Mark Terry

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How To Get Published

September 26, 2006
First, let's define "published." I'm going to define it as a non-family member paying you for your work and publishing in print, on the Internet or in some other fashion so people can pay the publisher for the privilege of reading it, or, in the cases of many Internet publications and newspapers, so advertisers can take out ads, which provides publishers with revenue.

1. Writesomething.
By definition, a writer writes. Not wants to write. Not talks about writing. A writer writes. So in order for you to get something published, you must write something and complete it.

2. Make it neat.
Contary to what some aspiring writers believe, an editors job is not to "fix" your mistakes. There should be few if any typos, misspellings or any other errors. Ideally your work is so perfect that all an editor would have to do is publish it. (Good luck with that). 1-inch margins, 12-point font in something like Times New Roman, Ariel, Courier. If it's fiction, you want double-spacing. Nonfiction often is written in single-space. I didn't use to do that, but I do now since I turn in nearly all materials as an attached Word file, and the editors can change it to double space or whatever they want with the push of a button. Follow the publisher's guidelines if there are any.

3. Send it to an appropriate editor and publication.
This requires some research. Sending a manuscript of any kind off to the publication with an editor's name attached is a near-guarantee of being relegated to the circular file, or instantly deleted.

4. If you're actually mailing things via the U.S. Post Office, you should include some sort of SASE, although I don't think, in the case of fiction, you should bother with anything more than a #10 envelope with a stamp and your address on it. Your manuscript isn't going to be re-usable if they send it back, so save yourself the money.

5. Be patient.
Editors and agents get tons of stuff. Yours is in the stack.

6. Be persistent.
I'm a fairly big believer in multiple submissions and an even bigger believer in being persistent. Keep sending stuff out until there's no more market or you get an offer.

Okay. Addendum to the above obvious things.

1. Learn to write well.
There's probably some of you who read my materials and say, "Hey, you dyslexic moron, how do you get off saying this?" I get off saying this because I am regularly published and paid for it, ergo, I know how to write well. I have a clean, efficient, clear writing style. It is, above all, effective. Is it elegant and poetic and graceful? On occasion, but that's not the type of writing I respond to so it's not the type of writing I aspired to. It is, above all, effective. It does what I want it to do, which has allowed me to-date to publish several novels, two short stories, and literally hundreds of articles and book reviews. Could it be better? Friends, it can ALWAYS be better.

2. If you're writing fiction, get an agent.
Is this an absolute must? No. There are many fine small presses that will accept unagented materials. I got DIRTY DEEDS published without an agent. But I got a better publisher and a significantly better series of contracts for THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK, et al., with an agent. And if you have any hopes of breaking into the big New York publishers like Random or St. Martin's or HarperCollins, you' pretty much have to have an agent.

3. Do your homework.
This applies to marketing and writing and everything else. With the existence of the Internet, you have no excuse for being lazy. Don't know whether a Glock semi-automatic has a safety or not? Look it up. Don't know what a semi-automatic is versus an automatic? Look it up. Don't know what the capital of Pakistan is or have an idea of the name of its leader is? Look it up. (Islamabad and Musharraf, although I'm sure I didn't spell his name right). Sames goes for editors names, agent's preferences and proper manuscript format. It's at your fingertips. Don't be lazy.

4. Decide what you want.
Do you just want to get published, have a book in print to sell to your friends, assuming you have any? Then consider a POD publisher like iUniverse, where you pay them to print the book. They'll do a decent job, they're not too expensive and yes, you'll have a book there to give Mom. Just don't expect much else.

Do you want to possibly make money from your book, start a writing career, and maybe in the back (or front) of your minds have dreams of making a living as a writer, as a novelist, of finding your book in bookstores, of communicating to readers, of book advances and foreign rights sales and movie options...

Then avoid POD and vanity publishers like they were carrying the avian flu. They will do absolutely nothing for your writing career. It's possible they'll even hurt it, though mostly they'll just be ignored. Look for a publisher who follows my definition at the beginning of this entry.

Are there other guidelines? Oh hell yes. But these are the basics. But you knew all these already, didn't you?

Mark Terry


Anonymous Dory said...

"There should be few if any typos, misspellings or any other errors."

When an MS isn't "clean" it distracts from the story and disrupts the pacing.

Editors receiveing Hard Copy, usually prefer Mono-type font.

When sending out HC, Courier New 12 pt. because all letters take up the same amount of space; it's so much easier to read, and make notes on HC.

Just for the heck of it, I 'did' 10 pages of an MS that wasn't 'clean' to see how much longer it would take me to edit.

Twice as long; I won't do it again.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Ron Estrada said...

And don't forget to read stuff.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous dory said...

Oh, Ron you so made my day, and ruined my eyemake, too. ;)

You are absolutely correct!!

And if you CAN'T read it yourself,
find some poor literate soul who can......

10:36 AM  

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