I am a novelist. I love to write books and I confess, I have an overactive imagination that usually sends my stories to the supernatural zone. As a novelist, the process of writing is a daunting task, even to the most experienced. There is nothing more devastating for any novelist when a finished book is sent it off to a literary agent with high hopes, but gets shot down when you are told your story is just not what they are looking for. Yes that rejection hurts and it can overwhelm you, it can even make you feel like a failure.
Don’t let that happen.
When I write, I am my own worst critic. I fret over each and every sentence. I check for proper grammar use. I correct improper punctuation. I check my storyline to make certain all time frames are in sync. I read my story for content; then I read it again; and then again. Finally, after months of careful work, I feel I have a finished product. Of course, this is when things become much more challenging, is my work good enough to find an agent, and will I be able to get my masterpiece published?
I got tired of those rejections since I knew they were not actually a rejection of my work, but more of a rejection of who I am. I have no name recognition, and the truth is many agents or publishers don’t even read most submissions sent in to them. Oh, they might have a subordinate read them, as each submission must make it through a range of different people but if any one of those people who may skim over your submission should make an off handed judgement from reading one or two sentences, then your work is doomed. It can take years for anyone in the traditional publishing world to notice you and accept your work.
For the most part I am a self-published author and I am proud of it! The truth about traditional publishers is, unless you already have a big platform, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll get a fat cheque or a decent marketing budget from any traditional publisher. Yes, publishers pay more for celebrity books—and market them heavily—because they already have an audience. They know those books will sell if they reach the right people. The lower the risk, the happier they are to invest. If you are a beginner, in other words, a nobody to them, you will be hard pressed to get any literary agent or traditional publisher to ever take notice of you.
Of course, there is always the chance some publisher would want to take a chance on your book then who knows, you might suddenly find yourself in the big time would, but do I think that’s going to happen? Naw. I decided long ago I wasn’t going to play that game. There’s a rule in marketing, and it’s that you promote your most successful content. If something does well on its own, it’s worth you investing money into it to make it go even further. I made that decision and I have not regretted it one bit. Actually all of my books have continued to sell, and guess what, I keep nearly all the money they generate for me!
I felt with a traditional publisher I would just be wasting money on a sinking ship. If any of my book sales are paltry, then it’s highly unlikely any publishers would reach into their pockets to promote my book to try and fix this as the margins in traditional publishing are very small. They’re therefore going to promote any book already doing pretty well.
When I made the decision to self-publish, I knew that any success as well as any failure would be my own. That’s part of what I like about it self-publishing. I have learned far more from self-publishing than I would have if I pursue traditional publishing. And if I had gone down that route, to try and get an agent or publisher then I would likely still be waiting for my first book to be published since traditional publishing moves at a snail’s pace once a publisher has one of my books in their hands.
When I wrote my first novel it was certainly a creative process, and I knew I had a good idea when it won second place at a fancy well-known book writing event in Arizona. I was floored when one of the judges followed me out the door and said that I should have won first place, but because they had another judge who had submitted her own book, the majority had felt they should give her the first place title since, of course, she was one of them.
Yeah, well that’s the way it goes, it’s all about who you know, never really about the quality of what you wrote. But I did appreciate that person’s candor, since she flat out said that she, along with several of the others had felt my work was the best. That, at least gave me some encouragement. Needless to say, I have never submitted another one of my books to that writing group. But it was certainly a learning experience.
Yes, I know there are people who have made it in the traditional publishing world and I have not given up on that, I still occasionally send in a manuscript, and I still expect and get rejections. But that’s okay. I can take it. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll get a traditional publisher to want one of my books, but until then I will keep on publishing them myself and reaping my rewards and continuing to be thrill everytime I sell x number of books any given month. I confess that I love that feeling!
So, my advice? Write about what you know and what you love. Stick with your project! Self-publish or try for a traditional publisher, it’s all your choice. And remember, you can do both!
Keep this checklist by your side as you finish off your writing and start to approach publishers.
Don’t ignore the easy stuff. When you write a manuscript, make sure that it is perfect before you publish it ot send it to a publisher.
- SPELL CHECK – don’t ignore your grammar either.
- CONSISTENCY – Character names and place names must have conformity in your book. This is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy, or fairness.
- CHRONOLOGY – have you checked the arrangement of dates and events in your book? Do they follow your story accurately?
- LANGUAGE – is your book clearly written? Does it use words in a structured and conventional way? f you use more than one adverb and adjective in any sentence, are you sure you need them? Can you say the same thing but use less words in each sentence?
- CHARACTERS – Who is your strong main character? Is this character a protagonist? Does this character pursue the goal in the plot of your story? Does he or she differentiate from other main characters, mentors, or sidekicks? Does his or her character center around and develop throughtout your book? Can your reader identify with this character?
