So you have just finished your first manuscript and can’t wait to get published. You’ve packaged copies and send them out to all the publishing houses and agents you can find a listing for. You wait several months and keep hoping that any day you’ll be getting a reply containing a contract, a hefty cheque and an assurance of regular royalty payments for many years.
Well… the truth is that you might never get that reply. According to Writer’s Digest, only about 5% of all submitted manuscripts ever get published. This is because it’s harder for a first time fiction writer to get published than a nonfiction writer. About 10,000 new fiction titles are published each year compared to 50,000 nonfiction titles. This is mainly because most publishing houses are not willing to take the risk — investing time and money they might never get back.
It’s quit clear that right from the onset, your odds of succeeding as a published author are not great. So how do you improve this odds? I will give you 5 tips that will help improve your chances.
1. A complete manuscript is a must. Publishers and agents do not want to hear about your great book ideas, they want a manuscript that is ready for publishing. The manuscript is best sent in separate sheets that are unbound unless specific instructions say otherwise. Put your ideas to paper then start looking for a publisher, never the other way round.
2. Get an agent – This is easier said than done. It’s not at all easy to get an agent. It is not impossible, it’s just hard. If you do succeed though, an agent could be almost as good as getting a publisher. This is because a good agent will be able to open more doors than you. For instance, some publishing houses will not even look at ‘unagented’ manuscripts. Query letters are a good start. Keep in mind that real agents won’t ask you for money, they will make you money; or at least promise to.
3. Content – Getting a book deal is like winning a race: only the best will. Work on your craft. Do not be in a hurry. It takes several years to get your skills to the level of a book deal. Once you are there, work on your content. Characterisation, dialogue and plot are important, but this is fiction, you need to create a whole new world for your readers. Do your research, read a lot of fiction titles and identify authors whose work compares to yours: learn from them.
4. Edit your manuscript – You do not need a professional editor to do this. Just get a couple of beta readers to go through your work and give input. Note that I did not say family and friends. These two groups of people are very unlikely sources of honest feedback. Find a person or persons that will give honest reviews.
5. Always bundle your manuscript with a cover letter when you send it. The letter should have the manuscript’s title and your contact information. Keep it relevant and snappy by providing a brief personal biography and an even briefer novel pitch. Keep it simple and be sure to proofread it before sending it out; errors and mistakes will make for a bad first impression.
Keep these tips in mind as you look for your book deal and you just might tip the scale in your favour. Remember, getting published is not easy, you might get rejected a couple of times but never give up. Good luck.