A Little About How I Got Published

A friend of mine e-mailed this to me not that long ago. Since I get asked a lot, I thought I’d post the answers here. Enjoy!

Dear Sue,

Long time no write, right? I’m sorry to bother you, but you are one of the few people I know that has written a book and had it published with success. I joined NaNoWriMo this year and now surprisingly have about 26,000 words of my first book written! It’s sort of a young adult/youth fantasy/adventure with a little bit of romance and some comedic relief thrown in for good measure. When thinking about what I’ll do with it once it’s written, I immediately thought of “Never Ceese”. I was hoping that since your book was also loosely in the same genre, you’d be able to help answer some questions for me. 🙂 I think I remember you saying that the publisher you went with was the first that you’d sent your manuscript to, right? Can you give me any information about their submission guidelines/contact info?

The publisher I ended up going with was in fact the first publisher who showed an interest in my “professionally edited with a 2% error rate” MS. I would give you their submission guidelines/contract info but they now only publish children’s books. They were only trying to decide whether they would stick with YA when they brought me on board. Also writersmarket.com is a wonderful resource for agents and publishers. Agents and publishers are broken out by genre and also even Christian or completely secular. This is where I found my first publisher and they were in fact listed as a Christian publisher, just not CBA. That of course turned out to be a very good thing! Writersmarket.com also has a thirty day free trial where you can search their database to find publishers who are accepting submissions. Publishers will also have their guidelines there as well.

Did your publisher need the full book submitted to consider or just the first few well polished chapters?

My publisher, based on my professional query/synopsis asked to see the entire MS which you need to have before submitting to publishers. If you’re a debut novelist you absolutely must have the very best that you can offer. That means having it “professionally” edited and ready to go. Most ask for first few chapters and professional query/synopsis. Others just ask for the query/synopsis. Do a search on how to do a query/synopsis or pay someone to help you get it right. There actually is a right way to do one. I’ve heard authors say they sent a query/synopsis and then I read what they sent only to learn that they’d done nothing close to a query/synopsis. They held out key information about how the book ends. PUBLISHERS want to know everything. They want to know step by step how the story goes. You will spend a lot of time on your query/synopsis if you do it right!

Also, did you have to go through an agent or did you just contact them on your own? Do you have an agent now?

Tried to get an agent but a debut novelist will have very little success with this. It’s sort of the, “I just got out of college and no one will hire me,” syndrome. Approach it the same way. Get a small publisher (small job) first to prove yourself then you won’t have to go looking for an agent, they’ll come to you. Did I just say that! I think I did! If you’re a writer and you do things this way, they will come to you! Better yet, you’ll find publishers talking to you.

How about all your book signings and things, do you feel it’s a must to guarantee the successful release of a book?

How else is anyone going to know who you are? The signings themselves will be a total bust but the advertisement on the web will get you exposure. No one will know that nobody showed up or that you only sold one book. Success depends on what you hope to achieve. If when I go to a book singing I sell ONE book. I’ve been successful. Depressed but successful. Ironically, the crowd starts to pick up a bit as you go along.

I’m really nervous about the idea of doing one and with my kids being so young, I don’t think I’d want to travel without them much. Do you think that’d be a problem if I can actually get my book to the published phase?

My kids are part of the deal. I didn’t take them to the WHC in Canada because I would’ve had to get them passports as well. I took them to Chattacon (had to leave because Reece got horribly carsick). I took them to Aiken . . . I take them if I can’t find anyone to stay with them. I’ve not had to turn down anything yet. Mostly because I plan it all. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My son is my best salesman. I can’t leave without my best salesman.

I just hate the idea of finishing my first book and then being at a loss as to what to do with it next. 🙂

As soon as you finish your MS get it professionally edited. Not critiqued, professionally edited. And by an editor that knows what a publisher wants to see. Unless you don’t care what a publisher wants to see. But then why would you be asking me all these questions? 🙂 Check around and get a few sample edits. All edits should fall into the same price range otherwise something is horribly wrong. Most editors will tell you what level of editing your MS needs. You may not require a deep edit to get where you need to be. Don’t be surprised if you do. The level of editing is based on how much work it will take to get your words the way a publisher needs to see them. To say one doesn’t need a good professional edit on a debut novel is to say “I know everything,” and you don’t! A professional edit will cost you but it is worth every penny. It’s the only reason I got picked up because while a small publisher will look at your work, it is a far better incentive when they see you’ve been edited. It’s a quicker route to turning your work into a book.
And now onto a touchy subject, DON’T get an editor that edits for a specific market unless that’s the ONLY market you want to appeal to. A good editor will tell you this though. 🙂 Find someone who edits fantasy type novels if that’s what your novel is.

Okay, I’ve rambled long enough.

Live long and prosper!

God Bless


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