How to get published
Getting published is easier than it has ever been. So is writing. All you need is a computer, a word processor, and a fertile imagination. Imagination and a good command of the English language are still the most important ingredients.
Somebody once said, “Give a monkey a typewriter and in a million years he’ll have written all of Shakespeare’s works.” Of course, assuming the monkey lives that long. We ordinary mortal beings do not have a million years, so it is important to make sure we have the right tools to write our stories in the relatively short time we have.
A good writer is also an avid reader. We learn from other writers. If we read only our own stuff but not other people’s writings, we will keep on making the same mistakes.
This article is not about how to write a story but how to get published. Perhaps you’ve written a few stories already; perhaps a whole novel, but you don’t know how to get it published.
This short article will show you how.
The internet makes it possible.
There are many e-publishers out there, and it is only a matter of finding the right publishing company. And you don’t need an agent to get published. This doesn’t mean they publish anything a writer sends in. Stories still need to be written well, and all publishers require polished and edited submissions before they will accept them.
Most have the same basic requirements that need to be followed, but all e-publishers have their own special rules. It is important to read these rules and to follow them; otherwise a perfectly good story may be ejected on a mere technicality. Perhaps some day all the e-publisher can get together and decide on one common format, but until then you must follow the stated rules.
There is a wide spectrum of genres represented by the majority of e-publishers, Erotic Romance being one of the big ones.
If you’ve never written erotica, this may come as a surprise to you. Not every writer is into writing erotica. Some might even call it porn, and there really isn’t much difference, except that explicit sex scenes without a story are considered porn, but sex scenes within the context of a story are erotica or art. Again, read the rules to see what is accepted.
If you’re not comfortable writing erotica, don’t fret. Other genres are also published, but it helps to include at least some soft sex scenes. The truth is most e-publishers seem to want explicit sex scenes and romance. Those books are still the bestsellers, and it seems the kinkier the better. You may have to wrestle with your moral standards how far you want to go with your writing, but don’t write anything you’re not comfortable with, because ultimately it will show in your stories.
Many writers don’t want to write erotica under their own name so they create a pseudonym, which is fine, but many of us writers do have some kind of ego and we like to see our name on the cover of the book.
E-publishers are no different from print book publishers. They run a business and want to make money. They publish what sells…what readers demand. Sex sells, nobody can deny that.
Here is a list of genres:
Erotic or Sensual Romance
Gay/Lesbian Sensual Romance
Western Fiction and Romance
Vampires and Werewolves (everybody loves those)
Men’s Fiction (Adventure, Espionage, Military, Cops etc.)
Young Adult Fiction
How to find a publisher
If you’re looking for a publisher you probably have already written a story, but in case you don’t, before you even think about a publisher, you should have a story. It doesn’t have to be a long story. 5,000 words will do, but make sure it is finished, edited, and polished.
Don’t worry about the format. That can be done after you find a publisher. If you’ve written it single-spaced that’s okay. Once you’ve decided where to send it, you follow the publisher’s requirements. Every publisher has them on their website.
A novel or novella (30,000 to 100,000 words) may be easier to sell than a short story. The problem with short stories is that they can’t be published on their own. They have to be part of a digest, which means other writers will have similar stories.
It is important to send your novel to the right publisher. If you’ve written a Science Fiction novel you wouldn’t send it to a publisher that publishes only Romance, but most houses publish a variety of genres.
Finding a publisher is not that difficult. Let’s say you have a Science Fiction novel…just do a search on Yahoo. Look for ‘Publishers of Science Fiction’ and you’ll get a list of publishers.
The next step is to check out their websites.
As a rule it is not wise to do simultaneous submissions. Send your inquiry to one publisher at a time. Response time varies, of course. It may take up to three months to get a response, but a few might reply within days.
If you get a rejection, don’t despair. Sometimes a publisher’s quota is full, at other times your novel may not fit their criteria.
Send your story to next one on the list.
While you wait for your novel to be accepted, keep on writing. Never stop! Never give up!
As I mentioned before, always read the publisher’s rules. It is important to follow them. You may have to do some reformatting, but that is easily done with a good word-processing program.
To find out more about publishers, about submissions, and other important information check out the following sites:
Pierce Anthony Website: http://hipiers.com/publishing.html#M1
Predators & Editors: http://www.pred-ed.com/
How to edit
Everyone has a different method of editing their novels and short stories. When I’m finished writing my novel I save it in a master file, just in case something goes wrong during the editing process. Then I make a copy, call it ‘Name of novel, new’, and that is the one I edit. I don’t want to go into details here; I’ll be writing more about it in another article.
