July 16, 2019

4 Insider Tips for Would-be Published Authors

Stacy Madden

Stacy Madden

Recently a would-be author bemoaned that “you need to know someone to get published.” I suggested a previous blog, “Top 5 Getting Published Myths that Defeat Authors.”

“Knowing someone” is the top myth.

Stacy Madden (pictured) has blogged about this same problem in “The Slings and Arrows of Getting Published: Insider Tips for Would Be Writers.”

His tips all revolve around knowing some things and someone.

1. Knowing which Publisher or Literary Agent

“Having a compelling story to tell — well, that’s the easy part,” Madden writes. “Then there’s the matter of knowing which publishers to send your manuscript to” (emphasis added).

Part of the work I do for authors is exactly this research: Which few publishers (nonfiction) or literary agents (fiction) are the right ones for this proposal or manuscript?

Search resources include www.WritersMarket.com and The 2011 Guide to Literary Agents and The Indie Publisher Guide.

By selecting about 12 top publishers or agents and then ranking them, authors are able to report success using half or so from that list.

Published authors can also be helpful. Over half of my local writing group has been published at least once, and they share their experiences with those who ask.

2. Knowing What and How to Submit

Madden says, “Writing a cover or query letter that doesn’t signal you as an amateur. Is there a market for your book? How will it fit amongst the literary trends of the day?”

Answering these and similar questions requires that the author has done some research in the marketplace.

In my experience, you as an author are not done with this until you can complete the following question:

“My book is the first book to …”

Weaker questions can also be used: “My book is the largest book to …” Or, “my book is the most concise book to …” These questions often apply to nonfiction works, especially of a self-help or hobby nature.

3. Knowing How to Schmooze Support

Madden suggests that authors apply their “talent, perseverance and a little bit of schmoozing acumen.”

He interviewed two young Canadian writers who had recently placed their books with publishers. “They each took two very different paths to get where they are today — and needless to say, both paths worked. It all comes down to doing what’s right for you and for the book you have inside you.”

Grace O’Connell wrote four drafts of her manuscript in a period of four years. She knew it was ready for submission to publishers when her critical readers gave her that feedback.

Grace said, “I wasn’t afraid of the submission process. I like to think I’m pretty tough. But it was actually agonizing. It’s not rejection that is the worst part. It’s the waiting. The waiting is gruesome.”

One thing she learned from her agent, Martha Magor Webb of Anne McDermid and Associates, is that authors tend to submit to publishing houses whereas agents tend to submit to specific acquisitions editors. It’s the match-thing again.

Matt Lennox, in contrast, sold his first book, Men of Salt, Men of Earth, to Oberon Press in 2009 without an agent. Oberon had submitted a short story of his in the publisher’s Best Canadian Stories Anthology in 2006, so naturally the press knew of him and his work.

4. Knowing Others in Your Genre or Field

“Another good way to get the inside scoop on how to publish your book is to attend a workshop run by an expert,” Lennox told Madden.”

Lennox’s assist came at a creative book publishing event. Cynthia Good, formerly of Penguin Canada and current director of the Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber College, offers workshops each year designed to help aspiring writers learn about the inner-dealings of the publishing industry and the literary landscape at large.”

Such events not only help authors meet one another to share knowledge and frustrations but the events also feature literary agents and publishers. Workshops or brief one-on-one sessions can be especially helpful for new authors.

To know someone in publishing or to become a publishing insider–you will need to widen your circle of contacts, take time for research, and invest in author-publishing events.

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