This week, the question comes from Summer, who asks:
How do you submerge yourself in the publishing world if you’ve never been published before? As in, what are the first steps you have to take (after finish your novel)?
After you finish your first novel, find critique partners if you don’t yet have any. Revise your manuscript. If this is all done already, your next step is to start querying. Start researching literary agencies and agents – and read their submission guidelines. Figure out who represents the type of story you’ve written. Make a list, and write your query letter. That’s pretty much the next step you take after finishing your novel.
Submerging yourself in the publishing world is so easy now thanks to the internet. I highly suggest joining Twitter to follow publishing houses, published authors, aspiring authors, literary agents, and anyone active in the publishing industry. Join any writing communites you can find. A lot of literary agents and authors have blogs as well, so be sure to bookmark them and read their articles. The publishing/book community is great – there are so many things to learn, and so many great people to befriend. So get yourself out there, and start making a name for yourself. You’ll learn invaluable tips regarding this trade that will help you towards your goal of publication.
Research, research, research! When I first decided I really wanted to get involved in publishing, I began reading more publishing-related blogs (Nathan Bransford, Miss Snark, Editorial Ass, agency blogs, etc.) and following authors and agents on twitter. I’m always amazed by the amount of information you can find online, even after all this time! I found plenty of sites that explained how to write a query letter and synopsis, learned about the different steps in getting published, what kind of work goes into finding an agent, then getting a book deal. So many authors and people in this business are willing to offer guidance, and so few people take the time to really soak it up. So a new writer working their way into the publishing world really needs to be a proverbial sponge.
Also, as Vanessa said, get some critique partners to look over your work. And not just your manuscript, but your query and synopsis, too. Never send stuff out without having others look it over. I’ve read so many manuscripts and synopses with typos galore, or improper formatting, and all of that could have been so easily fixed with the help of a critique partner. They’re invaluable to a writer.
Vanessa and Sammy have covered pretty much everything I can think of! But I’ll add, when you’re researching agents, see what they’ve sold, and what they like. Find interviews they’ve done on different blogs and what they say about how they read queries and any advice they give in general. Read other writers’ advice on the process so that you have a really rounded view of it and aren’t too optimistic or too pessimistic. Be as realistic as possible.
Also, follow blogs. Agents, writers and readers all have great blogs out there with not just tons of information, but a community as well. Read them and join in discussions in the comments. That way you’re actually entering the writing community. There are plenty of critique contests out there that you can enter to get a range of opinions on your writing, so seek them out and put yourself out there. Just always remember to be polite and professional.
My co-contributors have already hit most of the major points, but I’d like to reiterate that a great way to meet people (aka network) is by joining twitter. There are tons of weekly chats to discuss the industry, and you can learn a LOT just from watching professionals (authors, agents, editors) discuss the ins and outs. Also, join a site like AbsoluteWrite–it’s a great way to meet people. Be brave, and don’t be afraid to comment on popular blogs and tweet at strangers!
But seriously…. most of publishing is in NYC, and I’m in Seattle, but I am still an effective agent, because, well, the internet ROCKS. 😉 A little google-fu and you can learn ANYTHING you want.
Many agents blog (myself included), there are sites like agentquery.com or querytracker.net, forums like absolute write or verla kay, etc, etc. Do you twitter, or like message boards? Would you prefer to just passively read blogs?
Another option, if you write YA/MG, is this amazing free online conference: http://writeoncon.com/
Agents and published authors will be posting lectures, and best of all, its free.
Also, check out professional organizations– SCBWI for YA/Mg/Picturebooks, RWA for romance, SFWA for Speculative fiction, etc. There are SO MANY resources through those organizations!
How do YOU like to stay involved?