Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Get-it-Published List

Here are the Top 10 areas that new writers, writing for publication, should know. I compiled this list as a guideline for my own efforts after reviewing hundreds of “writing” advice sites. It helps me keep my priorities in line. I hope it will help you too.

10. Understand the industry distribution system. How much of the cover price of a book goes to a bookstore? 45%. Also, book wholesalers charge 10 % for their distribution services. That leaves 45% of the cover price of each book for the publishers to print, bind,  advertise, ship to wholesalers, reimburse book stores for unsold returns and finally, to pay royalties to authors and literary agents. Your job, as a writer, does not end with the selling of a book to the publisher...quite the contrary. You participate in promotional activities like book signings, radio interviews, internet blogs, responding to reader questions (email) and attending book shows. Writing is the creative part. All the rest is “work” associated with building a fan base. Writers should be the #1 fan of their own stories.

9. Patience...rejection during the query process is not personal. Learn from it. Learn what? Persistence and open-minded consideration of suggested improvements. Many great writers suffered dozens of rejection slips before being “discovered”. You will too.

8. Know your market and your target readers. When you look for a literary agent, you need to have a clear understanding of your potential market. Literary agents will be more receptive if you articulate why your writing “fits” with the agent’s writer-client list. Also, your initial query letter can make or break your chances for getting your entire manuscript read. It is the ONLY chance to make a good first impression, so invest time in researching the art of writing a compelling query letter and synopsis.

7. Avoid blending genres. Think of it from a literary agent’s point of view. How is the agent going to “sell” your lovely manuscript to a publisher? “Star Whores is very much like the romance genre you specialize in, but it’s also a compelling sci-fi story.” Then your agent calls a sci-fi publisher, “I’ve got this fabulous sci-fi writer who blends romance genre with subatomic particle decay in a wing-ding of a sci-fi tale. It’s called Star Whores.” Tough sale! Both publishers already have plenty of genre-specific manuscripts competing for publication.

6. Understand the editing process. Editors are not your enemy. They know markets and can help shape your story for the best possible reception from critics and readers. It’s okay to resist changes you feel fundamentally flaw your story, but be prepared to “listen” more than “tell” the editor.

5. Kill your darlings when necessary. “Darlings” are favorite bits of your writing that you love, and to which, you become emotionally attached. However, if that scene, paragraph or bit of inspired trivia is not essential to the plot, then you should be prepared to “kill” it.

4. Research your story thoroughly. Make it as plausible as possible...even in fantasy get your “facts” straight. I don't think a handsome vampire with a suntan would pass muster.

3. Impose good standards from the beginning when writing. Self-editing will be the biggest time investment in producing a finished product. Why make it more tedious by writing sloppy prose in the first place?

2. Study other best-selling authors in your target genre. Success breeds success. If you become familiar with the writing styles, general content and format of leading books in a genre, then you are well on your way to joining the “club”.

1. Work ethic/goals. Daily, weekly and monthly goals lead to finished projects. Many new writers lack self-discipline. They become discouraged and frustrated. Good work ethic is the only solution. Develop it...or get a government job.


  1. This is an outstanding piece. Would you mind if I put it on my own blog?...with credit to you and a nod to your own blog, of course.

  2. Hi CL Parks,

    I would be honored for you to repost this information. Let's hope it helps aspiring writers to organize the process of seeking publication. Thank you.


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