Friday, 18 February 2011

Ask the Editor:
What's the best way to get published?

QUESTION:
I would like to ask a question! I have written a children's picture book, amongst others. What is the best way to get it published? Who would you recommend to contact? I don't know why other books get out but I can't. Please let me know.

ANSWER:
Unfortunately, there is no short answer to this. Most importantly, I want to stress that just because you've finished writing your book, doesn't mean your work is done. You're really only about half way there.

WHAT, you say. Half way? But I've just written, edited, rewritten (wash, rinse, repeat, multiply by 30) a freaking BOOK!

Yes, well. Truth hurts, sunshine. There's still LOT of reading and research on different agents and publishers. Also, be prepared to work on your query/submission letter until it is bang on.

You will hear this over and over and over again: Agents are the key. Most big publishers won't even consider a manuscript if it's not submitted by an agent. You can tell if this will be the case by visiting publishers' websites and researching their submission guidelines. It will say something along the lines of: 'No unsolicited manuscripts' or 'Agents only'.

If you are somehow under the impression that you don't need an agent, you probably don't really know and understand what they do. They edit. Even if you have writing partners that have fixed all the grammer, deleted seven unnecessary characters and changed the plot line 12 times over, there is still great need for a professional eye. Agents will find things that were missed, make the story stronger and point out ways that the book could be more market-friendly. They market. Agents have to make the manuscripts they're selling look as hot and enticing as possible. They know how to pitch a book to a publisher and they know what specific publishers and editors are interested in. Finally, they sell. They know contracts and look after their herd of authors, ensuring that each one gets the best deal with the right publisher.

Let it be known: AGENTS ARE AWESOME!

Take time to research literary agents and find out who is best suited to your work. Many literary agents have blogs or twitter and will post what they represent. Once you've found a suitable agent, you need to follow the agent's query guidelines. This ensures that your manuscript is read and not angrily thrown out because you, for example, put an attachment when an agent specifically stated that 3 sample chapters of the manuscript should be placed in the text of your email... or sent your query in the post when an agency only accepts digital submission through their online form.

In short, agents are the author's advocate in the publishing world.

But, literary agents are rejecting me. There are a number of things that could be going on. (1) You're querying the wrong agents. Don't just query J.K. Rowling's, Julia Donaldson's and Suzanne Collin's agents. Find out (a) who specialises in the genre you've written for, (b) whose interested in your subject matter and (c) who works with the age group you're writing for. (2) It just doesn't fit. And you'll get a sense of this in the rejection letters. Where an agent is squirming in pain because they have to turn someone down just because it doesn't fit what they work with or they know they won't be able to place it. In this case, self-publishing is a fair rout to publication. (3) They might be wrong. *GASP* Yes, maybe you have written something truly amazing and they just can't see it. But, in reality, if it really IS amazing, someone will notice. You just need to keep trying. (4) Sorry, but the problem probably is within the manuscript itself. Don't be too stubborn! I know it's harsh, but if agencies keep rejecting you, plain and simple, your story isn't working. Or it just isn't strong enough against the competition. Or it just isn't right for the present or predicted trends. So, go back and change it! Then resubmit it. There's no crime against re-querying after you've done an overhaul on your manuscript.

Here are some literary agent blogs that you might want to read up on. They have a lot of valuable information on them and they make the agenting world understandable:
http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/
http://ncliterary.blogspot.com/
http://confessionsofawanderingheart.blogspot.com/
http://agentkristin.blogspot.com/

I want to by-pass literary agents and go straight to the publisher. There are smaller publishers out there that DO accept unsolicited manuscripts. If that's the route you wish to take, then research which publishers do this and send them a submission according to their guidelines. If they don't have guidelines then Google what a book proposal submission letter should be like. Remember: your submission letter is the key to your manuscript being read. Full stop. If you're letter sucks, then editors will assume the book will suck too and don't read on. Rejected. This may sound unkind, but put youself in an editor's shoes: there really isn't enough time in the day to look over every manuscript in its entirety. So get them interested FAST. Make it succinct and get to the point. 

Letting go. This is where I need am going to emphasise the power of letting go. Sometimes it's best to drop a project and start a new one. I don't mean to say you never re-visit that manuscript again, but clearly it's not ready for the traditional publishing world at this point in time.

SELF-PUBLISHING! Self-publishing serves it's purposes and, though it can expensive for the writer, it is becoming an increasingly realistic publishing option for authors in this digital age. There are many different options and you can even hire editors, designers, etc to get all the benefits of traditional publishing without forfeiting income from sales. No traditional publisher means larger royalties, which means that for each book you sell you get more from that sale.

Other than all that, know your market. I can't stress this enough. If you are writing picture books, you better know a LOT about picture books. If you're writing for YA, you better read a lot of YA. Be in the know with all the trends. It's not enough to simply WANT to write, you need to know and be surrounded by it every day.

Now, I will leave you with a video. If you don't laugh, you should be concerned.




DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION?
Send queries using the contact form to the right.

1 comment:

  1. Loved this video - I shared it with a lot of others who will get a kick out of it!

    While I certainly wasn't naive about the writing process, I have been surprised by how long it has been taking. I'm fortunate to have a wonderful agent, and I've been revising diligently in preparation for the next round of editors to look it over. Fingers crossed!

    Thanks so much for this post. Have a great weekend :)

    ReplyDelete

So, what do you think?