Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Secret to Getting Published

What it's not:

  • Having an idea no one's ever used before. (There's no such thing. Shakespeare saw to that and Dickens took care of whatever Shakespeare might have missed.)

  • Being famous or related to someone famous. (It might get you noticed but there's got to be some talent to back it up. Still, they might put your face & name on a ghost written book, if you're really famous.)

  • Writing the perfect query. (Be natural, be normal not needy and let your story speak for itself. There is no perfect query format. Even if there were, and you write it, how many query letters do you see for sale at Borders?)

  • Getting the busiest and best-looking agent on the internet. (That one who looks like Tom Cruise comes to mind.)

  • Getting a degree in creative writing. (Helpful, since hours of creative writing are required to get said degree.)

  • The result of a highly popular blog with tons of followers. (Notwithstanding the scene in Julie Julia where 6 dozen agents leave pleading messages on her voice mail.)

Although if you have achieved any of the above points, you are fortunate indeed, (especially if you have that agent who looks like Tom Cruise). And you are definitely farther along the path to publication than the guy next door who says he's writing a novel but spends all his time on the Wii.


Then what is the secret to getting published? Come closer and I'll tell you. Are you ready for this?



You have to want it more than you want anything else. You must want it with every fibre of your being.



The rest of the secret:

  • You will need to give up stuff to write. Lots of stuff. Like maybe, free time and all the fun things you see other people doing. Be responsible and prioritize (especially if you have young children). But make time to write.

  • Writing well isn't easy or fast. It's a long, slow slog into awfulness involving disappointment, discouragement, depression and all those other "d" words until you begin to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Be prepared for the long haul.

  • Never quit until your prose sparkles and jumps off the page, until your characters come to life and your story strikes a universal chord. You may have to write six novels (like Talli Roland did) before you finally write the one that's got IT. Or spend ten years on one manuscript until it becomes a novel worth publishing. (Hello Uncut Diamonds.)

  • Seek out and research every agent, every publisher, every avenue to publication that you can find. Don't be a publishing snob, thinking that only the best will do. A small press or an unknown and/or less attractive agent may offer you a contract and provide invaluable experience with editing, publishing and marketing.Your book could be on store shelves while your friend who snagged that extremely good-looking much busier agent is still waiting for an offer.

  • If, after extensive research, you choose to self-publish or epublish, you won't rush into it with a poor quality piece of work. Nor cut corners on editing, design and typesetting, because you know that, in the end, it means nothing unless  readers (who are not your relatives) willingly shell out cash for your book.

  • One finished manuscript or one published book is only the beginning. This is a career not a hobby. Never rest on any hard-won success. Celebrate then get back to it. Your best work may not yet be written.

  • You might get lucky and hit the big time fast, but then what? Keep going. And going. Stephen King wrote On Writing after an accident that nearly killed him. He was in so much pain he could barely write for thirty minutes at a time-- a man with countless bestsellers to his name and plenty of money-- yet he did not stop writing.

There it is people. The secret to getting published. Go after it!

58 comments:

  1. Excellent advice, Karen! I love the little tiny secret. Especially since that part is HUGE. And the blog looks great!

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  2. really great insights here! I especially like the one about not being a publishing snob. There's so much out there...

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  3. Great post!!! I totally agree--wanting it, like REALLY wanting it is key. This isn't a slap-dash, half-assed endeavor...

    Thanks for sharing your insights!

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  4. LOVE THIS. love it, love it, love it :)

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  5. This post is so true! I genuinely enjoyed reading it.

    Marissa

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  6. Congratulations! You did it. I like the design - all except the pages across the top. I just redid my pages, or rather re-laid them. It's under layout on the design tab. My repositioning came out smaller and squared neatly under my picture.

    Goodbye to the warrior, I guess, since the warrior's still here. You're a warrior at heart, out there fighting the good fight with your writing and encouragement of others. And thanks for another great post. Lots of true wisdom/advice here.

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  7. Ann, I didn't like the way the pages turned out either. Too big and weird. Thanks for letting me know how to fix it! Going to do that now :) And yes, who can resist that little design button that kept popping up where layout should be.

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  8. Finally someone tells the secret. THANKS! Especially liked the part about not writing the perfect query - I needed to hear that.

    And now to check out your sidebar.....ah, there I am. Tantrum and all. You just helped me scrape myself off the ground and actually take care of my personal hygiene.