- By definition a protagonist is often the hero of the story. Most protagonists display common traits. These traits set them apart from other characters:
- They are driven by a goal, duty, or curiosity
- They have a relatable character flaw
- Often these characters are loyal to cause, family, and allies
- Many times they experience change
- They are brave and courageous; superior in intelligence and strength
- They invoke likeability
Does your story have an antagonist who stands in opposition to your protagonist’s goals? An antagonist is often called the villain, but can also be a group of people, or institution, a force of nature, a personal conflict or a flaw of character that your protagonist must overcome. The best way to discern the antagonist is by asking who stands in the way of the story’s goal? The antagonist can share most of the protagonist traits but for different reasons. The most noticeable shared trait is the antagonist’s ability to invoke feelings of unease or distrust.
6. WRITING STYLE – do you show and not tell? Have you presented things as in real life?
7. THEME – What genre does your book fall into? A genre is determined by writing style such as narrative; technique; tone and content. Some common genre types are: Science fiction – Comedy – Satire – Drama – Action Adventure – Romance – Mystery – Horror – Self help. You must know what genre, or in some cases, genres, your book falls into. Ask yourself if the characters in your book fit your chosen genre?
8. DIALOGUE – An author uses dialogue in a novel to help their readers get to know a character. Start a paragraph as soon as possible with dialogue. Dialogue will also reveal a character’s emotions and actions. Good dialogue shows reality in conversations between characters and brings about character development and helps to advance the plot of a narrative. You use less words when you have characters in dialogue and as characters engage in dialogue, they reveal plans of action, as well as their inner thoughts and emotions. The use of “he said” and “she said” are one of the few invisible uses in the English language and is almost impossible to overuse. It is much less distracting than “he retorted,” “she inquired,” “he ejaculated,” and other oddities. It should be used.
Remember: Your reader doesn’t care. If you must use something other than “he said,” or “she said” use the simplest, most common word you can get away with. But mostly, use “said.” Dialogue must have a purpose. It must reveal character, move the plot along and build tension. Above all it must be interesting.
Dialogue tags: she said/he said is almost invisible when read on the page. The eye skims over it. It does not skim over she replied, he retorted, she answered. Use other verbs sparingly in dialogue. Nor does the eye skim over: She said sadly, while gazing at him adoringly. He snarled angrily. (Use adverbs sparingly.) Show how your character is saying something (or feeling) using your dialogue.
Using such a sentence as – He snarled angrily – think about it. You cannot snarl in a sentence. You cannot giggle or laugh in a sentence! NO – ‘You are the uglist person I’ve ever met in the entire world,’ he snarled.
YES – ‘You’re a nasty piece of work,’ he said.
Good dialogue is not realistic. It is a smarter, more dramatic version of real speech.
9. STRUCTURE –
- Exposition — Does the opening of your story, including a reader’s introduction to characters and settings flow? Do your characters attributes and issues that you introduce continue in theme throughout your book?
- Rising Action — Do you show a series of events which complicates matters for your characters? Does these events result in increased drama or suspense in your book?
- Climax — is the the final test or confrontation where your characters encounter their opposition, and either win or lose clear in your novel?
- Falling Action — This can be a series of events that unfold, usually after a climatic episode, which then leads to the end of your story.
- Resolution — This is the end of your story. All the problems must be resolved (or if not resolved, that must be clear in the story also.) A resolution, is the final part of your novel in which the strands of the plot have been drawn together, matters are explained and resolved. This is called the denouement, catastrophe, or revelation.
Every chapter of your book should make your reader WANT to turn the page!
Now that your novel is completed, if you wish to send it to a traditional publisher you must submit a great Query letter.
A query letter is an important step to getting your book published. The goal of a query letter is to get a literary agent or an editor at a publishing house interested enough in your book to sign you as a client.
A good query letter is one page — never longer
It contains no errors — typing, spelling, punctuation, and grammar must be perfect
Gets immediately to the point
Appears on good quality paper, if send by snail mail, but most want these sent by email these days
Is upbeat in tone and style
Another Important Point is finding the RIGHT EDITOR for your book.
One of the most important tasks in getting your book published is to find an editor who’s going to get behind your book.
A good editor will help your book to make it to the publishing world or even if you self-publish your work must still be edited. To find an editor who’s a good fit, try these tips:
Read acknowledgment pages of books similar to yours — authors often acknowledge their editor’s contribution
Scour press coverage of books you admire for the editor’s name
Go to writers’ conferences and/or conventions and network
Call the company that published a book similar to yours and ask who the editor is.
GOOD LUCK AND CHECK OUT MY BOOKS!