Since Chalkboard Specials published a month ago with Kellan Publishing, an oft asked question I’ve been getting has been how I went about getting published. The funny thing about this question is, I’ve gotten it more from readers than from writer peers of mine. I guess that makes sense, as a lot of writers are at least somewhat aware of the submission and publishing process. And for others, it’s an esoteric, far off bridge they will learn to cross when they walk up to it – maybe bruised and breathing hard.
Going off to college felt like the world was going to end, like he was leaving his old life to find salvation in a new one where no one would know him. How was that going to work?
~Excerpt from Chapter 1
I get it. Why bother yourself with that part of the writing process if you have the largest elephant in the room daring you to finish a book manuscript because you have the audacity to dream? But it might not be a bad idea to be aware of who might be interested in reading what you have to share with the world. Half of getting published is research. And the five W’s from English class. These days, it’s way too easy for a publishing entity to pass up your manuscript because you blindly sent out your book in a wave of form letters and poorly planned out samples. More on that later.
But getting published is kind of like that: you’re just looking for someone to go to the school dance with. You work up some gusto – maybe ask one or two people, hope they aren’t friends if they both say no, and see what happens. And if your first choice says yes, you’re over the moon. But people will say no. You’re likely to get more than several before someone decides to give you a chance.
You can’t control which publishers will say yes or no. It’d be really great to have that superpower, but as hard as you’ve worked on your prose, it just might not be what the publisher is looking for at the moment. Try not to take that personally. It wasn’t necessarily a matter of literary merit, but of catalogue preferences. Publishers are usually looking for something very specific and not a lot of manuscripts will fit such a narrow scope.
What you can control is the quality of your application/submission. You could have the next great American novel, but it won’t mean anything if a reader or an agent gets so frustrated with your lack of attentiveness that your magical prose is the last thing on their mind. Make sure you follow the submission guidelines. It deserves to be said again – make sure you follow those submission guidelines! Everything else will have to be clear and concise before your story is dealt with. Personal info, book info, cover letter, these are supposed to be the breadcrumbs you leave that makes reading your sample or manuscript irresistible. But make sure it’s within the parameters that the publisher sets forth.
And it will be a pain, but try not to get so complacent with your cover letters and samples. Yes, often times, publishers will want the same materials, but if you believe the publisher would truly be interested in your story, personalize the cover letter to their wheelhouse of inventory, especially if you’re a fan of a book or two in their catalogue.
The least you can do when trying to get published is make sure your submission info is correct before pressing ‘send’. Submit several different submissions across multiple days, just so you don’t get tired and lazy, trying to cram all your submissions into a single sitting. Check over the forms three or four times if you have to. The stakes should be high. This is your masterpiece after all. And don’t stop. Take a breath. Eat some food. Watch something that makes you laugh. But don’t stop. No matter how many no’s you receive. Wear it like a badge of honor and keep going.
Get your copy of Chalkboard Specials, For Those Who Need Shelter Inside