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  9. Great reminders to keep our butts in the chair and never give in to doubt. :) Hugs and thanks!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  10. I love this post, Karen. Every word of it is so, so true! I was determined to write 100 novels if that's what it took. I'm a slow learner, so it took me six... and I still have so much to learn. I read somewhere that it takes the average writer four novels to be published.

    If you really, really want it, and you work hard and stick with it, it will happen.

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  11. The pages widget looks perfect now! It really is fun to play around with the design - as if we don't have anything else to do (lol!!!!). Have a great day.

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  12. Amen to all of that! You can never give up! I'm so glad you took a chance on me! Thank you!

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  13. fabulous post!

    let me tell you, although i'm not a "slave" to my writing, there are things i definitely have given up because i NEED to write: sleep, manicures, evenings out with my friends, etc.

    it is far more important to me, after i've tended to the kidlit all day long, to "unwind" in front of my manuscript as opposed to going out and having fun.
    i want to see my book on a shelf in a store so bad i can taste it, but i need to put the work in before that will ever happen.

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  14. Awesome post! Reading it definitely helped, especially the part where you said we have to give up stuff in order to write. I think that's definitely true. But I think that a lot of other people who don't know much about writing focus more on what you get in return for writing, and then they end up losing sight of the bigger picture.

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  15. Great post, Karen! You brought up a point I never thought about. The busy agents have a lot to do whereas the lesser-known/beginner agents might have more time for you and your book. Cool. *light goes on in head*

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  16. What I like about your blog is there's no white-washing here. No whining. No easy fixes. Just practical advice.

    And I might find a good-looking agent a distraction.

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  17. Amen to seeking out every option! I love your comparison. And trust me, a big blog following or popularity on Twitter or elsewhere does not mean you'll sell a million books, either.

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  18. Excellent post! Great reminder to keep on writing, polishing, learning and going for it. Writing means making sacrifices. I know! Now back to my mangled mess of a manuscript.

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  19. I love it when you post insightful info like this. It's so easy to get distracted or focus on all the wrong things. I won't lie to you. An agent that looks like Tom Cruise would never be a bad thing. I'll take his twin as my FedEx man, too. Distractions like that aren't always bad, are they?

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  20. This was such a good post, and your advices gave me a lot to think about. I need to get me that agent that looks like Tom Cruise! Seriously, though - I need to sit me down and write. Just write.

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  21. excellant post! And so true, its a lifelong career. Everything is so instant nowadays, as soon as I'd three chapters of my first novel done i was daydreaming of book launches, couldnt sleep at night with the overnight success that was coming!! I lost sight of the process, lost sight of why i write in the first place. That Talli wrote so many books before being published is an inspiration and a good lesson in perserverance.

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  22. Oooooh this makes me want to write! Thank you thank you thank you.
    Loved this.

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  23. Great advice, Karen and you say exactly what an Irish writer (Joseph O'Connor ) said to me at his book signing the other night - we just need to sit down, lock the door and write and keep writing. So true.

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  24. Oh wow!! I love your new blog!!!! It's very very nice!! And so glad the giraffe is still there!!! Yay!

    Thanks for sharing your secrets to getting published!!! They're wise and wonderful

    I love the
    "wanting it more than life itself" Oh yes please!!! :-)

    take care
    x

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  25. Great post Karen. A reminder that the hard work, and sacrifices are worth it.

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  26. GREAT POST! I do believe that getting a degree in creative writing can be very useful, because you learn so much about the art of writing. But you make some very good points. As I said, great post:)

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  27. I love your new blog look! This post was really great, and a much-needed reminder that it's all about hard work and that we should never stop learning!

    I'll be linking back to it in a future post!

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  28. So simple, yet so true! Good post Karen!

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  29. Thanks for sharing this, Karen. It's good to keep an eye on 'reality' as writers. It isn't an easy rode.

    Big congrats on all your success! It's an inspiration, and your blog is looking BEAUTIFUL. :-)

    - Corra

    the victorian heroine

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  30. Great post:) I never knew that Stephen King was in an accident and couldn't write for long periods of time. The same thing happened to me; last year I couldn't write for more than 15 minutes at a time, due to a bad car accident, it was the most frustrating thing ever.

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  31. Great advice, Karen! I agree whole-heartedly! Did you see that I wrote a review on Goodreads and Amazon for Farm Girl? I really enjoyed it :o)

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  32. It's so true! I think this is a career of perserverence, more than anything. We learn every step of the way--we improve, the more we write, and the more people we hear from about writing--all of it is an investment. And I think the really GREAT books are written by people who have to do it again and again before they finally get noticed because then they KNOW what it takes, and they won't let substandard work go out.