To edit a long novel takes a few days, so when I’m done for the day I highlight the last edited paragraph in red and save it. When I continue editing I start with that red paragraph (after saving it back in black). That way I never forget where I left off. During the editing process I save continually. I don’t want to get caught if my program decides to close suddenly with a little message ‘Sorry for the inconvenience…’ (I’ve learned through bitter experience after losing hours of work a few times.) Every time I stop for lunch or any other reason, I save the last paragraph in red.
Once I’m done editing I save the novel in a file ‘Name of novel, edited’. This I send to my publisher. When I get my editor’s edited version back, I again save that one in my master file. I make a copy to work with, reading it from the beginning, accepting or rejecting the editor’s suggestions and correcting any errors I or the editor missed. The final corrected version I save and label it ‘Name of novel, accepted edits’. That one I send back to the publisher as accepted. Editing the editor’s version is not difficult, because I always know by the remarks on the right margin where I stopped. Once all of the remarks are gone, I know I caught them all and I’m done.
I find my way quite easy, because I’m never confuses about what I edited and I don’t have a million copies on my computer.
I have a separate file for every novel. In that file I save all the information that is important during the process of writing the novel; files of characters, story ideas, and so on. I also keep a separate file for all my novels and stories in the pdf format. Everything concerning my books I keep in a Master File ‘Books’.
Is that your real name?
Every writer wants to get published. The question is: Do you want to publish under your real name or will you use a fictitious name, a pseudonym. Most writers have an ego; they want to see their name under their published novel or short story. Some don’t for various reasons. It usually depends on what kind of material they write.
If you write erotica, you may not want your grandmother or favorite aunt to see the good family name under a novel with the title Give it to me tonight, Lover and the picture of a naked woman or man on the cover. If you’re a guy and write sweet romance it may not do much for your reputation as a tough guy when your friends find out you write love stories.
Some writers just want to keep their name separated from their alter ego, the writer. A good reason to write under a different name is if you write adult and juvenile novels.
You may even want to use multiple names if you write different genres, like Science Fiction, Mysteries, Romance, Fantasy, etc. A few men will write under a woman’s name, because some publishers only publish novels written by women. Or a woman may use a male name as pseudonym. Some writers don’t think their real name looks good on a book and will choose what they consider a cool name.
When I started to get published I wanted to see my name on my books. I wanted people to know I’m a writer, but looking back, I sometimes wish I had created a pseudonym, because of the type of novels I write. I usually tell people I write Science Fiction, but I leave out the rest: with a dash of Erotica. Erotica does have a stigma attached to it, and some people will look at you in a funny way if you tell them you write erotica. So if you write erotica and that should create a problem for you, then by all means, use a pseudonym, but use your real name with other genres.
I have to admit though: there is no greater thrill than seeing my name on the cover of a printed book. It gives me a great feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. To use a fictitious name would not give me that, because somehow it would not be me but a stranger.
Of course, there may be other reason you can’t use your real name. Should your name by chance be John Grisham or Robert Ludlum, there may be legal reasons preventing you from using those names. How about Osama bin Laden? Or Saddam Hussein? It would only make good sense to write under a pseudonym if that were the case.
Whatever your reason, be it valid or not, before you send in your first novel, make sure you’ve put the name you want people to see as the author of what may be your greatest achievement. It you become an overnight success you’ll want everyone to know it is you who wrote that great American novel and not some person who doesn’t exist. If you create a pseudonym make certain you are happy with the name you’ll be putting on the first page of all your future books. It is an important decision.
Point of View. How important is it really?
POV…short for Point of View. It is something most writers seem to struggle with; many don’t even understand what it means, and many don’t seem to worry about.
Point of View means a story is told from one character’s perspective. I’m not talking about writing in the first-person, where the main character is telling how he (or she) is experiencing an event. Writing in third person seems more difficult, but it isn’t, as long as one remembers that only the character who is the main focus knows his own thoughts but not the thoughts of the other people, unless he is a telepath.
Revealing the thoughts of one character and then jumping to the thoughts of the second character in the same paragraph only creates confusion. No good writer should do that.
