When I began my writing adventure, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. (The same can be said of life at birth—not a bad analogy.) My manuscript cowered in my computer for a year until my grown children repeated someone’s speeches about trying new things. Primarily to get the kids to leave me alone, I began a slow assault on publishing, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs I share with you now.
- Locate agents who’ll accept an unpublished author. This is a much harder task than I expected. While publishers won’t look at you 99 times in 100 without an agent, agents won’t talk with you if you’re unpublished. The good news is I had a short list. The bad news is the market is flooded.
- Invest in a professional edit. One of three agents gracious enough to e-mail me recommended this step, and I braced for the assault I received. It was ugly. It was demoralizing. It was critical to the rest of my story. Related to this, if you’re not a trained writer (journalism or English degree, preferably with work experience in related fields), then attend classes at your local institution. Unfortunately, enjoying high-school English probably isn’t enough.
- Join credible author groups. For me, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (http://bit.ly/bVlYc3) and American Christian Fiction Writers (http://bit.ly/xSemvf) were good fits. I located agents and editors through these organizations, and found a conference that led to agent representation. These types of groups link to other groups and journeyman training opportunities (such as the Christian Writers’ Guild—http://bit.ly/gp7hb—with classes for every level of ability).
- Attend conferences and seminars whenever possible. This is key. Not only do you meet other authors at these gatherings, but agents and acquisitions editors. You find opportunities to pitch your manuscript, dazzling professionals with your work. (For the agents’ perspective, see this article: http://buff.ly/17oYIlR.)
- Be ready to respond with a complete work. Less than three days after returning from a conference, one of America’s top publishers asked for my first manuscript. Their request provided the credibility for a top-tier literary agency to sign me. But a week before the conference, my inbox was FLOODED by fellow attendees panicking because they made appointments with editors and agents requiring a complete manuscript, and their work was unfinished. Could they appear less professional? I don’t think so. Play by the rules or graciously leave that slot for someone who meets the criteria.
I’m completing my third manuscript now, and my agent is shopping the three-book proposal to numerous major publishers who requested it. I’ve been fortunate to get good advice, and hope this blog helps you on your journey. (Part Two is next week.)