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  33. Excellent post!! I'm saving this one.

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  34. Many thanks to all who have commented, and to those who retweeted or shared links-- MWAH! (That's a Greek kiss ala Jessica Bell)

    Hart, I'm with you on this--

    "And I think the really GREAT books are written by people who have to do it again and again before they finally get noticed because then they KNOW what it takes, and they won't let substandard work go out."

    Jessica, I just barely saw the review and emailed you a response! Thanks so much :) I'm glad you liked it and took the time to write a review!

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  35. Excellent post, Karen. It's exactly like this. I believe this is the best post you've written. Thanks.

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  36. Really, really great post. I think your small print is so correct.

    CD

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  37. The slow slog is the worst part for me... I want everything nooooow! It is definitely a patience game.

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  38. Great advice here! Can I add one more secret? Winning Karen's contest so she critiques your query letter and first three chapters! Thanks again for the awesome critique, Karen!

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  39. I really like this. Great and wonderful and powerful advice here! I'm going to post it on FB! ;)

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  40. This is great advice. It takes more work than most NON-writers think. A LOT more.

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  41. Fantastic post, Karen. Now I ask you, why do I need to keep up my pathetic attempt at an editor blog for WiDo when you're doing it so much better?? (You might mention WiDo Publishing just a bit more often in your posts hehe.)

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  42. Kristine, LOL!

    C.K, and really we can't even explain it to non writers. I've tried and it doesn't work. Thanks for the follow :)

    Elizabeth, I appreciate the FB post!!

    Susan, I'm glad the critique helped :)

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  43. All of your advice makes sense, & I chuckled about that perfect query letter not being for sale at Borders.

    Stephen King is an inspiration to so many of us as no matter what he always manages to write. I'm glad he's recovered from that accident & is back to writing more than 30 minutes a day. I've also discovered his son is a fine writer, too!

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  44. Great advice, even though I had to put my nose on the computer screen to read the tiny bits! I love Stephen King's book 'On Writing' - I haven't read his novels but I think his is one of the best books about writing that's around.

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  45. Thank you, this was wonderful and what I needed to hear! I can apply this to several aspects of my creative world!!! xXx

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  46. Just popping in here, Karen, after a wee absence. Interesting post that speaks sense here.

    Yep, having that one book published does not mean you have made it. And one book published still means there's lots of doors you have to knock on and lots of rejections to expect.

    But then it wouldn't do to get too comfortable in this life, would it.

    Best wishes

    D

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  47. Ooo shiny new template! Looking good around here, Karen!

    Great advice nicelyput. Love the small type. It's all about that, isn't it, you just have to want it and do it and keep on doing it!

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  48. Karen--I like your new template...Very nice!

    Wonderful post! Full of great advice and wisdom.

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  49. Terrific post - thank you for some great advice.

    X

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  50. *Dickens took care of whatever Shakespeare might have missed" *snort* LOVE THAT!

    I love, love, LOVE this post! You know wherefor you speak, I know, and it is the truth. The only thing I would add is to know what moves you: what is your objective, your goals, with this writing thing. Write it down, and then let it guide you through the travails and the "D" works (love that too!).

    p.s. I have an announcement (Yay!) and a contest tomorrow on my blog - I hope you'll stop by and check it out! :)

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  51. Susan, I like your addition. So so true. I mean if we're writing to get a big publishing advance and invited to Oprah's party, we might as well give it up right now. There has to be a passion for the writing itself, for the story, and especially for the story we are dying to tell. A passion for money or fame? There's easier ways to get that!

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  52. Man I so needed this post today. Thanks a bunch, Karen!

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  53. You hit many nails on many many heads - and I can vouch for "re-thinking what you think you want into what is just as good or better!" - I went with a small press, but it's been the most positive experience.

    I work hard. Harder than I ever did before my books were published.

    You do have to really want it. And you have to pick yourself up off the floor sometimes. And as well, sometimes you have to peel yourself off the ceiling and come back to earth were you belong *smiling*

    wonderful post!

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  54. This is advice every writer needs! Brilliant post!

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  55. thanks for this affirmation. Was just having a "I've lost my mind, why am I still doing this?" moment. (It was the tiny secret that reminded me...)

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