Sunday, April 1, 2012

You've Chosen to Publish - Now What?

Just as many of you, I am an author in every sense of the word: I dream, I 'hear' voices calling to me to turn them into characters, I research, I write, I create novels. The only difference between me and some of you is that I have chosen, up to this point not, to pursue publishing. I wrote for my own benefit, and sometimes that of people closest to me. After continuous urging from those same people, I have decided to pursue the publishing tract.

I invite you to come along with me on my journey. Together, we will learn much. Together, we will share our ups and our downs. Together, we will succeed in becoming one of the rare anomalies known as a 'traditionally published author'.

Being the anal person I am, and wanting to do everything exactly right (like that's possible), I again research with this new goal in mind. What have I discovered?

Traditional or Self-Publish?

For me the question isn't 'should I go the traditional route', for me there is no alternative, not right now at least. Until I see the self-pub market significantly improve to where high quality books outweigh the junk that's showing up there, I don't want to mix my name in among them. Sound self-righteous? Conceded maybe? Why would I say such a thing? Simply because I take pride in what I write. I go the distance to produce my absolute best. I've walked a long, hard road and put a tremendous amount of hard work into preparing my novel. I want to give it the best chance at a quality life that I can. 

(My little rant)

Like many avid readers, maybe even you, I was very excited to find I could purchase a book online for a mere 1.99! However in my opinion, I've been cheated. I've been fooled into believing I would be purchasing quality work. I've been sorely disappointed in the work being produced and self-published. It seems authors are no longer concerned with the basics such as, grammar, spelling, verb usage, and so on, let alone plot and structure. Loopholes? Abundant. I have purchased several books where the story appeared as if it would be quite interesting, only to be floored at the poor writing and errors within. I suppose the old adage, "You Get What You Pay For" rings true where writing is concerned. What about you? Have you had experiences with online self-published authors that weren't so good?

Assuming you feel the same as I do about your work, let's examine what it takes to become a traditionally published author.

Steps You Need to Take:

* Complete a manuscript that has been edited and polished. I can't express this enough. The step where the agent comes in will depend on this enormously.

* Complete a one-sentence hook line - your hook line, takes a story full of complex plotlines and high-concept ideas and breaks it down into a simple sentence, or two, that can be quickly and easily conveyed. Your hook line is your first pitch in getting someone interested in your book.

* Complete a one-paragraph pitch - like the hook line, your one-paragraph pitch is used to capture an agent and publisher's attention, as well as your reading audience.

* Once you have your manuscript and/or proposal ready, prepare your query letter. This is a good place for you to incorporate your one-sentence hook and one-paragraph hook.

* Send out those query letters to agents! I know, very scary stuff here. This is where I begin to freeze up. Everything sounds great...until I have to present it as a representation of my work. Ugh! But very importantly, make your query letter the absolute best it can be before sending it out. This is your ONE SHOT in getting an agent's attention. They'll read your query letter  before deciding whether your synopsis or sample chapters are even worth their time. A bad query letter will end your MS up in the dung heap faster than...well...flies on dung. 

NOTE: I've had quite a few questions on query letters lately so I've decided to do a full blog on them. I should have it up by Thursday so be sure to check back!

All this sounds simple, right? It is, but you’re still not ready. You stand very little chance of being published until you immerse yourself in the world of publishing. You need to know how it works. You need to provide as much attention to the details of publishing as you do to your novels. It just won't work otherwise. 

Here are some helpful resources to get you started:

Magazines: Subscribe to Writer's Digest

Websites: Agent Query
(Also, to make sure you are dealing with a reputable agent, try: Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors

I also suggest you join your local writers associations and attend writers conferences whenever possible.

In other words, DIG, DIG, DIG into this wonderful world of writing. Enjoy the journey from beginning to end.

My most heartfelt wishes for your success,

Dee Ann