Top Ten Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting Published
by Erin Brown
Be a Good Writer and a Good
“Well, duh, stupid,” you
might be thinking. Everyone has to be a good writer! (And don’t call
me stupid.) But many people forget that an author has to be both a
good storyteller and a good writer. What’s the difference?
Well, I’ve edited many novels that had great plots and characters,
but the author couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag (sure,
that metaphor doesn’t make much sense, but I like the sound of it).
There are also many brilliant writers who can’t create or move along
a plotline to save their lives. The key is to learn how to do both
seamlessly—the result is pure gold.
Write Something Different
This might seem like
common sense, but I can’t tell you how many authors don’t think
about a good hook before they start a book. You are going to have a
much greater chance of catching an agent or editor’s eye if your
characters or setting or plot are completely unique in some way. If
there’s nothing that makes your novel different than what’s already
out there, the writing can be great and it won’t make an agent jump
up and down with excitement.
Get a Good Agent
Obviously. However, it’s
important to note and accept that if you can’t get a top tier/solid
agent, you might want to consider rewriting or starting on a new
project. If you’re only attracting sub-par agents or getting
hundreds of rejections, you need to look at the material itself.
Once you have a legitimate and respected agent, you can trust them
to handle all of the mind-numbing details—protecting your rights and
negotiating terms including advances and royalties—allowing you to
concentrate on your writing.
Don’t only research what
you need to know in order to make the setting, plot, and characters
come alive (and who wouldn’t love “research” trips to Ireland to
clomp through old castles getting details for your latest
swashbuckling romance?), but also dig up everything you can about
agents, publishing, editors, the art of writing—in other words,
learn everything you can about the industry and the craft. Knowledge
is power. Don’t just say, “Hey, I can write a book,” pump something
out, and expect to be published in a few months. Do your homework in
As an author, your own
writing will only grow stronger by reading everything you can get
your hands on—classics, bestsellers, genre novels, books on writing,
bad books, scary books, magazines, Publishers Weekly,
newspapers, the instruction manual for your DVD player—everything!
Who knows where you can glean new ideas, inspiration, and knowledge?
Read, read, and oh yes, read!
Have a Platform
This specifically applies
to non-fiction authors. Build a platform. This is what will sell
your book and publishers recognize (and usually require!) that. It
is how you will reach readers, it is your own important network, it
increases your visibility—do you write a weekly article on your
topic? Have you appeared on television or radio? Do you have a blog?
Illustration by Jennifer Paros -
Anything you can tap into
in order to sell your book will make a publisher see dollar signs.
This might sound crass, but welcome to the world of publishing! On
the fiction side, the above-mentioned “hook” will also come in handy
for establishing a platform. You can reach out and market to the
Join a Writers Group/Get Feedback
Yes, even though your
mother read your novel and loved it, you don’t have a surefire
winner on your hands. Join a local writers group in order to get
critiqued on your work. Most of writing is rewriting and having
honest feedback will only improve your work. You can also look into
hiring (warning: blatant self-promotion to come—hey, I’m using my
platform!) a freelance editor to critique your work. But make sure
that you choose someone who is legitimate and professional—i.e.
always check out experience and references! Don’t get scammed.
Master the Query Letter
Easier said than done,
you’re thinking. But honestly, buy a book on writing one, attend a
panel on the topic, do research—anything to help you improve that
letter. It’s the only thing that will get you in the door. Hemingway
could’ve written a query letter that began with, “I really hope you
like my book that I wrote about this guy who likes to fish and I
want you to sell it for me and call me, thanks,” and he would’ve
gotten 1,000 rejections for The Old Man and the Sea.
Don’t Cold Call Agents or Editors
This is annoying,
unprofessional, and will immediately put you on the “Don’t take any
further calls or emails from this person” list. Don’t do it, no
matter how tempting it might be or how good you might think you are
at selling your novel over the phone. Stick to the submission
guidelines and don’t be a stalker.
Don’t Give Up
This is the most important
tip if you truly have the spirit of a writer. If you don’t find
success with one novel or book, put it aside and start on another
one...and another. Or move on to writing short stories or articles.
Or even write a blog. If you are a true writer, you write for the
love of writing, not to get published. If you have this mentality,
you will end up finding success somehow—even if it’s not where you
originally sought it. Hold onto your passion.
Erin Brown worked as an editor in New York City for
over eight years. She recently left Manhattan to start her own
freelance editorial business. To learn more about Erin, visit her
website at www.erinedits.com