I’ll be honest. Publishing is changing.
I’m not sure if it’s for better or for worse, but eBooks and self-publishing are evolving (or mutating) the market. For those who want to get a book professionally published, I am here to help. I work full-time as a ghostwriter in the industry, but being a ghostwriter means discussing clients for whom I worked would sprout a lawsuit.
However, I just used ”whom” correctly, so that should instill some confidence.
1.) Have a great idea.
This is the Big One. Ideas. Not even writing styles matter as much as this. Just consider Fifty Shades of Grey or (dear God), the horribly-written Twilight Trilogy. Both authors sound like discount-bin Hallmark cards, but their novels made millions. Why? Because they had good ideas. You need one too.
Your novel idea has to be 1.) fresh, 2.) original, 3.) unique and 4.) long enough for a book. You notice three of those words are synonyms? That’s not an accident. A great idea is one that’s never been done before. That’s what makes them great.
2.) Learn proper grammar.
You could take courses if you like, but why bother? A grammar course isn’t worth that much, and most of what you learn, you forget. Instead, here are two much cheaper options. First, you read lots of books. Whatever books you want, just books. Read and read. Believe it or not, you’ll absorb grammar through osmosis. Second, buy an updated copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Reading that book is worn out writing advice, but I have my own twist on it. Copy it. By hand. You heard me. The entire thing. I did it and by the time I finished it, I had those rules branded into my brain.
3.) Let someone else read it.
For most authors, this is the hardest part. Having someone read your unpublished novel is like standing naked before them, and we Americans are a shy bunch. But you can’t just write it, edit it and send it to a publisher. You need another set of eyes. I would suggest going to Elance , an online freelancing community. There are professional readers for hire here, and they won’t pull punches. Read their reviews and hire someone who has positive feedback, not a sycophant that just wants money. Never in life is a sycophant more dangerous than to a budding novelist.
4.) Be professional.
Writers are artists. Easy to remember when you think of Owell, Shakespeare and Steinbeck. Not so easy to call James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks “artists.” But they are. You’re an artist, but that’s not granting permission to become temperamental.
When looking for publication (See Writer’s Market online!), being professional means reading the publisher or agent’s guidelines and follow them to a T. Send queries, send thank you emails, be patient and if you hear nothing back, that means they are not interested. Tantrums are not professional.
5.) Grow thick skin.
Do you know how many publishing houses turned down the first Harry Potter? Or Stephen King’s Carrie, Orwell’s Animal Farm or Golding’s Lord of the Flies?
Publishers are people, not St. Peter at the pearly gates. They make mistakes. Some reject work kindly and some reject work with venomous (and misplaced) impunity.
Either way, be prepared to deal with a few dozen rejections before you hear anything encouraging. It’s the darker side of publishing, but it also ensures that the majority of writers really want to be writers, and are willing to slog through the muck to make it happen.