Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Arcane Art of Getting Published

Ahh, getting published.  

I honestly think that there are more articles, blogs, and guides about how to get published than there are authors with novels they hope to sell.  But, I feel compelled to put my own out there, at least from my perspective.  I have two unpublished novels that I repeatedly tried to get published countless times, and I have quite a handle on how the beginning of this process works.

So, here is Katrina Rue's unofficial guide to getting published!

  • Step One:  Learn how to write.  No, there are not teams of editors with red pens standing around to fix your novel.  If you can't craft a sentence, please learn.  If you can craft a sentence but you don't understand characterization, plot, etcetera, learn.  If your spelling or grammar is atrocious, learn.  Get the gist?  There are plenty of resources out there... groups, classes, books, poor college students, and the like.
  • Step Two:  Write the novel.  Most non-published authors have to present agents (see Step Three) with a complete manuscript before they will be taken on as a client.  The exceptions are the usual subjects: celebrities, politicians, other luminaries.
  • Step Three:  Find an agent.  These are the wizards that hold the keys to publishing contracts.  They are the people that talk to publishers on the behalf of their clients (read: you) and get them said contracts, and usually take a cut of advances and royalties.  The amount I've heard quoted most often is 10%.  There are several ways to go about doing this.  Many people go to conventions to meet agents, send query letters to agencies, or network their backsides off until they end up finding an agent.  Some people, however, are fortunate enough to find one of these rare creatures in their immediate acquaintance.  I have cursed the heavens several times wondering why I couldn't have been born into a family that counted an agent among their numbers.  If you aren't one of these lucky people, be prepared to WORK.
  • Step Four:  Agents talk to publishers.  If you have seen the episode of South Park where the boys were trying to drive a corporation out of town and encounter underpants gnomes, this would be the "???" Phase in between "Collect Underpants" and "Profit".  I have no idea what happens here, but the agent talks to publishers and hammers out the deal between them and you.
  • Step Five:  Profit.  I understand this involves a lot of signing things.

This is the process of getting something published, in a nutshell.  It sounds pretty easy, but it's just as difficult as getting discovered as an actor or musician, but without 90% of the associated glamour.  And, of course, I'm really glossing over several important bits, like writing a proper query letter, finding these mysterious beings they call "literary agents", and writing clearly and effectively.  But those are all entries for another time.

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