Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Navigating Through the Publishing World: An 8-Step Program

Navigating Through the Publishing World: An 8-Step Program
By Brenna Lyons

How do you accomplish writing successes? I think all successes come down to a few simple things, and they overlap with writing tips somewhat.

1) Write well. I don't just mean edit well; I don't just mean know your grammar, punctuation and such, though all of that is important. I mean write an engaging story, a strong story, something that compels the reader to keep reading. I mean show, don't tell. I mean engage the senses and draw the reader fully into the world and characters. I mean, make it as three-dimensional as you can, THEN GO FURTHER and capture the reader. Make the reader think and even more important than that... Make the reader feel and care! That is the mark of an excellent fiction book! If the reader doesn't care what happens next, you aren't there yet. And, if you have to ask me if it's there, it's not there.

2) Submit well. I've been through this, so you know how seriously I take submissions. They should be clean. They should be in the format asked for by the agent or publisher and include only what they ask for...no more, no less. They should be powerful. You should know your work inside and out and be able to SHOW (not tell...show) someone why it's special, different and essential. Copycats lead to diminishing returns. In addition, you should choose your publishers well. Research them, ask around, weigh the risks, and invest well in your career as an author. This is a career, and it requires no less care than any other lifelong career track. Know what the terms mean and use them correctly. Know the questions to ask and don't rush the process of choosing a publisher and submitting properly.

3) Never give up! Stephen King threw his first book in the trash...the first few chapters of Carrie. His wife pulled them out and demanded he write more. When he argued that he didn't know anything about teenage girls, she told him to write. She'd tell him what a teenage girl would do. Frank Baum had more than 100 rejections on Oz before he got the first book published. He never stopped trying. The only difference between published and unpublished is not giving up. Well, there's a little more to it, and you can see that in this post. But, there is the ONE undeniable fact. If you give up, you will never be published. How could you?

4) Play well with the editors. It's your book. That is undeniable. But the editors are there to do a couple of things. They are there to help you make the book cleaner, more compact, and more powerful...a stronger presentation. They are also there to protect you and the publisher from things like infringement cases. I am not saying that an editor is always right. I've proven a few of them wrong. I am saying that there are some things they cannot bend on...and there are others they can. Dealing with an editor is a fine line, but there is room for negotiation. What you think the editor is saying isn't always what he/she is saying. Sometimes, you have to hash it out and see what the bottom-line problem is. Then, perhaps, your answer for addressing it might be completely different than the editor's idea but just as workable and acceptable to the editor and publisher. There are few times when you cannot work with an editor, so you shouldn't rush to call in a higher power. Most editors do have your best interests at heart, and as my first editor told me: “Editing isn't dismembering your baby; it's polishing a gem.” (Suzanne James) Sometimes, that means cutting off the rough edges before you bring in the polishing cloth.

5) Market well. No matter where you are, New York or small press, you have to be able to market yourself and your book. Never forget that the creative side of writing is really a small portion of the whole. You can't publish and sit back to let the royalty checks roll in. It doesn't work that way. If you want to sell, promote! There are a ton of resources out there. I post them often. I'll post them again, if someone wants them. Research and use them. Remember that everything you do should be part of an interconnected web, and all marketing is cumulative. Whenever possible, avoid segregating your promotion attempts. Make them work together.

6) Enter contests well. This is another thing I've written articles on, and my success in contests seems to indicate that I have this one down. You have to know your work inside and out. You have to consider the guidelines for individual contests as carefully as you consider the guidelines for publishers; remember that the one making the rules has the final say. You have to apply them, taking your audience into consideration. You have to choose your contests wisely. You have to use your finals and wins to further your promotion.

7) Remain professional when dealing with the professionals. I can't stress this enough. I've seen publishers talk. Belonging to a couple of pro lists, I've seen publishers warn other publishers about the nutcases out there submitting. NEVER burn your bridges completely. A rejection is an opinion, a simple opinion that the book isn't right for a given line. Nothing more—that is, unless the editor is rude and makes it more. Even then, authors talk too. You can let other authors know your bad experience without branding yourself in the publisher's eyes. When you're rejected, thank them and move on. When they give criticism, consider it carefully and go with your gut. If you hear the same thing many times, consider it carefully again. What you should never do is get rude and snippy with an editor. They share this. While an editor is unlikely to remember your name a week later if they have rejected you, hence the reason you remind them they asked for more from you, they WILL remember a hothead, and they will pass it on.

8) Keep writing. Few publishers want a one-hit wonder. That is the best way to build an audience, get attention and sell...having a lot to offer.

Brenna Lyons is an award-winning bestselling author in the field of indie press spec fic dark romance, erotica, journalism and poetry. In the last six years, she's been a finalist for seven EPPIES, three PEARLS, two CAPAS, and a DREAM REALM AWARD, as well as the recipient of Spinetinglers' (UK) Book of the Year for 2007.

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