Follow guest blogger Melissa March’s (http://www.melissamarch16.com/) 5 lessons learned, and you won’t get blindsided. Melissa includes great links for writers.
So you wrote a book.
Besides the incredible urge to shout it out to the masses, what do you do next?
I had no idea.
So I did what I do best, research.
I never expected that writing a book would be the easy part of getting published. Getting published is hard but you can do it. I’ve listed the five things that were the biggest surprises to me when I blindly started out.
#1: Lather, rinse, repeat.
Many writers advise authors with new manuscripts to fuhgettaboudit. Shelve the masterpiece and don’t obsess over it. Put the newly finished book on the back burner.
“Focus on getting an agent,” they say. “An agent is what it is all about.”
They’re the experts, right?
So, I focused on getting an agent.
BAM-BAM! It was a one-two I didn’t see coming, rejection after rejection.
After a bit of pouting—okay a blubberfest—I went back to my book. Wow. Talk about typos and grammatical black holes. No wonder I couldn’t get someone to read the manuscript.
Know your book! Know it front, back and inside out. You can’t read it enough. Better that you find the misspelled words and grammatical errors than the person you’re hoping will represent you.
Oh and a few beta readers would be nice too. You know the kind: The ones who will be honest and tell you if your book is polished or still in the need for more tweaking; the kind of people who will help you by giving you positive critique. They are priceless!
If you don’t have anyone try Critique Circle, a website devoted to writers helping writers. http://www.critiquecircle.com
#2: In or Out of the Box.
Define yourself. What kind of writer are you? What’s your genre?
Are you contemporary or mainstream?
Are you fantasy, romance, mystery, young adult or sci-fi?
Even if you think you know your genre, it doesn’t hurt to make sure. AgentQuery.com has a list with good descriptions. http://www.agentquery.com/genre_descriptions.aspx
Searching for an agent or publisher will be a smoother ride if you determine your place in the genre world and it will help you find the needle in the haystack of agents/publishers looking for your kind of work and the best options available to you.
It’s wasted effort if you submit your work to someone who isn’t remotely interested in what you wrote. And no one has time to waste.
A good website for sorting through the many agencies and what they are interested in is Predators and Editors. http://pred-ed.com/pealt.htm
Get cozy with everything literary. Google til you can’t see straight! There are plenty of sites— including this one: Writing for Writers—that are hand holding helpful as you dip that toe into the publishing waters. A personal favorite of mine is Miss Snark’s First Victim. http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com
Miss Snark is a writer who stays anonymous in order to create a safe place to issue lots of tips and advice and contests that help you tweak and polish not only your work but your perspective as well.
#4: Query On.
I loathe even typing the word. Q-u-e-r-y.
For me writing the query letter is the unknown level of hell in Dante’s Inferno and the bane of most aspiring writers. The paper cut, the stubbed toe, the bee sting, the appointment for a root canal, the—never mind, you get my point.
It’s a necessary evil that most of us never know about until we have to write one. Honestly, I never knew about them. And it was an unwelcome surprise. But I’ve learned that a well written query letter is your foot in the door. So do your homework!
However, you can write the best query letter in the world but if you don’t know your genre or what the agent is looking for (first three points above) it won’t matter—at all. If Mr. Agent wants the next big dystopian story and you wrote a western he’s gonna send you the ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter.
One website offered me some great examples that finally showed me what I needed to catch the eye of a publisher. http://www.charlottedillon.com/query.html
#5: Do I Know You?
Join Facebook. Twitter your heart out. Join groups.
Meet all the other people who love all things writery as much as you do. Don’t be afraid to get personal.
I’m a hermit—born and bred for my own company above all else. But I found that it is impossible to promote my work if I don’t make myself available. Tell your new friends how you love to bake or how you have ten grandkids or how your dog likes to chew the remote.
Don’t rely totally on Aunt Bea’s knitting club to get the word out.
Melissa March is a fiction writer. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and young son. She’s a quasi-klepto when she sees a great looking smooth writing pen and loves almost anything plaid. (It’s the Highlander in her.) She drinks too much diet coke and maintains a love/hate relationship with all the social media in her life. Her newest hobby is experimenting with her hair color.
Her first published novel Love You to Death will be released this spring. You can read all about her on her website www.melissamarch16.com