Hard fact: it is really, REALLY, REALLY difficult for new fiction writers to bring their work to publication in today’s mass market. I don’t say this to discourage you. Far from it. But you need to be aware of the strong headwinds into which you are sailing before you weigh anchor.
New writers do get published, but their numbers are fewer now than ever before. Print publishing companies are facing unprecedented pressures because of increasing costs and decreasing revenues. The digital book phenomenon has played a big part in this as more people turn to e-books that can be downloaded for a fraction of the cost of a bound book or even for free. Thus, the big companies are much less likely to take a risk on a new author’s work. In the rare instance where they do so, they do it through the recommendation of a respected literary agent. The agent serves a rigorous screening function, assuring the publisher that the work being presented meets the high standards they require. Therefore, the agent is the first hurdle you must clear, a daunting task given that most agencies receive hundreds of author queries every day but request to see actual manuscripts from one or two a month at most.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that writers now have options beyond the traditional publishing powerhouses. We’ll talk about that later. First, I’ll lay out some ideas for chasing the brass ring of publishing-house publication. I’m going to assume you are just an average Joe or Josephine who doesn’t have any inside connections to a published author, agent, or publishing house. So where do you begin?
As any salesman will tell you, you begin with a marketing strategy. You decide who to target, how to advertise your product, and how to close the deal. For the writer, the first step is—more writing. You need to produce a query letter and synopsis that will be the foundation of your proposal. Then you need to research literary agencies to discover which ones might consider manuscripts like yours. Finally, you begin sending your material out. Many writers also attend conferences where they hope to pitch an agent in person. Either way, your goal is to present a product that irresistible.
Click on the links below to read my suggestions for each of these steps.
There is, however, an easier, more effective option for writers who are determined to see their work in print and who are willing to do the hard work necessary to achieve it: self-publishing. In prior years, the primary way to do this was by contracting with a subsidy publishing house to put the book in bound form for an agreed-upon fee with all marketing functions left to the author. Few people choose to go this route these days. Instead, they choose to publish their own books using tools readily available on the internet. If you are interested in this type of publishing, click on the link below for my thoughts and suggestions.