Back in the day, before I had an agent or a book deal, I used to scour agent and editor blogs and interviews. I can't even tell you how many hours I spent, how many tens of thousands of words I read looking for THE SECRET.
(No, not that book where apparently if you really want something to happen it will magically happen. Though that feels appropriate for this post, in a "wow that is just not how things work" sort of way.)
I was looking for the secret that would get me published. The one tidbit of information that, when triumphantly wielded by my typing-bruised fingers, would let my bypass everything and jump straight into success. I honestly don't know what I thought that secret would be, or even what it could be. Font size? Query formatting? Trends no one could ever actually predict?
Because here is the secret--the ONLY one--that, when applied, can get you a book deal:
Write the best book you can. Make it as good as you can. And then write the next book*.
I know, it's not very glamorous, is it? I'd really much rather there be some big password, or a secret handshake, or something. But no. That's all there is to it. My agent pulled my manuscript from the slush. I knew no one in publishing. I had no connections. I sent out fifty queries on my second book before Michelle signed me--and that book didn't even sell. It was my fourth finished novel that finally nudged me over that invisible line. And not every book I've written since then has sold or will sell. The journey continues.
So: if this is something you want, write. Write, and then write, and then write some more. That's really all there is to it. (Oh, except the editing. Which is just as important as the writing. Sorry.) Networking, platforms, so on and so forth cannot make up for the one thing that is solely down to you: the writing.
I don't mean this to be discouraging. I mean it to be exactly the opposite. Because you, too, can be a nobody who knows no one and still get your dream of being an author. There's no secret to it.
Just a lot of work.
But that work can lead to very happy endings, like the one just revealed in all its gorgeous cover glory on my dear friend Natalie Whipple's blog! Go see her cover. Ogle. And know that it could be you someday, no secrets needed.
SECRET PUBLISHING HIGH FIVE FOR NATALIE! By which I mean a regular high five, because again: no secrets.
*Write another book, not a sequel. It's not the greatest idea to write sequels to books that haven't sold. Your time is better spent on a separate project.