[This is an updated version of an old post, something I'm going to do every now and then because this blog has become so big that it can be hard for you to find what you need. Which is one reason why I wrote Write to be Published. On which subject, do head over and join the FB page and have a chance to win a crabbit bag!]
So, here's my checklist for being accepted by a publisher, in no particular order:
- Are you up-to-date with what's being published in your genre? Are you a fan of the genre? 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.
- 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. Writers write and usually get better as they go. (Though, for some interesting reasons, once you're published a few times, this may not happen...)
- Have you got lots of ideas in you? Train your mind to catch and play with ideas. But learn to discard the ones that won't work.
- Are you taking steps to discover all the rules about submitting to publishers / agents? Follow submission guidelines - they are there for a reason.
- 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!)
- Are you beginning to network by joining forums or groups (on or off-line), using Twitter, perhaps blogging or at least commenting on other blogs? Not everyone wants to be in a writers' group or something where you have to share your work (and there's no need - I certainly didn't) but if you join an organisation or sensible webgroup/forum for 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.
- Are you doing writing other than your core WIP? For example, do you blog? Or submit articles or stories to magazines. All writing is good practice and you never know where it might lead.
- Are you avoiding all the mistakes in the article on Common Mistakes of Unpublished Writers?
- Are you trying to learn about your craft, trying to improve?
- Are you open to constructive criticism from an expert? Obtaining and reacting to professional feedback is very important, especially if you've been rejected a few times already.
- Do you feel gutted and miserable and everything else unpleasant when you are rejected again? If not, you probably don't want publication enough.
- Do you ooze green poison when you read in the papers of some idiot's 6-figure debut contract? If not, you probably don't want publication enough.
- 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 ...
A very useful article. Happily I can answer yes to all of those (or I can now I have posted this comment). I'm now off to check out the 'mistakes' blog, I expect I will be guilty of all of those also. Thank you.
Nicola, brilliant! Plus a huge thank you for turning some of the um...'less acceptable' symptoms of wanting to be/stay published into positives.
"...Just be friendly, open and sensible."
Sensible?! I'm Dooooomed!
I love it. I might make a mantra of 11-13.
You said 6 because that's a regular shortlist. 8, however, us good luck in China, so a good choice. Lovely to know someone else shares my wife's numerological obsessions (personally I prefer odds and primes - she goes for evens).
Of course, it depends on the circumstances of the offer of a month on Paradise Island and the book I was offered a contract on. It may well be that the month's trip would form the basiss of a considerably better book - and one must not forget the all important fact that if your first book is a susccess, you will be expected to write more of the same. That *would* be a shame, wouldn;t it?
Another great post Nicola, although I'm sure I'm on the same page with you (pardon the pun) on items 11 and 12. If I was still terribly wounded by each rejection after so many (for 3 novels), I'd be worried that I might be too fixed on how I feel and not focused enough about learning from it to make the next submissions even better. Similarly, in a profession as subjective as writing, it seems to be that there will always be extreme winners and extreme losers and some of those 'industry choices' will be based purely on the profitability of the writers concerned. Them's the breaks, as they say. Meanwhile, my reasonably (depending on the day) measured quest for publication continues!
Ah, I do love the last one! My other half would kill me if I answered that truthfully. (Psst - of course I'd choose the publication!)
Great list, thank you.
Very interesting, and nice blog.
To be honest I couldn't tell you what my genre is, I take it that means I have a problem.
Anyway, thanks for the help.
A great post. I was with you until the last bit - I so love travelling (not necessarily Paradise Island, but just being lost in different places and meeting great people). Always with a notebook, of course - and some of my adventures have even made it into short stories (and yes, one or two have been published!)
Thank you Nicola
I think your blog is keeping me sane on this horrendous journey to getting published.
Now I have another tick list to follow and an even bigger pile of ironing, ho hum.
That article was useful and reassuring, thank you! It's great to know that hard work and a creative mind is well over half the battle.
wonderful advice except for the ironing thing. Not that I iron. But I do find that I cannot settle down to my day's writing if there are dirty dishes in the sink...
The problem I have is that whenever someone asks me which authors I read/admire in my genre (YA), my mind goes completely blank. Afterwards, I could list at least eight! Argh. I think I need to write my author-list down (which you're on, btw :-) ) and rehearse it!
excellent stuff, Nicola.
Pawse for thought at each purroint. Answer in the affurmative. Last purroint - no brainer but would want the offer to be a genuine one i.e. they are going to pay me to purrublish. I am not going to pay them to do it. Back on with the job - purrractice makes purrfect. (I may even learn to write 'human' and not 'cat' :-) !)
Useful post indeed, Nicola, thank you! I "passed" on all of them except no. 5. I'm hopeless at setting a particular time to write, for instance, tending more and more to write when I feel I can, when I can. I'm on to it though; been trying for a while to formalise my workload, writing included, to a more consistent pattern each day. I'll get there…I hope! And there's much more of something I have to do, which seems to some people as not part of work as such, which is reading. (I almost blush with embarrassment that I haven't read your novel Fleshmarket yet - I won't labour you with excuses though. But I will read it soon. )
Pertaining to 12, I can assure you I have never oozed green poison. :-)
And as for 13, I'd convince the person making the choice that both would be mutually beneficial; not only would my novel be published, but the month on the paradisical island would be well spent writing the next one…in between massage sessions and iced mango…
I'm intrigued to know what you mean in no. 2: "Writers write and usually get better as they go. (Though, for some interesting reasons, once you're published a few times, this may not happen…)"
I'm wondering what the interesting reasons are…
Thanks Nicola - I can see now what my problem is as I don't usually feel gutted and miserable after rejection, but furious and liable to snap at the next person who comes along. Usually the next thing I write will be a mad letter to a newspaper ranting about something!
Seriously, I think I should probably print out this list and carry it around with me.
Thanks, everyone, for all your comments. I'm sorry i can't reply to them all but am rushing.
The Factory - you really do need to know what genre you're writing in, because your publisher needs to know, because the marketing team need to know, because the bookshops need to know, because most readers need to know... Unless it's genuinely lit fic, in which case that counts as a genre itself.
emma - that happens to me, too!
David - i feel a blog post coming on!
Thanks, again, everyone. Keep at it!
So helpful, thanks. While being a fan of my chosen genre, I'm not exactly up to date on what's being published right now - thanks for raising that one!
You sound like the inside of my head, Nicola! I mean I know most of this stuff... I just need to be reminded now and then - thanks for posting (and no, I hadn't seen the original!
This rings true and amusing at once. Very useful. I have posted the link in my blog.
Thanks for that.
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