Here is an example:
*He ran down the street as he did every morning. It is a beautiful day, he thought. The driver in the car behind him thought, these stupid runners in the morning are a menace on the road. His wife, who sat beside him, still sleepy because she had to get up early, wondered why the man wore a black outfit, and hoped her husband wouldn’t hit him with the car. The daughter in the backseat could care less about the runner; her thoughts took her back to Sunday. That was a nice guy I met. He danced well. I wonder why he picked me. But then…she was a pretty girl. The old man on the bicycle felt sorry for himself for being so old, admiring the runner for his ability to run so fast.*
I admit I overdid it a little, but it is easy to see the jumble of thoughts in the story. The only way this little story makes sense if told by some impartial observer…an omniscient all-knowing entity. It is also boring, because the reader cannot identify with any of the characters. To make the characters interesting, they need to have names, and the writer has to concentrate on just one of them.
If you want to tell the story from the perspective of the runner, chose him by giving him a name. Let him do the thinking and let the reader know how he feels. He will be aware of the bicycle driver and the car, but he won’t know their moods or thoughts. He won’t even be aware of the passengers until the car passes him. If the driver of the car is an important player in the story, make sure you signal the jump to the driver’s head by giving him his own chapter or a break between the paragraphs.
There are plenty of writers out there who do this kind of ‘head-hopping’; some of the most successful writers are guilty of doing it. They get away with it because of their fame. Their editors wouldn’t dare suggest they are wrong, but that still doesn’t make it right. Just because a writer sells millions of copies, does not make him (or her) a good writer. It sounds like a paradox, because people will always associate making lots of money with being a successful skilled artist or artisan. Not so. I’m sure everyone wonders once in awhile about some of the singers, bands, painters, movie stars, or even writers, who seem to have no talent but are making megabucks. That’s how the world works. Sometimes it is hard to figure out certain things.
When I was writing for fun I didn’t really care about being morally or politically correct. I didn’t worry about sentence structure, spelling, plot, character development, or any of the other elements that make a story either a pleasure to read or just a bunch of sentences strung together. Until I started writing for publication, I had never even heard of POV. I began reading self-help books about writing and discovered I knew very little about the mechanics of writing a good story. The only thing I had going for me was a fertile imagination, and I did know I knew how to spell…most words anyway.
Any craft will have to be learned. A good writer will never say, “I know how to write. As long as I tell an interesting story, that other stuff isn’t important. I mean…look at so-and-so; her last book sold millions, and she doesn’t follow any rules. Those rules are for other writers, not me.”
Perhaps they are. Perhaps some readers don’t care if there is a thin plot or all the characters are constantly thinking about their feelings or plans…every one in the same paragraph. I for one try to put some order into my writing by following certain rules, and POV is one of those rules. I may not always be successful but I try.
Editing, editing, editing…
Writing a story is fun. To write a good story a writer must immerse himself (or herself) into the story, even to the point of almost becoming one of the characters. In our minds we must live in the world we create, and if we create a world full of adventure, mystery, intrigue, and romance, we are sad when the story ends. Sad to leave that wonderful world, but also sad and a bit anxious because now begins the work of getting this great story ready to be published.
While we experience the adventures in our imaginary world and while we put those adventures into the written word, we don’t care much about grammar, spelling or consistencies. All we care about is to get our tales onto the pages of a scribbler or, these days, into the hard drive of our computers, eager to leave a record of our dreams and imagination behind. Perhaps to read it some day and relive the experience, but if we want others to experience the great joy we felt when we spun our tale in our mind things change. We can’t just have a mess of misspelled words, unfinished sentences, long sentences without any commas or periods, or paragraphs that go on for pages and pages without breaks. If we want to pull our readers into our world, we need to make sure the writing flows. Inconsistencies need to be fixed, stated facts need to be true, timelines need to be consistent, and so on. We can’t have a character have blue eyes in one chapter and brown eyes in the next, unless the character wears contact lenses. And the reader needs to be informed of that. If we make up names for our characters, which is the case in fantasy and science fiction, we must take care not make them unreadable and we have to spell them the same every time. Readers don’t like to stumble over words.
Now to the job of editing. Writers use different methods to edit their work. Some people advise to just write the story and then worry about spelling and grammar. I don’t work that way; I already edit while I’m working. Once I’ve written a sentence, I read it again to make sure it says what I wanted to say. It makes editing the whole manuscript a lot easier later on.
