Wednesday, April 1, 2009
This post is going to be the most basic of basic posts on submitting manuscripts to a real-life publisher. I'll just begin by telling you what I knew about publishing when I finished writing my first book.
Little to nothing.
The one thing I had in my favor was that I'd made several virtual friends online through a couple of romance readers' bulletin boards. These friends were wonderfully supportive; some of them were published nationally, others were avid readers who knew what they liked in a good story. Through these associations I found the drive to finish my first manuscript and then actually pursue publication.
How did I do that? I hopped online, of course. I knew nobody personally who was published in the LDS market, so I went to a few key websites. Lo and behold, they had submission guidelines! I followed their instructions to the last detail, made three copies of my book, submitted to three companies and crossed my fingers.
I also followed sage advice and kept writing. (I give this sentence its own little paragraph because I cannot emphasize how important it is).
After a few months, I heard from all three companies; the first two sent nice rejection letters, and the third company told me that if I made a few changes, they'd publish my book. Happily enough, I made the changes. And the nice thing was that while I'd waited to hear from the publishers, I'd been able to write the sequel to the first book. It was nice to be able to submit that one right away and get going on the third book.
Now, this will seem silly and very elementary to people who are well-versed in the arts of learning about publishers and submitting manuscripts. But for the novice who really has no idea where to start, just begin by surfing publishers' websites. They'll tell you everything you need to know about submitting to them, and whether or not they take unsolicited manuscripts. (Unsolicited = you don't have an agent and you're just sending the book out on your own).
To make a long story short, become familiar with your favorite publishers' websites and guidelines. This is the advice I always give first when people ask me how to go about the process of getting published. We live in an age where this process is so much more accessible to the unpublished writer--take advantage of it! Know their requirements inside and out. Pay attention to the kinds of books they publish. Follow their instructions to the letter; don't assume that your book is so fabulous that they'll dismiss the fact that you didn't format the manuscript to their specific requirements. They notice things like that; if they say they want double-spaced with one-inch margins all around, that's what they mean.
(Don't panic if you're not sure how to format your manuscript just right--I guarantee you have someone in your life who can help you with this. Typically, the younger they are, the more proficient. Take a 13-year-old kid who's written essays for school and I'll show you a kid who knows Microsoft Word pretty well. Said kid can probably be bought for a burrito or a Slurpee).
This is really basic stuff, and again, I apologize if you're way beyond this. But I hope there's at least one writer out there who might be wondering where to start. I would have loved for someone to walk me through the process, and while some of my friends were able to help, so much of what I learned was self-taught. The publishing industry is complex, but it's also fascinating and not nearly as intimidating to face if you surf around for a bit and learn all you can about it.
J. Scott Savage, author of the new Farworld series, has an awesome post on publishing, ("Publishing 101"), and he says it so much better than I do! He really is amazing--a wonderful writer who's becoming a marketing genius in his own right. I admire him very much.