Publishing Advice

Good morning! Well, it has been a week since I launched this blog site. I hope my followers have found it informative. So far, I have written about some of the things that I have done with regards to my writing/publishing experience. A while ago, a student asked me what they needed to do to get their own work published. For those of you reading this blog who would also like some tips about getting published, this is what I told her:

If you are serious about submitting a manuscript, you should first do your homework. Make sure the publisher will take unsolicited manuscripts. That means: manuscripts that they have not asked for. Often a publisher will not accept a manuscript unless the author has an agent, although this occurs more in the United States. In Canada, it tends to be a little easier, as agents are not abundant, here.

Also, check to see if your type of story is acceptable to them by looking up other books that have been published by that particular publisher. Most of that can be done on-line, now, or you can look them up in the Writer’s Market books ( I mentioned them in a previous blog). Copies should be available at city libraries or Writers Organizations.

Once you have found a publisher, do not send the entire manuscript at first. Write them an ‘Inquiry Letter’. The letter should include some information about you, like a letter of introduction or like those you might submit to a prospective employer when looking for a job. It should also include about a paragraph describing your story.

With the letter, include a detailed synopsis – about a page or two in length depending on the length of your novel/story. If you want to know more about how to write a synopsis, most books on writing will give you examples. If you join the Manitoba Writer’s Guild (or your local writers association) they should have a lot of resources available to their members, including how to write a synopsis.

In addition to the letter and synopsis, you could include two or three chapters (20-30 pages) of your book to give the publisher a good idea of your writing style. If you want them to return your manuscript, or respond to you in any way, you must also enclose a SASE (Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope). If you are lucky and all these things impress the publisher, they will ask you to send the entire manuscript.

That is the submission process. I must stress that it is not an easy process. It took me almost ten years to find the publisher that would agree to take my story. You must have faith in your work and yourself, to persevere when it may seem hopeless. Don’t get discouraged.

I would also like to stress that a publisher gets thousands of inquiry letters and they won’t even look at a manuscript that is not neat, with perfect spelling and grammar in those first few chapters. I would suggest you find a proof-reader that will be honest and suitably critical. That criticism may not be easy to hear, but it goes a long way to helping you polish your manuscripts.

I wrote three complete novels before I wrote Withershins. I presented them to my first writers group who had already published their work and were widely read in the genres in which I had written. Their criticism wasn’t easy to listen to, but I trusted their judgement and, even though I was proud of the writing I had done, I realized what they said made sense. I strived to overcome my disappointment that they didn’t feel as I did (that my writing was brilliant!) and took their advice. As a result, their advice and encouragement helped me to be a better writer, which made a huge difference when I wrote Withershins. With the sequel, though, I still spent about four months with my editor revising, revising, and revising some more. It was a very frustrating process, but I do believe she helped me make Spirit Quest the best it could be. So don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from those you think can help you improve your writing.

I want to provide a word of warning about internet publishing sites, though. Make sure you investigate a potential publisher thoroughly before sending them your manuscript to make sure they are legitimate. It is too easy these days to fake a company, especially if they are offering vanity press services, which require you to pay them!

I hope these answers will help those of you who are exploring writing as a career. Feel free to contact me if you have any more questions.

Dare to follow your dreams. Best of luck.

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