Saturday, July 10, 2010

FAQ - How Do You Get Published?

There are a lot of folks out there who've written or are writing novels and wonder how to get published. Now and then I hear from some of them. I set up a FAQ page over on my DAY OF SMALL THINGS blog/site but I think I'll go on and tackle this question here as well. (For a fuller discussion, follow the link above to the FAQ.)

Only yesterday I received an email, part of which went as follows:  
 . . . This is my first novel, and I really want this book published.  I have had my novel line edited . . . and I am in the process of some rewrites.  

Do you have any suggestions on how to get the dang thing published?  It seems like it is next to impossible to break into the literary world if you have never been published or do not have the right connections.
Is the publishing company that published your book a self publishing company?
I would appreciate any guidance that you could provide.
Okay, how to get this dang thing published.

(I'm talking about novels, here - the rules are different for non-fiction, poetry, and children's fiction.)Well, if your goal is to be published by a big, mainstream publisher, then you're going to need an agent.  And you don't 'hire' an agent -- instead you send out queries (email or snail mail) telling them about your novel and hoping that you've piqued their interest sufficiently to want to read more and, eventually, offer to represent you. The really big publishers do not accept unagented submissions. (There are smaller legitimate publishing houses that will deal directly with the author.)

Impossible to break into the literary world if you have never been published or do not have the right connections? 

I am proof that it's possible -- I had NO connections and the only publication to my credit was the book on quilting that a friend and I had co-authored. (This sort of publication credit means less than nothing to agents and publishers of novels.)

I sent out over sixty query letters in the space of three months before fining an agent who wanted to represent me. It's not a quick and easy process for most.

Is the publishing company that published your book a self publishing company?

No. A self-publishing company is one in which the writer pays to have his work printed. 

Self-publishing works well for people who have written a work that is probably going to have a limited audience.  Wonderful for a family history or a novel of regional interest. A major downside of self-publishing is that you don't get nation-wide distribution. There are other downsides but there are those who are passionate advocates of self-publishing.

 Guidance --

There's lots of that on line -- and my experience is so limited that I'm not the best person to ask.  And no, I can't take a look at manuscripts -- there's just not time, between trying to write my own books and teach the classes I teach and everything else in my life. 

I'm not trying to be unkind-- I'm honored that some folks have sought my advice. But to the best of my knowledge, there is no magic secret, no clever shortcut to publication. It's a lot of work. 

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Bernie said...

Vicki, do you think most bloggers want to be writers?
I know I don't have any desire to do so yet I enjoy blogging tremendously.
This is kind of you to answer these questions for your blogging friends and wishing you much good luck with your book...:-)Hugs

Pat in east TN said...

Very interesting reading. I guess if a person wants to have their works published they must have persistence, nerves of steel, and know it's a long, long road. You are a good friend to give helpful, honest advice.

Brian Miller said...

some sound solid advice which i appreciate...have several blogger friends that have been published and its great to earn from you as i make that move myself...

Miss_Yves said...

I'll read your long post later, I enjoy your pictures!
French people know the book Alice in wonderland less than Disney's cartoon.
They are not aware of the psychoanalytic meanings , nor of the plays on words.
The teachers of French can study in a few famous translated texts nonsense and how new words are created -in french:"mots-valises"
So they ask to their puplis to create such words .

Vicki Lane said...

Bernie -- I think most bloggere ARE writers -- and no doubt some hope someday to be published thereby becoming authors.

I get these questions not really from other bloggers but from people who know I've been published.

Pat --Because I was totally ignorant of the process ten years ago when I began writing, I thought I'd just spread a little information.

Brian -- I've been hoping to hear that you were working on a book of some sort. (Aha! Here's a blogger/writer with aspirations of publication.)

Miss Yves -- I had thought the book would be very difficult to translate. Mots-valises -- a new French word for me -- portmanteau words!


Great flower photos. You have many talents! -- barbara

Miss_Yves said...

Miss_Yves said... in wonderland-Lewis Carroll

Some of my atworks :alice, mail art calls

Subby said...

I remember reading "Foul Matter" by Martha Grimes, and the "finding an agent" topic wasn't covered ( at least not to any length ). Hmmm...

We have a few local publishers but I'm not sure I could finance anything, as yet...tho' I do have a few outlets to peddle my prattle...

And finally got through to your other bloggo( thanks Blooger! )

Miss_Yves said...

I've often heard (in the mouth of writers recently published )that there is always a publisher (Editor)for each writer...but it's difficult to find which publisher fits to your work.

Subby said...

I never could quite grasp the concept of having an editor ( book-wise )...I self-edit as I see fit...then again, I write mainly obscure poetry,

Vicki Lane said...

Thank you, Barbara! I do love taking pictures!

Miss Yves -- I enjoyed your artwork! Are you still doing these charming collages?

Finding the right publisher is another reason agents are useful -- they have the wider knowledge.

Subby -- re editor -- my editor brings a fresh eye to my work and she has never yet made a suggestion that didn't improve it.

Of course, I'm very lucky in having a really top notch editor.I'm sure there are horror stories out there . . .

NCmountainwoman said...

I took a "look inside" at the quilting book. To say I am impressed would be an understatement. Wow! Writing, farming, entertaining AND quilting! I especially loved the rustic one with the barn and road. What a thing of beauty.

St Louis Susan said...

Vicki.............bless you for your generosity toward budding authors, but hooray for you for making your limits clear. Your life is so full, and you offer so much to others, but you understand the diluting, enervating result of taking on TOO MUCH.

Vicki Lane said...

Mountainwoman -- our group of friends doesn't make near as many quilts as we used to but there are still a few undertaken now and then. I'm really proud of the book and the quilts we made.

Hey, Susan -- thanks for the kind words! You've seen how hectic it can be around here ...

Star said...

I would like to get my book published. I am already published but only for a short story. I am looking into getting it published online on the Nook for instance. That seems to me to be an easier option because even when you are published, it doesn't follow that you will be properly promoted, does it?
I enjoyed reading your hints and advice and welcome more of your comments.
Blessings, Star

Vicki Lane said...

Yes, it's quite easy to be published online. The promotion will all be up to you. Some people do well this way.

But it's like self-publishing -- one hasn't gone through the various levels of quality control that sift out the good from the not-so-good and the work will be considered less worthy in the eyes of some.

It's like deciding to run a marathon and saying to yourself -- I know I can do it -- so wouldn't it be easier to just take a taxi to the finish line?

These days publishing is in flux and many of the old paradigms are shifting -- who can say if these attitudes will change?

Tipper said...

Good tips and information! I can't imagine every trying to be published for anything myself-but I sure am glad you tried and got it done : )

Vagabonde said...

I love reading and now that I have a blog I have even more admiration for writers. It is not that easy and it’s time consuming. At least for me, it takes me a while to write a post and I am never satisfied with it. I cannot imagine ever wishing to be published… that would mean that I have written more than one page!