Q: What does it take to get published these days?
A: Every author’s journey to publishing is unique and requires patience. It’s important to find an agent who can place your manuscript in the hands of acquisitions editors. Finding an agent to take your work can be as difficult as finding a publisher, but agents are on the lookout for new talent. Study the agent listings in market guides and explore agent Web sites to find those who represent manuscripts in the same category as yours. Ignore “agents” who require payment from you before they sell your work to a royalty publisher. (That’s unethical.) I highly recommend attending writers conferences, where you can meet agents face-to-face, discuss your goals, and explore where you might fit.
Q: How can I improve my manuscript before I submit it to a publisher?
A: Here are some ideas:
(1) Remember, first drafts are almost never ready for publication. Sometimes first book concepts are NEVER ready for publication, and their main value is in having begun to teach you how to write. If you send early drafts of your book to publishing houses “cold,” you’re likely to get lots of rejections. Read as much as you can about the craft of writing and what it takes to get published. There are many, many good books on these topics. The ones that will help you most depend on whether your manuscript is fiction or non-fiction and what market it’s for (e.g., religious or general, children or adult, and so on).
(2) Form a focus group of people who fit the profile of the reader you hope to reach. Ask them if they’d be willing to read the manuscript and talk with you about it. Many people enjoy doing this. Don’t surround yourself with friends who will worry about hurting your feelings. You want unfettered honesty.
(3) From a group of friends who are committed writers. Meet regularly, read each other’s work, talk about the craft, inspire each other to be better.
(4) Submit your manuscript for review to a legitimate manuscript critique service, such as The Christian Communicator.
(5) Invest money in a writers conference. Search for one that is staffed by agents and editors who have sold/published books like yours. You’ll have the chance to meet these people face to face, get feedback on your project, and possibly have the opportunity to sell your work. In addition, you’ll get valuable classroom teaching. Finding ways to build personal relationships with people who work in the industry will be helpful to you if you’re serious about a writing career.