Did I get your attention? Good!
There are a few things one must do and must not do when trying to get successfully published.
- One of the very first good things to do is to go to a prospective publisher's website and check out that company's policies concerning submissions from authors. Some will take submissions directly; others require an agent. Of course, you can go old school here and check the Writer's Marketplace for the same information. Either way, take what you find there to heart.
- If the publisher you are seeking takes proposals directly from authors, find the publisher's guidelines for proposals and follow them in each and every detail. This is vital. Publishers all receive mountains of proposals regularly and a very quick and easy way to disqualify a submission and reduce the load is to send each and every proposal that does not follow the publisher's guidelines straight to the circular file. So, if you want to get noticed, follow the rules. Publishers are in the business to make money (they love books yes, but they really love books that make them money, and the authors who write them). Publishers can't make money if they have to spend extra time trying to figure out submissions that don't meet their standards.
- A second very good thing to do is to make darned sure you state the thesis, the thrust, the point of your book clearly right up front in that proposal. No publisher should have to work to figure out what you are writing about.
- A third excellent thing to do is to have explored this subject you wish to write about and know the following:
- What other people have written in this field and therefore how YOUR masterwork on this subject is different from all the others ... and YES, it needs to be different. That's not as hard as it seems as each author has lived a different life with different experiences and therefore will approach any subject from a different perspective.
- What the market is for your book. No publisher is going to take on a book that has a market of ... you and your family. The subject you undertake needs to have a market the publisher can advertise to and expect to retrieve buyers from.
- A fourth wonderful thing to do is to be polite and circumspect in your cover letter. Never say something like "You were not my first choice in publishers and I doubt very much if this will work, but as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained." Nor should you show a condescending attitude toward the readership you hope to reach by saying such things as "While I have an advanced degree in this field, I am working hard to dumb down my stellar work for the average Joe Sixpack on the street." Take these approaches and you set up red flags with whomever at the publishing house reviews your work and you are again on your way quickly to the circular file, decreasing that person's workload once again.
- Once you have turned in your proposal, RESIST the urge to follow up with regular queries on whether any decision has yet been made. This isn't a job resume. This isn't a place to practice your assertiveness training. Once you have submitted your proposal, find other things to do to distract yourself. ANNOY the person who reviews proposals and once again your carefully worded proposal will be headed for the rejection bin or garbage pail. Publishers who find authors annoying at this early stage figure they will KEEP being annoying throughout the process and life is just too short for that.
- If your proposal is accepted, and I truly hope it is, follow ALL the guidelines for assembling your book in the way the publisher wants to receive it. You do not need to understand exactly WHY the publisher needs the book in the format requested, but you DO need to follow that format. If you don't, again you are wasting the publisher's time and money and your manuscript will be rejected. Accepting a proposal and accepting a book are two different things and the first does not always lead to the second.
- If your manuscript is accepted, and again I truly hope it is, develop a sound, professional working relationship with your editor. Be polite. Know that this person is a working professional, not a service provider who will ask you if you want fries with that, and should be treated as such. Know also that your words are tools to convey meaning and various arrangements of those words will do a better job or a worse job at conveying that meaning. The editor will be looking for the best way to convey meaning and that means editing your words. Please remember that your words are not sacred text, they are not absolute genius, they are words. They convey meaning. Do not dispute an editor's changing of your words unless those edits actually change the meaning your words intended to convey. Otherwise, suck it up, you're a writer and writers need editors. The two work together to create a marketable product. This is not your fifth grade teacher, this is not judgment, editing is business and the editor works with you to make the best book you are capable of producing. Your editor will also know a great deal about copyright law and will work hard to keep you out of trouble with the ever shifting laws in the copyright world. Respect your editor's judgment. Your editor respects you as an author and deserves your respect in return.
- Finally, NEVER, EVER copy and paste text from any website, blog, book online, etc., into your book and claim the data for your own. This is plagiarism and it is always wrong. It is also obvious to a trained and experienced editor. All that editor has to do with any suspect text is copy it into a search engine and see what comes up. Plagiarize other people's work and your book may well be rejected on the spot ... or you WILL be rewriting ever passage in your own words that you took without permission from another site (as you should have done in the first place, creating a footnote or endnote stating where you got the information originally). Remember, just because work is found online does not mean it is copyright free. Every text ever written (including this one) is the property of the writer and that writer must be given his or her due.