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Top Ten Things Every Aspiring Author
Needs to Know

Copyright Rachel Carrington - All Rights Reserved


The publishing industry can be a maze to authors trying to learn the ropes, and a writer has enough things to learn about the art of writing itself without getting lost in a sea of rules and regulations. So the following are some ways to navigate through the labyrinth:


1.        Knowing how to write a query letter isn’t optional.

Your query doesn’t just introduce your book, it introduces you. There are myriad courses and articles on the Internet which can teach you how to write one of these jewels, but the three most important things to remember are:

  • The opening hook followed by a short summary of the book;
  • A little about yourself and your credentials and
  • A request to send in a partial or full.

An editor or an agent will appreciate a succinct letter which delivers a powerful punch, and you will be one step closer to getting your work noticed.

2.         Taking the shotgun approach can work against you.


You’ve written one novel, and you’d like to get it out to as many places as possible. Unfortunately, you receive sixteen rejections in the space of two weeks, but some of those rejections might have given you feedback on how to improve your novel. So if you’ve already sent it out to all of the places, where do you have left to send it once you’ve improved upon it?


When I’m submitting a manuscript, I usually keep it to one-three publishers or agents. If I know I intend to submit to an agent, I do not submit to publishers as agents like fresh material.  This is not to say don’t be aggressive about sending out your work. Just leave some doors open so you’re not out of options when you’ve polished your novel for the seventeenth time.   


3.         A rejection does not mean you cannot write.


We’ve all gotten them. Those form rejections with a polite but definite no. Well, before you start thinking that you can’t write or you need to shelve your manuscript and forget all about your aspirations, think of this: Gone with the Wind  was rejected ninety-nine times before it was finally accepted. So quite possibly, the publisher(s) didn’t think it would fit with what they were publishing, didn’t like it, just didn’t want it, or perhaps they’d just published something similar to it.


Form rejection letters don’t tell you very much. So don’t make assumptions. Just chalk it up to what it is and move on. Rewrite if you feel it’s necessary, but don’t accept the first no or even the twentieth as the final answer. Each rejection brings you closer to an acceptance.


4.        An acceptance doesn’t mean you can.


While an offer for publication can be exciting, it is also the time to know exactly what lies ahead if you choose to accept that offer.


In the consumer world, the phrase “caveat emptor” is used to warn buyers to be careful before they make a purchase. In the publishing industry, it’s writer beware. Some publishers are looking for quantity not quality, and signing with an unknown publisher won’t necessarily further your career. So take time to check out that publisher, talk with some of its authors (if it has any), and make sure this house is one with which you want to be associated.


5.        Patience is a requirement.


With turnaround times averaging six to eight months, publishers are inundated with requests from aspiring authors who have more enthusiasm than patience. A good story will sell, but it’s not going to sell any faster because you e-mail and/or call every month. In fact, you’re more likely to get a hasty rejection.


6.        You should know more about marketing your book than your publisher.


No one knows your work better than you. Yet, most new authors know little, if anything, about marketing their book so they’re caught off-guard when the acceptance comes. So begin your education about marketing now. Attend  conferences and other writing get-togethers to learn from your fellow authors and read about marketing and promoting.


7.       You will need to promote your book no matter which publisher you sign with.


I know it sounds strange, but promoting your book isn’t just your publisher’s responsibility. The book is yours and so is the job of marketing it. Even the biggest names in the publishing industry participate in promoting their novels, and you’ll be expected to do the same, but if you follow tip number six, you’ll be one step closer to knowing what to do.


8.         Your first sale is only the beginning.


The first publishing contract opens up a world of infinite possibilities, but it can also test your determination to be an author. This is when you’ll learn whether or not you have the stamina to withstand possible multiple editorial changes, editor changes, a flurry of paperwork, and even rejections from your current editor.


While it sounds simplistic, the first sale is the beginning of your career. Whether or not you stay in this line of work is up to you.


9.         Burning bridges can affect your career.


In publishing, just like in any business, there will be some bumps in the road. How you navigate your way around or over those bumps could have a lasting effect on your career. Even though this is a big industry, the grapevine still exists. So resolving a problem civilly and professionally is a requirement.


Always think resolution when discussing a problem or issue and be diplomatic, especially if you decide it would be best to sever ties with your current agent, editor, etc. Of course, a termination of your contract would be subject to the terms allowed within the document, but even though a partnership may not end the way you envisioned, you can make sure it is put to rest in a proper manner.  Always remember that what you say can hurt you.


10.      Learn what it means to be a writer.


For every book that’s published, hundreds more are rejected every day.  Will yours be one of them?  Probably, at least at first.  Will yours be a breakout hit which will take the world by storm?  Maybe, but in reality, you’ll go through your fair share of rejections. Many times over, you’ll wonder why you ever decided to enter such a tough and tedious field.  The answer is simple. Because you love to write.  It’s not just what you do.  It’s who you are. 


It’s your talent, the creative muscle which allows you to build a fictitious world or reveal a powerful bit of knowledge.  It’s your never-ending desire to see your words in print that makes you a writer.  Add to that your zeal for the printed word and the heart-pounding excitement you get from knowing someone loves what you’ve written.


Being an aspiring writer can be frustrating, daunting, and even overwhelming, especially as you try to learn what is required and just what you’ll have to sacrifice. Unfortunately, in the publishing industry, there are not a lot of shortcuts. May these directions help you reach your ultimate destination.



About the Author: Dawn Rachel Carrington is the editor-in-chief for Vintage Romance Publishing. A multi-published author of fantasy and paranormal romance herself, she currently writes for Ellora's Cave, Red Sage Publishing, and Samhain Publishing. She has created and taught courses for Suite 101 and University for Writers. Additionally, she is a promotional and business consultant and non-fiction writer for several online e-zines as well as print magazines and lectures frequently on the business of writing.

To learn more about Dawn or Vintage Romance Publishing, please visit www.dawnrachel.com or www.vrpublishing.com 



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