Sunday, January 9, 2011

Twelve Step Guide to Getting Published

So you wanna write a book. Want to see your name in print on the spine of your book in the local Walmart or on the pages of Amazon. 
Think you can be the next J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Peter V. Brett?  
How do you go about it?
Well, get your pad and pencil, I’m fixin’ to tell you how…   
1.              First, decide how much you’d like to make in a year. (This will determine how many novels you must turn in to your publisher per year.)
2.              Make a projection when you’d like to quit your day job. (I suggest you give it at least three months.)
3.              Pick a genre that sells. (How about men’s fiction - Crime Fiction or Thrillers. Those thriller writers make big bucks – Harlen Coben, David Baldacci, Vince Flynn, Dan Brown! Yeah, okay, men’s fiction.)
4.              Next, you need a plot.  Hey, here’s the beauty of men’s fiction. Just go to the Washington Post or USA Today or any local paper and pick a headline.
5.              Now tweak it. Change the names, add some extra conflict - you know, fight scenes and such. Oh, and a good no holds barred love scene, or three.
6.              Don’t have a computer? (It’s a great time to go get the Ipad you’ve been wanting, and hey, Peter Brett wrote his entire first book on his cell phone!) Either go buy one or simply right it long hand. You must use your very best handwriting though, for a publisher to take you seriously.
7.              Get a friend to look it over for spelling since you won’t have the benefit of spell checker (which completely eliminates the need for proof reading).
8.              Oh, length. It needs to be long. About 300-400 pages. (That’s about 2 composition notebooks.)
9.              Just remember, if you chose Romance, to be sure to get your hero and heroine together at the End for their happy ever after.
10.          Okay. You’ve finished the book and you’re ready to send it. How to decide on a publisher. Take a couple of your favorites and look at the publisher on the spine, or on the copywrite page. And before you prepare your cover letter, you might consider contacting your favorite author and asking him or her if you can use them as a reference with the publisher. Just assure them, they will NOT be sorry.  Promise them a recommendation or blurb for their next bestseller.
11.          That’s it. (You know a little light spray of perfume might make it stand out from the crowd in what they call the slush pile.) So, box it up, mark on the outside of the box - Attn: Next Bestseller! and mail it off.  In about a month, you’ll have your answer. <Cough> Or sooner.
12.          Now sit down and plan how you’re going to spend the money.
Did I miss anything?

 How many times have I heard from a friend or someone in the family –
“They didn’t buy your book at the conference?”
“How long are you going to write before you give up being published?”
“Are you still working on the same book? Just send it off."

Okay, reality check here!

The truth? 
Writing a book with the intent of getting it published is one of the hardest things to accomplish.
Many, many - make that three manys - of your favorite authors, the majority in fact, write into the wee hours after long hours at work and/or taking care of their families. Many published writers have written for numerous years and numerous manuscripts before getting ‘the Call’ and then…they still work, write late or on lunch hours, and take care of responsibilities. The Call (and I haven’t received mine yet ) isn’t some magical Disney ‘blinnggggg’ where life changes. Most published authors I know haven’t bought a private plane, appeared on TV, or even hired maid service.
Writing is a challenge, a dream, a passion.  I’m reminded of the lyrics by Shania Twain, 
“If you’re not in it for love, you’re outta here.”
The bottom line?   Writing is a labor of love.
I’m curious. How does this translate into your writing experience? What part of the writing passion calls to you the most? What were your biggest misconceptions when you began your career? Have you died laughing over some question or comment about this pursuit?


Thea said...

you make it sound too easy! lol
good advice!t

Michael Malone said...

Good post, Marley. It can be v.frustrating dealing with non-writers who either dismiss your ambition as a "wee hobby" or think you must be rubbish if you're not published already.

Bill Kirton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Kirton said...

Thanks for the advice, Marley. I'll follow it at once.

Great post and spot on. There seems to be an unshakable assumption by non-writers that:
a) you're not a REAL writer unless you've been published and
b) that it's easy to scribble a story. Anyone can do it.

OK, sometimes it's hard work, but mostly it's a joy and a lovely challenge to face. And, as I've said in many contexts, unwrapping the first copy of your first published book is a beautiful experience - the closest a man can come to having a baby (and, I guess, a woman to having a baby with none of the sickness, backache, stretch marks and pain).

Anonymous said...

Yeah, just thought I'd share, ;)

Anonymous said...

I forgot that "You must not be any good" sentiment. Writers have to really have a passion for it to deal with the constant barrage of comments.

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying the ride, Bill, but I can't wait to unwrap the first one - birthing with no pain, sounds like a deal.