My friend Annie is writing a book and I was wondering what to tell her, as far as how to get published. What are the dos and don'ts?
By Sadie Lynn from USA
I've had magazine articles published, but have yet to get a book published (life sort of got in the way of my book manuscript being finished, I'm afraid). But here are some general rules of thumb:
1) If possible, get magazine articles published first. Editors are usually more willing to take a chance on somebody with a proven track record. Though it does happen, it's rare that somebody gets a book published without getting smaller projects published first. Not trying to discourage your friend, just saying that being previously published helps a lot. The easiest way to get a magazine article published is to write a how-to article, and submit it to a smaller magazine. Larger magazines simply will not accept articles from newcomers, with very few exceptions.
2) Make sure that spelling and grammar are good. Nothing will annoy an editor more than a manuscript that he/she would need to spend days correcting. That will get a manuscript rejected instantly.
3) Wait, there is one thing editors find more annoying: A manuscript that's hard to read. These people do a LOT of reading, so if you give them eyestrain, they'll give you the heave-ho. Online, you can find the proper way to prepare a manuscript. ABSOLUTELY double-space the lines, number the pages, use white paper, and a PLAIN font that's easy to read. (Arial and Times New Roman are good.) Save the fancy fonts for your computer-generated greeting cards. ;-)
4) She should read other books similar to the one she's writing...lots of them. Check out who's publishing these books, as those might be good places to submit the manuscripts. You don't want to submit a manuscript about cooking to a publisher that specializes in scientific manuals, LOL. There's a book called the Writer's Market, published annually, which is a must for any serious writer to have. Most major libraries get it every year, or you can buy it, yourself.
5) Be willing to make/accept changes an editor deems necessary. They hate dealing with people who refuse to change one semi-colon, thinking their work of art is perfect.
6) The cover letter sent with the manuscript is CRUCIAL. Unless the book is a work of fiction, your friend should explain what makes her qualified to write about the subject. For instance, I've written articles about pen pals, record collecting, and rubber stamping, because these are hobbies I was interested in. So you don't have to be an expert, just "know your subject," as the saying goes. Again, online, you can find lots of advice on writing a good cover letter.
7) If there are any writers' groups in your area, find them and attend meetings. They can give lots of tips and advice.
8) If your friend can't get a book published on her own, she might need to get a literary agent. Google can help her find one.
9) Most importantly: Accept criticism gracefully! I failed to do that once in my impetuous youth, and ruined a relationship I had with an editor who had accepted several of my articles for publication. If you have an objection to make, always be polite about it; your editor is your boss, and should be treated as such.
I hope this info will help your friend get started. Remember, there's all sorts of info out there on the internet. Google is definitely the first place to start! :-) (03/20/2010)
I just found this site, which has LOTS of great articles!
This may seem self-evident, but don't pay to be published or sign over the rights to a publisher without compensation. Vanity publishers prey on people who want to see their work in print, but they make their money selling books to the authors, not selling books to the public, so the book never gets promoted to real readers. If an author just wants to have a copy or two of their book, or wants to sell a few copies to friends, print-on-demand sites like Lulu are economical without all the hype.
As far as approaching commercial publishers or, more likely, agents, writing a good query letter is a good place to start.
http://www.agentquery.com is a nice site that lists agents by various categories, with information on how to contact them and how to write a query letter.
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums is a big, busy and very helpful online forum for writers. (03/28/2010)
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