I’ve been asked not once, but twice this week how to get published. I figure this question is best answered through blog since it’s a very broad topic. For a start, you don’t get published. There are a million other steps you have to take first.
The first step you have to take is to write a book. Write from start to finish and don’t worry about the business end of things until much later. And when I say you have to write a book, I mean you have to have a cast of characters so fantastic your readers can see them clearly and believe they’re real. You have to have a story together that makes sense and (depending on genre) does what it’s supposed to do.
Step two–Editing. Oh dear lawd, I hate editing. I’d rather be stabbed repeatedly than edit one page of a manuscript. Your best bet is to print off each and every page with at least 1.5 spacing. Don’t use black ink or pencil to edit. Use a different color so that it stands out to you. Be somewhat organized about it. Then, go forth and edit AGAIN!! And after you do that, do it again. And again, and again. When you’re finally sure everything’s in place to the very best of your ability, then you can move on to your computer once again where you will spend countless hours entering all your edits.
And don’t go and assume your work is flawless and you don’t need to edit. Even Stephen King edits!
Step three–The submitting process. This step sucks so bad you’ll want to hang yourself by your earlobes midway through it. First, you have to decide what you’ve written. Is it horror? Steampunk? Romance? Erotica? Romantica? New Adult? Young Adult? Science fiction? Figure out who publishes those things. Google helps. Once you’ve established a genre (and possibly a sub-genre), go ahead and read the submission guidelines to the entire list of publishers you’re planning on submitting to. Read through carefully! This can be tricky business.
Most publishers are going to ask for a query letter and first three chapters first, which is typically called a partial. This is the step in the submitting process where you’re going to question your own existence and ask the writing gods to put an end to your misery because writing a query sucks. I’d rather drink lava than write a query. But, I have urged through it and I’m a query survivor–several times over.
There are some publishers out there who will ask for your complete manuscript, a query, and your first born. Send what they ask for. Which brings me to another evil entity called “Standard Format”…. If the publisher doesn’t ask for any particular format for your MS, use standard format. If you don’t know what that is, I’m not going to tell you. Nope. I had to look it up and you do too. Why? Because if you’re serious that you want to write, you’re going to be googling, binging, and hitting the books pretty hard from here on in. May as well get used to it, kids.
So, where were we? You’ve written a book, decided a genre, submitted to publishers…
Oh, shit. Now you get to just wait for a bazillion years because no one is answering your emails when you want them to. You’ll be waiting a while, so you may as well start your next project, write some short stories, clean out the storm drains around your house, go to Disney World, write some more short stories, come half way through another novel…
And by the time you do all of those things, you’ll probably have an inbox full of rejection letters. Cry about it if you want to. Sometimes it really does help, but remember that all you need is one yes. Just one.
Now, for the sake of being fair, if you submitted to several publishers at once, please make sure all of them take simultaneous subs. Some publishers will ask that you not send to other publishers while your work is being reviewed by them. If you’ve sent to more than one publisher, though, and you get an offer from one of them, make sure you send withdraw letters to the others you subbed to. You should have kept track of the places you submitted on paper or with a spreadsheet anyhow. It’s common decency and the publishers will all silently thank you for it. Maybe.
You can bypass all this stuff, though, and just self-publish through KDP or Createspace. Lots of authors do it these days. It’s a way to cut out the middleman, so to speak. Sure, Amazon is going to make money off you, but basically no one else will.
Except the person you hire to edit for you. I highly recommend you hire someone else to edit your work. And not me, either. I’m too darned busy with my own stuff. Final edits for The Bones of Willow Lake will be coming to my inbox in the near future and when they’re ready for me to look over and enter, I’ll be a raving lunatic. You don’t want a raving lunatic to edit for you, trust me.
And the cover artist. Shit. Yeah, you have to have a cover if you actually want to sell a few copies. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but let me tell ya, people judge books by their covers…every single freaking day. Unless you’re crafty in that way, please hire someone who knows what the heck they’re doing. And for Pete’s sake, pay them! Pay them because they’re an artist just like you are and you don’t want to be stiffed, do ya? No, you don’t. What goes around in the business of writing, tends to come around, linger, and smack you in the face before it runs off again so fast you can’t catch it.
Well, whether you self-published or were published by a traditional publisher, you have a book out and you’re going to have to market that sucker. You’re going to need a few reviews, some good PR, and friends to push it for you. Good luck with all that because it’s not easy, either. Writers are gluttons for punishment, but we’re a strange breed because we like it. Reviewers are sometimes absolutely scathing, but we keep going. People sometimes mock the very characters we pined over for months, but we keep writing.