FAQ

Traditional Publishing FAQs | Author Toolbox Blog Hop

Posted by on Aug 16, 2017 in #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, FAQ | 12 comments

Traditional Publishing FAQs | Author Toolbox Blog Hop

In regard to the writing industry, one of the areas I am questioned about the most is the arena of publishing. People often ask if they should publish traditionally or independently (see my post about that here) and how they should go about becoming traditionally published should they choose that route. If you’ve decided traditional publishing is for you, and you want to know how to get started, I recommend four things:

 

1.  Build your on-line platform

At its most basic, this means develop an on-line presence. You must have a web page, preferably with a blog, but focused mainly around displaying your novel. If your novel is not front-and-center on your web page, then you need to reformat it. You are a writer—you sell stories. Everything else is bonus.

In addition to a web page, you want a strong presence on at least two forms of social media. Facebook and Twitter are common, as are Tumbler, Instagram, and WattPad. (If you are a writer and you don’t know about WattPad, you need to check it out. Major potential to build a following there.)

What if you’re not published yet? It’s never too early to get started. As a matter of fact, starting now will give you an advantage when your book finally hits the market. All of your social media followers will be more likely to purchase your published work so, viola, instant sales numbers!

The thing to keep in mind about an on-line platform is interaction. Don’t try to do everything, because you can’t, but also because this will spread you too thin. Pick two or three social media forums to master, then interact with others (I can’t emphasize this enough). Prospective editors are looking for the number of potential buyers your social media followers represent. It does no good to have followers in the thousands if they are not interested in purchasing your work. Demonstrable interaction with your followers is a huge draw to potential editors because it shows that you will bring a likely return on their investment.

As for what to put on your blog, I’m still learning about that. I’ve read that it’s easier for non-fiction authors because they can continue to blog about the topics of their publications. For fiction authors, however, it’s not quite so easy. If I find a good list of topics to recommend, I’ll let you know, but if you have any suggestions for blog content for fantasy novelists, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

 

2. Obtain a copy of the Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, published annually by Writer’s Digest. (This is not an affiliate link)

If you publish something else, like poetry, never fear… they have a plethora of different market guides. This is just the one I’m the most familiar with. However, no matter what you write, if you are seeking traditional publication, then you NEED this book in your life. It contains everything: a section of advisory articles about current topics in the publishing industry; a section on how to format query letters and manuscripts for submission to agents and editors; a section on writing competitions; another section on writer’s conferences; and, most importantly, a list of agents and a list of editors who are seeking clients, along with the specifications of how to submit your work to them.

Wait, why did I mention an agent? Do you need an agent? That depends. If, like me, your eyes tend to glaze over when it comes to fine details and deep analysis of numbers, then yes, you need an agent. Also, agents already have an “in” with publishers. They have relationships that allow them to recommend your work, which gives the added bonus of someone beside your mom who loves your work enough to recommend it to someone else. (Don’t worry, I’m not dissing moms. My mom is one of my greatest supporters. She will tell people to by my book before I even think to address the topic. So moms rock, but they are a bit biased…)

 

3. Follow all formatting guidelines

You are seeking professional publication. Take the time to find out what the professionals want, and tailor your submission to their specifications. This sounds easy, but you would not believe how many people disregard this advice. Trust me: following submission guidelines to the letter will set you apart and get you noticed in a good way.

 

4. Attend writing conferences

As a writer on a very tight budget, this one is hard for me (see my post about it here). I always struggle about whether or not the cost of a writer’s conference is a necessity or an indulgence. However, for reasons I detail in the a fore-linked post, I believe this step is crucial. Many agents and publishers are beginning not to accept manuscripts submitted from out of the blue. There is such a glut of writing in today’s market, and such an abundance of authors who want to be traditionally published, that a significant number of agents and publishers are only accepting submissions pitched at a writer’s conference.

What if you’re not pitching anything? In my opinion, this is even better because it places you in a position to meet industry professionals with no strings attached. Get to know the agents and publishers as people; build a relationship with them before you pitch to them. This will allow you to obtain insight into their work and what they are looking for without the uncomfortable 15 minute speed-query, which will save you a lot of rejections in the long-run.

 

This, then, is the list of things I always tell someone who asks me about getting started with traditional publishing. However, this list is not exhaustive! If there are any questions I have not addressed here that you would like me to answer, or if you have any other recommendations, please let me know in the comments below. Happy writing!

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, or to join in, click here.

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What is the Best Way to Find an Editor / Agent?

Posted by on Jun 30, 2016 in FAQ | 0 comments

What is the Best Way to Find an Editor / Agent?

You’ve done it. You’ve put in the grueling effort, the rear-end numbing hours, the family-alienating dedication. You’ve studied your craft, honed your technique, and parsed your rough draft until you have a final product worthy of public consumption. You have written a book / short story / poem / screenplay and have decided to publish traditionally, and you are looking for an agent and / or an editor to represent you.

There’s just one problem: most editors, and a lot of agents, are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts. So how do you get your finished product in front of someone who has the power and resources to publish and distribute your work?

There are two very good ways. The first is to get the most current copy of the Novel and Short Story Market (or whatever version of the Market fits your work–there are several), produced by Writer’s Digest (you can get it from the Writer’s Digest website, or from most bookstores). That book is a comprehensive list of which agents and editors are searching for clients, what they represent, and how to contact them. It also contains essays that discuss current publishing guidelines and  how to prepare your manuscript for submission, and a section listing contests for the current year. Everything I learned about how to submit my work for publication, I learned from these Manuals.

The second way is to go to writer’s conferences and make a pitch appointment with an agent / editor you want to represent you. You can also have a portion of your work critiqued by an industry professional at most of these conferences. The best thing about the whole conference experience, however, is the people you get to meet. If it’s truly not what you know but who, then conferences are the way to meet the whos. Conferences can be expensive, but they are well worth the cost. Consider them a well-made investment in your future.

A few miscellaneous details to make your efforts more successful:

  • Make sure you have a quality manuscript. Take the time and effort necessary to make your work as professional as possible. Have it critiqued and / or edited (critique groups are great for this) and make sure it’s formatted according to the proper guidelines before you submit anything. Rumor has it not taking this advice is what gets most manuscripts an express trip straight to the slush pile.
  • If you’re not part of a writing / critique group… WHY NOT?? Writers write alone, but quality feedback from like-minded artists is what makes manuscripts come alive. Seriously: get thee to a critique group.
  • Develop your on-line writer’s platform. A thriving, active presence on-line is quickly becoming a prerequisite for consideration by traditional publishers. You need to have one in place before you even start submitting. Seriously, start now. (If you need help, I have several pins on Pinterest that cover this topic.)
  • Speaking of Pinterest… more information than you’ll ever use, right there. I have 34 pages devoted to various aspects of writing how-to, writing fantasy, writing YA, writing romance… you get the idea. Check them out here.
  • If you are on Twitter (if not, see two points above) follow Writer’s Digest and Publisher’s Weekly. Both feeds frequently post tweets announcing new agents who are looking for authors to represent.

 

Now it’s your turn. What other questions do you have? Are there any pointers that I should add? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Happy writing!

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