Becoming a published writer isn’t complicated. It’s hard but it isn’t complicated. I hang out at a couple of writing forums and often see people making assumptions that there’s some trick or secret to writing and getting published. That you have to have an “in”, you have to know someone in the publishing industry, you have to go to conventions and meet agents and editors, you have to already be a star in the blogsphere, you have to sacrifice thirteen black cockerels at dawn on the Winter solstice…
Well, all those things (okay, not the last one. Probably not.) might lie ahead on your path to publication, but none of them are essential, and none of them will do the trick if you don’t have a decent book to publish.
Breaking it down, I think there are three basic steps. None of them complicated.
1) Write a book. Yeah, this is definitely pretty basic. But the Internet is full of people who talk about writing a book, who talk about how difficult it is to get published, who talk about how it’s not worth writing a book, because new writers can’t get published now. And never write a book. Don’t be all mouth and trousers. Step 1 is to actually write a book. Outline or don’t. Write it in a frenzy over a month, or by doing 100 words a day for six months. It doesn’t matter how you do it, there are a hundred ways to get that book done, but there’s no trick to it. You just have to write it.
Cultivate good habits and discipline and get the words down in whatever way suits you. No tricks to it. Just doing the work.
2) Revise and edit your book. If the internet is full of people who talk about writing a book and never do, it’s also fairly well populated with people who have at least written a first draft of a book. And then… then they either do nothing, or they submit that first draft, and, unless they’re an undiscovered genius, it’s rejected and they eventually give up and complain on the internet that new writers can’t get published these days. It’s something you’ve got to accept as a writer, that you will have to edit your first draft. And guess what – you’ll probably even have to do so if you edited while drafting. There are no shortcuts.
The amount of editing and the process of editing required will vary. Some people need to do little more than a quick line edit, others will do more extensive rewriting, others will start an entirely new draft of the story. But whatever your book needs, you can be sure it needs something. If you think you can skip editing because the publisher will have an editor fix all that stuff up, then you’re thinking like an amateur and will continue to be one!
3) Submit your query, to appropriate agents or publishers following their submission guidelines. The only hard part about this is writing a good query. Sending it to the right place should be the easiest part of this whole process. But every day agents and publishers receive submissions that are not suitable for them. They don’t represent/publish that genre, or the publisher doesn’t take unagented submissions, or the agent’s list is full and they’re closed to submissions right now – as stated in big letters on their website. This just wastes everyone’s time and increases the number of rejections you get. And no, they won’t make an exception based on the fact your book is totally awesome. Follow their submission guidelines. Everyone’s seem to be a little bit different, so check. All of this will be on their website. If something is unclear, email them and ask for clarification. Don’t give them an excuse to reject you out of hand.
These are the three basic steps. Like I say, hard, but not complicated. Well the last one isn’t even hard (aside from the actually putting together a good query part!) No special secret that you need to be in on. No tricks. No shortcuts. (If anyone offers you a shortcut to guaranteed publication they are almost certainly trying to con you out of money.) No special stroke of luck required – though always be ready to take advantage of luck should it happen to strike. Don’t let fantasies or wishing convince you that there’s some magical secret door into the publication world that you need to find. Don’t waste precious time trying to find it, just concentrate on writing. Write a book. Edit and revise it into the best book you can make it. Send it to an appropriate place in the way they specify they want it. No-brainer.