annina L. Anton, All Rights Reserved