As all of you know, Laura Baumbach is an icon in the publishing business as well as an award-winning author. So when I wanted to get the perspective of someone who knows both sides of the business intimately, her name came immediately to mind because I knew that she would give newbie or aspiring authors the straight goods. Here’s Laura’s excellent advice on how to get published:
How to Get Published?
It’s a straightforward question that isn’t easily answered. The whole ‘getting published’ process has numerous layers to it. I’m going to assume for the purpose of this article that the writer has acquired a degree of writing skill. While this may be the first story they have decided to try and get published it is not their first attempt at writing a story. While they may not be a seasoned, multi-manuscript author, they know how to craft a story from beginning to end and craft three dimensional characters readers can relate to.
The first step is to take that awesome idea you had in the middle of the night or in the shower and write it down. Give it a beginning, a middle and an end. Craft a believable storyline with heroes readers want to root for. Include sub-plots and interesting secondary characters. Remember, your characters have five senses and keep atmosphere and setting in mind. Then when that’s done, reread it, rewrite it. Have someone else read it, if you trust their opinion. Read it out loud to yourself if you don’t have anyone. Use beta or critique groups if that type of sharing works for you. Evaluate their feedback. Make changes if you agree with their feedback. Polish your baby until it shines. But understand that if it is accepted somewhere for publication there is a huge chance the editor involved in making your work release ready will want you to rework anything from a few words to major portions of the manuscript. As pretty as it is now, every word most authors write, even the pros, are not golden. Yours aren’t either.
The second step in getting published is, now that you have the manuscript completed, find the appropriate publisher to submit it to. The best way to do that is to find presses that publish in the genre you are writing. Buy a few of their books, read them, make sure you like the quality of the house. See if you think your manuscript and their press are a good match. If you have contacts in the industry you can also ask around. Privately authors will discuss the pros and cons of the publishers they work with. And every place will have pros and cons. No one press is an exact fit for every author. Check on the sites that post warnings about problems with publishers to locate potential black holes you don’t want to fall into.
Third step. Once you have chosen a house, study their website, read their submission guidelines and follow them. Locate the correct submission email addy. Format the manuscript the way they tell you to, including the files they request, whether it is three chapters and synopsis or the entire manuscript. The key here is to send exactly what they ask for the way they ask for it. If you don’t follow directions now, you are telling them you won’t follow them when you go to editing. Include your name and contact information on everything you send them–the query letter, the synopsis, and the manuscript or files.
Don’t skimp on the query letter. Make it no longer than one page. Include a brief introduction of yourself, with mention of any writing accomplishments you might have, in the first paragraph. In the second, sell your storyline. Make it intriguing. Tell me why I want to read this story. Don’t tell them it is the best thing ever written or what a masterful author you are. If you or it is any of those things the editors will see it when they read the story. If not, you’ll just sound silly. The third paragraph should give a sense of what you plan on doing to promote the book—your Twitter, Facebook, author website, blog, autographing plans, and conference attendances planned, etc. Keep in mind the Internet has a permanent and long memory. It is not unusual for potential editors to research you on the net before offering contracts. If you don’t play nice with others, or have a history of rants or negative presence, it will affect how they perceive you and your work. Even if the best of authors are too much work in other areas of the industry, publishers will hesitate to deal with them repeatedly, if at all.
Your synopsis should not be a cliffhanger! If a press is to publish a story they really do need to know the whole storyline from start to finish, including all the spoilers. It should be a point by point outline of the plot and character development. No skimping here either.
Step four in the process is sometimes the hardest for unpublished. Once you have all these elements together, take a deep breath and submit them to the publisher of your choosing. Really, send it out. Make note in the submissions guidelines how long of a wait you can expect before hearing back from them. If that time period approaches and you haven’t heard from them besides an acknowledgment of receipt, send a polite inquiry to them to jog their memory and let them know you are still patiently waiting. Once you hear back from them, respond appropriately. If it was a ‘no thank you’, hopefully they included some feedback so you can see where they felt your manuscript was lacking. If it was an acceptance, then the real work has just begun.
Step number five is establishing good working relationships, not just with your editor but your fellow authors. Show you are willing to join loops, participate in other authors’ events, and generally present yourselves in a positive light within the industry environment and events. These are factors that keep open that publishing house door to more of your work.
Laura Baumbach’s Contact Information
Publisher website: www.mlrpress.com
Author website: http://www.laurabaumbach.com/