So I’ve finally finished writing that novel, and I’m pretty proud of it. How do I get from there to a hardcover book in my hands?
We’ve discussed this issue several times on our Writing Excusespodcast. For instance, here are a number of podcasts about publishing, finding editors and agents, and other business-related topics. Give the podcasts a listen, maybe they will help.
Remember that although you always hear that every writer goes through a host of rejections before they get published, it’s still hard to go through it yourself, particularly when you think that this book is “the one.” Just keep writing, you’ll get there. I wrote 13 novels before I sold one, so don’t give up!
As you’ve guessed, there’s a lot more to getting published than just producing a good manuscript. You need a way to network into a publishing company. I strongly encourage you to find one and try contacting editors as well. Editors and agents have relationships with publishing companies and can bring your work to their attention.
Finding a good editor or agent can be tricky, but I also think that it is the most direct way that you may have to break in (remember that you can submit your work to agents and not just editors or publishers, as they work in a similar way). To find a good editor or agent, there are a number of things that you can do.
First, there is an international forum called “The Writer’s Market”. This is where many new authors try to connect with editors, agents, and perhaps publishers. Writers submit proposals called query letters to pitch their work. This doesn’t involve sending your entire manuscript at first; they will request the manuscript if they are interested. As hundreds to thousands of query letters are submitted, it is important to learn how to write a good query letter. There are a number of books and online resources that can help you to learn to write a query letter that will represent you well.
Another method to find an editor is to look at your favorite book, or rather the book that you feel is most like your own work. It should list (usually in the publication information at the beginning of the book) who edited the book. If not you can always research it online. Then you should find out more about that editor–what kinds of stories does he or she like to edit, which publishing companies he or she edits for, etc. (My editor is Moshe Feder) Try to find out other background information that you can relate to so that when you send them a letter, you may personalize it somewhat. You can talk about what work they’ve done and how yours is relevant.
When you do write them, you will want to be professional and concise; they are very busy and get a lot of inquiries from potential authors. Again, don’t send them the whole manuscript until they ask for it. They probably have a website where they list protocol for submissions. Follow those instructions to the letter. You can probably also submit to them through the Writer’s Market with a more personalized letter.
It may be hard for you at this point in your life, but if you have the opportunity,you should attend a writer’s convention of some kind, particularly World Con or Fantasy Con if it is in your area. These conventions and others are held in different cities around the world every year. If one opens up close enough to you, I suggest that you go to it. One advantage of these conventions is that it brings writers, readers, and fans together with publishers, editors, agents, authors and other artists. It’s a great networking opportunity.