Monday, 12 January 2009


I believe that if you can't say yes to all of these, you give yourself much less chance of being published and you deserve it less. Unfortunately, I can't guarantee that doing all of them will get you published, because that depends on what you have written and how well you have written it.
  1. Have you read lots of the most successful and modern books in your genre?
  2. Do you admire many of them?
  3. Can you say what you love about them?
  4. Can you name, easily, six authors whose books you admire in your genre? I don't know why I said six - I was tempted to say ten, but that seemed a bit tough and seven is not my favourite number. Nine would seem a bit weird. And I could have said eight - in fact, I will. Eight, then.
  5. Are you writing something at the moment? You should be. And if you've finished something and you're waiting for people to get back to you, you should be writing something else.
  6. Have you taken steps to have an online presence, such as a blog? It's a good way to practise writing and communicating, even if it's nothing like your actual work in progress. If a blog is not your scene, at least create a page somewhere, such as on a social networking site - people need to see you. You can't hide away as an author these days, unless your name is Salinger.
  7. Have you got lots of ideas in you? Train your mind to catch and play with ideas.
  8. Are you taking steps to discover all the rules about submitting to publishers / agents? As I say several times on this site, there's no excuse for not discovering these basics, such as how much to send and how to present it.
  9. Are you perfectly professional in your working life? Do you always do what you say you're going to do when you say you're going to do it? (And I do mean in your professional life - I'm not bothered whether you do the ironing when you say you're going to. In fact, if you do the ironing when you say you're going to, you've got too much time on your hands - get writing, for goodness' sake!)
  10. Are you keeping a list of ways to promote yourself - eg blogs, websites, relevant contacts. Do you keep a note of useful people's names and contact details? Do you contact people (politely and having a care for their personal space) on the right blogs and websites?
  11. Have you joined some kind of community in the writing world and found opportunities to network? Not everyone wants to be in a writers' group or something where you have to share your work (and there's no need) but if you join an organisation or webgroup/forum for unpublished/published writers, you will learn a great deal and make valuable contacts. And that you do need. Many people cringe at the word networking - so call it something else then, but still DO it. It's not creepy and crawly unless you are creepy and crawly. Just be friendly, open and sensible.
  12. Are you avoiding all the mistakes in the article on COMMON MISTAKES?
  13. Do you feel gutted and miserable and everything else unpleasant when you are rejected again? If not, you probably don't want it enough.
  14. Do you ooze green poison when you read in the papers of some idiot's 6-figure contract? If not, you probably don't want it enough.
  15. If offered the choice between a month on a paradisical island, all expenses paid, travelling 1st class, with silently gliding masseuses attending to every knot in your shoulders, bringing you iced mango whenever you feel like it, and an offer to publish your novel, would you choose publication? If not ...


Suzanne Jones said...

Dithered a bit over 15 - a holiday would be nice (of course I'm joking, there's no contest, I'd rather get my novel published).


Nicola Morgan said...

Is the RIGHT answer!

Leon Basin said...

Hey, I love your blog! I am with you on the agent or publisher:) Keep pushing something will show up... I am looking for the same thing.

Nick Green said...

Great list. I am published already, and agented, but I still sense that I'll be a regular visitor here. The need for constant advice never goes away, and past success is no indication of future success. It's not like gettin a foot on the ladder – it's not a ladder, it's not even a greasy pole - it's more like being a salmon trying to swim up a waterfall. You can never stop fighting.

And I haven't read nearly enough children's/YA fiction. Shame on me.

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks, Nick - I know your name from balaclava! Have just written a piece triggered by your post on another article. Good luck. And yes, shame on you! But more to the point, you don't know what you're missing - teenage fiction entirely satisfies my need for writing that is deep and brilliant (not that it all is of course - remember that a lot of stuff is published that we might think WHAT???????? about ....)

emmadarwin said...

What a great list, and so true - specially about the ironing. I used to say that I wrote because it was the only respectable excuse I'd found for ignoring the washing up. Now people don't ask me why I write, but that would still be an honest answer, if not the only one.

7 is interesting too. I think a lot of aspiring writers feel as if the ideas they come up with must be as large and coherent as they seem to be in (someone else's) finished novel. Except, of course, that all ideas start as little elusive wisps of images and thoughts - scraps of paper, scribbly shapes.

As for 15 - well, having been on the shortlist for the Prince Maurice Prize, I know that very, very, very occasionally, the two things are not incompatible...

(And now I'm asking myself how on earth I've managed to miss your blog till now. Straight into my blog roll with it.)

Nicola Morgan said...

Hi Emma
That's such a CRUEL point you make about paradisical islands/travelling 1st class etc - I don't want to know! I guess the reasons you've missed my blog before are a) it's verrry new b) you don't exactly fall into the unpublished author audience ... Keep up your great successes

emmadarwin said...

I was an unpublished author for a verrrrrry long time myself, though, and I know how much it helps to have both advice and fellow-shoulders to cry on. And now I'm teaching workshops and things, I get asked advice myself - hence my delight in finding your blog.

(Sadly, I didn't get to Mauritius in the end - shortlist, but not finalist, or however they divide it, though. So near, and yet so far...)

Kimber said...

I've been working my way through your blog for a while now, having just discovered it. Wonderfully encouraging!