Six Sure-Fire (Almost) Steps to Getting Published
Everybody wants to know the secret of getting published, preferably some secret that involves no risk or hard work. Dream on! But if you don't mind the risk and hard work part, here's my take on what you have to do to get started in this business.
1. Read widely. When you think you know what type of book you want to write, especially focus on new books published in that area. Tons of them. Pay attention to who's publishing these books. Check the acknowledgments or Publisher's Marketplace to see who's represented them. Never quit reading, and don't stick exclusively to one genre.
2. Write fearlessly. Chasing the market is a fool's errand, since what you see in stores is what was bought a year or two ago and what you see in libraries... let's not even go there. Better to define the market with your own unique slant on a perennial favorite. If it's not unique and in some way better than what's out there, why should any publisher take a chance on you?
3. Edit ruthlessly. Put the manuscript aside and then take a fresh look at it at least a month later. If this were a book you picked up at the store, would you feel compelled to finish? Compelled enough to plunk down hard-earned money?
4. Network intelligently. Listen to published authors speak whenever possible. Find writers' groups where published authors belong or give talks. Attend conferences and listen to editors and agents speak, along with other, more experienced writers (many unpublished writers are very knowledgeable). Try to find a few like-minded individuals (no blood relatives or close friends!) so you can exchange pages or manuscripts and critique each other's work. Listen to comments that resonate and ignore the rest (unless several people point out the same weakness). Then go back and revisit #3.
5. Research thoroughly. When you're ready to shop for an agent, find the right one. Start with agents who have represented the type of book you're trying to sell. When in doubt about the agent's honesty, check Writer Beware. Never pay a reading or marketing fee up front. If an agent offers representation, get and check client references. Same goes for publishers. Be especially careful with small, new ventures.
6. Have the talent, drive, persistence, luck, and the guts to cop to your ambition.
There you have it. The honest to goodness "secret" of publication. The rest is up to you!