Monday, October 22, 2012

The Secret to Getting Published

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*.

The end.

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.


Caroline Starr Rose said...

Yes and yes and yes.

Melissa said...

Sound, sensible advice! And yes, big regular high five to Natalie!! Awesome cover, for what I know will be an awesome book!

Michelle Wolfson said...

I really like that sentence: Because you, too, can be a nobody who knows no one and still get your dream of being an author.

You really have a way with words. You should be a writer or something. (Sorry, Daisy (and Kiersten, I guess (I just wrote that in an email to her about 5 seconds ago. It's my compliment of the day. My head hurts too much to come up with original compliments today.)))

Oh crap. Just scrolled down and saw the prove you're not a robot thing.

Peter Dudley said...

Yup, that 10,000 hours thing. When I started writing seriously several years ago, Writers Digest was full of articles about authors whose first published novel was their fourth manuscript. Not fourth revision, but fourth novel. Felt discouraging at the time, but after having written six now, I know the first three will never be shown to anyone, and the fourth may get a rewrite in the future.

The discouraging thing is, you can write five books, put in your ten thousand hours, and still be subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune when you hit the slush pile.

Robin said...

Thanks for this reality check. I will try to control my internet reading and focus on writing-well revising at the moment, but you get the idea. And yes, Natalie's cover is spectacular-and your blurb doesn't hurt either:)

Karen Akins said...

Yep. This.

Rachel said...

I'm working on my third manuscript after many revisions and rejections on the previous two. I know each book and each revision draws me closer to being published. :)

Brenna Braaten said...

To quote Niel Gaiman: “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard.” I really like that last part. Because it seems easy, and yet it is hard.

Makayla Anderson said...

With my (limited) experience in writing, not publishing, I've noticed editing is just as important when writing english papers, grammer is like half your grade.

Lydia Kang said...

It's so obvious, right? And yet it takes writers (like myself) a while before it really, really digs in.

Anonymous said...

Good advice, although after twelve manuscripts, two agents, and multiple times on sub with no book deal, it's hard to believe I'm going to improve with the next book. Not that I'm trying to crush any dreams here - but it's hard. Really hard.

I'd say the secret to publishing is to love what you do, because if you truly love to write, you won't give up. And maybe, someday, you'll get there.

Jill Kemerer said...

Agreed. Love your honesty!

Christina Farley said...

So so true!