So more and more, I'm getting asked questions about my process and the path to getting published. I am more than happy to talk to anybody about getting published, but I thought it would also be good to have a resource here to direct them to. So without any further ado, here are the answers to publishing questions we have all had at one time or another!
Should I get an agent?
That depends. In this day and age, having an agent is not a one-way ticket to author stardom. In the same way, not having an agent doesn't hurt your chances of being published. Lots of publishers take direct submissions, and even the bigger publishers often have periods where they open up to unsolicited submissions for a limited time.
If you know for a fact that you absolutely must be published by one of the Big Five (Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster), then yes, you probably should query an agent. If not, then your options are very open, and an agent is not necessary in the least!
How do I find an agent?
This part takes not only talent, time, and effort, but also luck. When you query an agent (or a publisher, for that matter) you're not only banking on the fact that you've got a fantastic book to sell them, you're also depending on the fact that the book you're selling fits their taste. This is the real challenge. If you're up for that, then here's what you need to do.
1. Find a selection of agents who are open to submissions specific to what you're selling. A good place to start is at Writer's Digest.
2. Send those agents queries. Be respectful if they ask for you to only query one at a time from a certain agency. As a matter of fact, just be respectful to any of their wishes regardless.
3. Wait. This is hard. Frequently, if it's a no from an agent, you'll never hear back. You have to accept this. Sometimes you get lucky and receive some sort of confirmation that they've seen the query, whether they like the manuscript or not.
How do I find a publisher?
Well, as with anything, the name of the game is research. I use a variety of ways to be vigilant for publishers who are open to my genre at any given time. Here are some resources that I love and want to pass on to you:
Not only does QueryTracker list hundreds of publishers alphabetically, it lists whether they are open to unsolicited submissions, what genre they're seeking, and success stories from people who've queried. Oh, and it's FREE!
2. Author's Publish Magazine
This is another free resource. Author's Publish is a periodical that sends out publishers who are open to submissions, free ebooks helping you hone your craft, and articles relevant to writers. They also include direct links to the submissions pages for each publisher.
3. Freedom with Writing
Another free periodical. The only difference between Author's Publish and this one is the fact that Freedom With Writing only sends out jobs for which you will get paid, whether it's blog posts, articles, or full manuscripts.
A word of caution: no matter whom you query, respect their guidelines for submission. If they don't accept simultaneous submissions (when you submit to more than one publisher at a time) then don't do it. It's not just a faux pas; if you start disrespecting publishers, doors will start closing to you. The industry is smaller than you think, and you don't want to hurt your chances with one publisher by snubbing another.
How do I know which publishers are good and which ones aren't?
Talk to the authors. Most of us are super open to hearing from prospective colleagues and other writers. We'll tell you what we think of our publishers. For example, I had a bad relationship with my first publisher, America Star Books (formerly PublishAmerica), and that could be a separate post all on its own. But now, I absolutely adore my publisher (Evernight Publishing). There are plenty of testimonials online-- look for them before you query.
How do I write a good query letter?
Ahh, the golden question. If we authors knew the perfect answer to this, we would all be millionaires, wouldn't we? The best guidance I can give you is this: look at a bunch, and find the format that works for you. If you'd like to see mine, send me a message or comment below! I'm willing to share. You can read examples of successful letters here. Also, keep in mind that the genre you write (for me, it's fiction -- specifically YA novels) is going to affect your query, so do targeted research.
How do I handle rejection? How much is normal?
No one has a perfect answer. Dealing with rejection is different for everyone. I personally keep all my rejections in a folder, and I read them only on the day I receive them. If there's any constructive criticism in the letter, I definitely consider whether I want to make any corrections or changes based on what they've said. Usually I just read it, shrug, and move on. No biggie.
By the way, as much as getting a rejection letter can make your stomach sink, not getting one is even more likely, and even more unsettling. Prepare for that. Prepare for a lot of that.
And as for "how much is normal," that depends on how much you submit. By nature, most of what you'll receive is rejection; that's okay. You'll survive, I promise.
How long does it take?
This varies for each person. I'm sure there's super lucky genius authors who find their perfect publisher in no time flat, but I'm not one of those people. I signed with the first publisher who'd take me when I was 19, and I regret that. Then, when it was time to submit again, it took me over a year to find and get accepted by Evernight. A full year. So don't get discouraged! All the greats have been rejected multiple times. It's so, so normal.
So that's it. In the interest of not cramming too much into one post, I'll leave it at that. Still questioning? Shoot me an email, comment below, or send a carrier pigeon to my residence. I'll answer your question to the best of my ability, and I just might post it here!