Saturday, July 01, 2006

Secret to Writing Success #4

Successful writers write consistently. They also know where to submit their finished product. Whether you're searching for a publishing house, or hunting for an agent, knowing who to submit to is key to garnering interest in your work. Interest opens doors, offering you opportunities to submit something else to someone who recognizes your name (if you're rejected), revise, or sign that coveted contract. While it's true that an editor can decide to pass your unsuitable-for-their-line manuscript on to someone else, there is just as much likelihood that they'll simply pass it back to you.

To find a good fit, a writer has to be willing to do her homework. The Writer's Market Guide is a perfect place to start. Start not finish. After you've searched the Writer's Market Guide and made a list of publishing houses and agents who might be interested in your manuscript, make another list. This one should include titles and authors who are represented by the publishers and agents you've listed. Now, the fun part. Go to the library or bookstore, borrow or buy some of the titles you've listed, and read. Are the books similar in feel to what you've written? If you're doing mystery, are the books from publisher X cozy mysteries, and yours more hardboiled detective? If you're writing romance, have you written down a publisher who does romantic comedy when you write heartrending family drama? While there will always be a range in the tone and feel of books in any particular line, publishers are in the business of producing a product that meets specific reader needs. An author who wants to be successful strives to find a publisher whose readers will enjoy the type of story she writes.

The last and most important part of knowing the market, is staying true to oneself as a writer. Finding the best fit does not mean creating a carbon copy of what is already on the shelves. It means offering a unique spin, a new voice, something that will resound with readers and editors without veering too sharply from the pattern they've set. A successful author strives to find a good fit for her manuscript without compromising her vision and voice. Whitewashing a story to 'fit' a publishing house only leaches it of life and color, creating a bland book that resounds with no one and fits nowhere.

I'll leave you with some advice from my agent: When approaching an agent make sure you put your best possible manuscript in front of them. We often see proposals and sample chapters that are 85% ready...But that isn't enough. We need to see material and ideas that are closer to 95% ready for the market. It is VERY hard to break into the industry as a first time writer. The threshold is very high. But it does happen. Our agency placed eight first time novelists last year and one already this year. But to find those nine writers we had to cull through a couple thousand proposals.

Have the whole manuscript ready if requested. We must be able to read the whole book to determine if the writer can sustain the story to the end.

What makes it 95% ready? Crisp dialogue is critical. Dialogue develops characters and dictates pace. Too many stories bog down with "explanation" from the author. Also make sure each character has their own distinct voice. Often we see manuscripts where everyone literally "sounds" the same.

You can get more great info at his website:

Also, if you're a homeschool mom, or a writer who's struggling with balancing life, I did an interview at

You might want to check it out!

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