New? Begin with lesson one.
So you've decided the traditional publishing route is for you. What do you do now? Today's lesson is an overview of the basics you'll need to know.
Write a tantalizing query letter.
No matter which way you go about it, you're going to need a good, clean query letter to get anywhere with traditional publishing. It's the standard way of submitting to agents and the publishing houses that accept unsolicited queries alike. It's your chance to show them your ability to write clean, clear prose and outline your story.
Unless you have previous publications or other credentials relevant to the piece you're submitting, it's generally considered best to leave them off. Keep it as short and to the point as you can without becoming so stiff and generic you sound like an android, unless of course, your book is written from an android's point-of-view.
To get an agent or not?
The next step you need to consider is if you want to look for an agent now or after you've found a publisher interested in your work. While not all publishers require work to be submitted by an agent, having one can open a lot of doors.
There's no rule stating you have to have an agent at all, but keep the job of an agent in mind before you write them off as a "needless expense." An agent advocates for you. Are you an intellectual property lawyer? Do you already have one on speed dial? If not, you might want to at least keep an open mind about looking for an agent. It's their job to negotiate contracts and make sure you don't sign one that's not in your best interest.
Start fighting through the slush.
There's no way around the slush pile, whether the ones you're in are in an agent's office or a publisher's. You find the first place or batch of places to submit, send your query or partial, and you wait to hear back. It's not fun, but it's the process.
The first crucial step is in researching places to submit. Where to look will be a bit different based on which genre and age group your work falls into, but there are a few different places to look. Get a copy of the current year's Writer's and Illustrators Guide. Check Preditors and Editors. Look up the big five and find out what their imprints are, or comb through writing forums.
Find a publisher or agent who already prints or represents work along a similar vein to your own. Do your research on them, not only looking them up with the BBB but searching for bad reviews and their name plus the word scam. See how the books and authors they represent rank on Amazon and Goodreads.
Once you're sure they're reputable, go to their website and find out whether they are currently accepting submissions or not. If they are, find their submission guidelines and follow them to the letter.
Dealing with rejection...
Everyone gets rejected at least once or twice in their careers. Bad reviews happen. You have to go in expecting to hear the word "no," or you set yourself up for a lot of disappointment. If you need a day or two to mourn, take them. But for the love of all that's good and holy, don't throw a tantrum online. It's just unprofessional, rude, and it will hinder your chances of receiving an acceptance on down the road. Grieve, accept it, and keep on trucking.
If and when you get accepted...
Rejoice, but don't think your job is over just yet. Over the next several days to a couple of years, depending on the length and type of work, you'll be working with an editing and publishing team. You've already roughed, rewritten, edited, and proofed your work. Now you get to do it all over again with a team of professionals helping you.
You'll also be asked to build an author's platform if you haven't already. This will include a presence on social media and a blog if nothing else. Ideally, you'd want your own website. In the last several months before your book hits shelves, you'll be working on your next one while doing a blog tour, appearances, and perhaps even talking engagements to build interest in you and your book.
As I said, this is just a brief overview of how one goes about getting published traditionally. If you have comments or questions, leave them in the comment section below. I may go back into these topics on a deeper level at a later date.
Thank you for reading, and please come back and join me on Monday, November 30 to take a look at the process of self-publishing.
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