When I’m done with my story I read it again and check the flow of the story. I look at grammar and whatever catches my attention. If I find misspelled words, I correct them, but I don’t really look for them. Then I read it again. This time I concentrate on searching for misspelled words and wrong words. After that I run my Spell-check program, which will call my attention to ‘misspelled’ names. Those are the names I created. When Spell-check prompts me, I add the ‘misspelled’ names to the dictionary. That way I will be alerted if I spell a registered name wrong. Spell-check will also find actual misspelled words if I missed them the first time around. However, I will never rely on Spell-check alone, because there are many mistakes in the program. Most of the time I will ignore the ‘suggestions’, but I do pay attention to them.
After the Spell-check, I usually put the manuscript away for a few days. Then I’ll read it again in the hope to find anything I might have missed.
Then I send it in and carry on with my next project.
When I get my edited version back from my editor, I don’t just go through the edits and blindly accept them. I read the manuscript again, very slowly. If I find an error or if I feel a sentence or word needs to be changed, I do so at this time. When I come to the editor’s comments and suggestions I make sure the suggestion is correct. Editors are human and make mistakes. That is a fact. I may not always take the editor’s suggestion, but I may make a change in the sentence or word the editor didn’t like.
When I started publishing, I was in a great hurry to get my novels published. I remember going through a finished novel with Spell-check, relying completely on the program to find all of the errors. I usually read the novel only once before I sent it in. Also, I accepted all of the editor’s suggestions without questioning them. Reading my earlier publications now, I find many errors that should not have been there. I’m not blaming the editors for that. I blame myself for being in such a hurry to send in my novels. After all these years and having published and edited over twenty books, I know how easy it is to miss things. We may have written the word ‘track’ when it should be ‘truck’; our eyes see that, but our mind will accept it as correct, (as will Spell-check!). Or if we write ‘if’ instead of ‘is’, a common error, our mind will convince us that it is correct when we are reading the whole sentence. Even missing words will be filled in unconsciously. That is how we are wired. We are not robots but human beings who are not infallible. We make mistakes, but with a little bit of care we can fix those mistakes.
As far as I’m concerned, editors are not there to rewrite our stories or to even correct our misspelled words or our grammar. Their job is to make certain there are no inconsistencies which we may not be aware of, improper or offensive content, and finding the odd error that slipped through our scrutiny.
Like any good tradesman (I refuse to use the word ‘tradesperson’. It sounds stupid.) we writers have to make sure we are skilled in the use of the tools needed to put down the stuff brewing inside our heads. Those tools are called ‘words’. We have to know how to spell them and how to string them into comprehensible sentences. We need to know the correct grammar and whatever goes with it. We need to study our language and keep on learning. Few of us will ever be perfect, but we can strive to give it our best.
How to spread the word…that is the question.
As of this date (May 28, 2012) I’ve published over twenty books and I’m still trying to find ways to advertise them. I post on various Yahoo groups…along with a zillion other ‘hookers’ (I like that comparison). I have a website and a blog, which are probably visited by the same twenty people or so each week.
My first book was a bestseller on FictionWise. It went all the way to #1 in sales. I was elated until I found out #1 can mean two or three books were sold that day or week.
Many times I ask myself why I bother with publishing my books. Let’s face it, there is no money in it and I’m not about to spend hundreds of dollars to make only a few. When an editor points out all my mistakes I’m annoyed and I wonder why I bother to go through endless hours of editing and rewriting to create a ‘marketable product’ when only a few copies will sell anyway. I’m happy with what I write, despite the mistakes in grammar, the misspelled words, the inconsistencies and whatever else that keeps the novel from being a perfect product.
I write because I love writing. I publish because I want to share the fruits of my imagination with others. That’s why I spend all that valuable time getting my novels ready for publication, for others to read, but how to reach those readers is the big obstacle we face as writers.I’m disillusioned with the internet, like so many other writers. As individuals we are like tiny birds in a huge forest, trying to get the attention of birdwatchers by showing off our best colors. But most of us are also a little afraid. As long as we can hide in the forest we feel safe and we are scared to flap our wings too hard too catch the attention of all those watchers. It takes a brave individual to rise above this safe haven and step into the limelight, to leave the anonymity of the internet and personally talk to booksellers, librarians, newspapers and others who could help us promote our books, or to do public readings at conventions. That is not for everyone and that is the hard part we need to overcome.