Yeah, but are you published?


Sometimes I really hate telling people I’m a writer. Why? Because the first thing out of their mouths is, “Are you published?” Which I inevitably have to answer, “Well, no not yet, but important people are interested.”

Actually, that’s not what I say, even though it’s true, because I don’t like to honk my own horn.

The thing most people don’t realize is — it’s HARD to get a book deal! I will take you through the journey as I travel it myself, but I have friends who are in the mire right now, and have the mud stains to show how long they’ve been, well, stuck in so-called mire.

Here are the steps (as far as I understand them) that a writer needs to travel to become a published author:

  1. Of course, first you have to write your book. This doesn’t mean almost complete it, or write down the outline, or have a general idea. This means write it, start to finish, and edit, and edit, and edit, until it’s as perfect as is humanly possible to get it on your own. Then, just for fun, you edit again. I am currently on my fifth edit.
  2. During your edits, it’s wise to get some beta readers, or people you trust (preferably not friends), who can be brutally honest about what sucks and what doesn’t about your story.
  3. Depending on your subject and characters, you may need to hire a sensitivity reader. “A whaaat???” you say. Yep. Gone are the days when authors could write anything they wanted and get away with it. If you haven’t lived or experienced it directly, watch out! Readers (especially in certain genres like YA) will tear you apart if you write anything that can be misconstrued, or in any way offend or upset. Agents and publishers don’t want writers who cause trouble, so do your homework, and be sure of your content. This is meant to be a good thing, except that right now there is such a hyper-sensitivity to so many things, it’s getting harder to achieve consensus.
  4. If you’re goal is to be traditionally published,  your next step is to find an agent and/or a publisher (typically the writer finds an agent, and the agent finds the publisher).  To find an agent you must:
    1. Write the dreaded query letter – a summary of your novel that is basically the sales pitch of your book. This one letter can take literally months to perfect. You  get one chance per agent. You better not screw it up.
    2. Write the dreaded synopsis – A detailed outline of your plot, including all the spoilers and plot twists. Again, you get one shot. Don’t screw it up.
    3. Find agents who are looking for books like yours, and start emailing out your query letter (with your synopsis if they want that too), along with your first 50-100 pages.
    4. You may hear from these agents right away, or it may take up to a year to hear back. Crazy. In the meantime, better get building your platform, through blogging, tweeting, and any other social media you can think. Get your name out there, and get people interested in what you’re working on.
  5. Once you get an agent and publisher, you can relax. Haha. Just kidding. Guess what, time for more editing and revising, because now you have an editor who has ideas about your book.
  6. Eventually (and hopefully not after too many edits), your manuscript transitions to a book on the shelves of your favorite book store chain! Hopefully you’ve done a good job on building your platform, and your book sales are through the roof. Otherwise, you may be dropped by your publishing house and agent, and have to start all over from step 4 for your next book.

Now that you know what’s involved in the process of writing a book, and getting it published, you can see why it’s not so easy to get become a published author. But I’m determined, and, like I said, Important People are Interested. Honk honk. I’ll keep you posted! I’m on step 4.1.

I’m also going to get myself a glass of wine (maybe two), because I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed!!!

If you’re a published author, or are in the mire right now, let me know how the journey is going for you!

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