How to get Published
I have read numerous books on the subject of, how to write and get published. Some are written by experts many are not. Most explain in precise detail the exact process a writer must follow to ensure their precious manuscript has the best possible chance of reaching exactly the right person. ‘It must be your best manuscript ever’, is the advice of one expert. ‘It should be double spaced and correctly punctuated,’ states another and ‘your synopsis must be on a single sheet of A4’ claims a third and on and on they go. The whole process can be incredibly disheartening and for many it is just one bridge too far. (A word of caution is that many of these books are written by people who are not successful authors. You will find my three recommendations in the acknowledgements below).
Sadly, most new writers will never get published.
The problem is there are too many writers and not enough new readers, which makes for a very crowded duck pond. Add to the mix that most publishers (imprints) are now part of the five big publishing houses all of which know exactly what they will be publishing for the next 18 months and have very few gaps in their calendars for the work of untested newcomers.
I am sure that most writers will have heard the expression ‘if you really want to get published then you must learn to deal with rejection.’ The talented Stephen King wrote about how he would place all his rejection slips on a long metal spike by his desk, other established writers talk about having many unpublished manuscripts hidden in their lofts, and even J K Rowling confessed to her latest work being a rewrite of an old manuscript untouched for many years. All these writers have one thing in common which is they came of age, making the transition from writer to published author before the meteoric rise of the internet. I will come back to this later in the post.
So, is it the case that if you want to get published then you must follow the well-trodden path of all other successful writers?
No! It is NOT. The yellow brick road has become more of a green mile for talented writers many of whom will go undiscovered simply because the symbiotic relationship between agents and publishers has created a one size fishing net. Admittedly, a handful of good writers do break through, and I am sure you have your favourites, but many more do not. Unfortunately, publishers tend to favour their war horses serving up a bowl of cold soup on how to clean, cook, garden, achieve enlightenment and lose weight. There are now so many of these books vying for position that trying to find a great novel is as difficult as searching for your favourite chocolate in a tin of quality street.
If you genuinely want to get published, then you must get yourself noticed for all the right reasons and in all the right places.
It is estimated that around 4.5 billion people use the internet that’s about 60 percent of the global population. Which is an awful lot of minds to feed and has led to the rise of a new sub-species of human known as the ‘Creadora de Contendo’ (the content creator but it sounds better in Spanish).’ I managed to get published by refusing to follow the yellow brick road. Instead, I laid down a clear strategy of how I was going to use the internet to get published. I created content on social media, writing articles about my work, my experience remaining within my field of expertise writing with passion about the subjects that I knew people were interested in. I was consistent (posting once a week) very focussed and ensured I was seen as a specialist as opposed to a generalist. Through my posts I eventually established a small but loyal community, which I rewarded by giving them more of what they desired, always ensuring that I answered their questions about my work and responded to their comments promptly. With every piece I wrote I always kept in mind that I was writing for the benefit of my readers, I even created a profile of my target reader detailing out everything about their personality and lifestyle asking myself the same question with every article I wrote ‘would they pay to read this?’
Eventually my strategy began to reap rewards and I started to receive calls from journalists who had read my posts and were looking for a quote on a piece they were writing or a program producer asking for comment or two for a local radio station. After every conversation I would immediately follow up the call with an email within which I would detail exactly what point I was trying to get across aiming my comments at the reader and not the journalist and always ensured that I was given credit for my writing. (I cannot emphasise enough just how important it is that you ensure your name appears alongside your contributions).
Within a few years I was receiving several media request every month with some journalists asking permission to include full passages of what I had written. I became the go-to-man within my area of specialisation, confident that with every contribution I made I was one step closer to realising my key objective.
Then out of the blue and catching me completely by surprise I received a telephone call from a small imprint within the Hachette Group (one of the big five). A highly enthusiastic commissioning editor explained over the phone that he had recently read an article I had co-written for The Guardian newspaper and was keen to arrange a meeting at Hachette’s impressive headquarters on the river Thames overlooking London Bridge.
‘I’ve read your work and we would like to publish your book’.
This is the only sentence that I can remember about the entire meeting, the rest is a total blur. The problem was I hadn’t written a book all I had were a few draft chapters (extracts) and an overview (synopsis), but I did have dozens of leather-bound notebooks packed full of my scribblings. I also had hundreds of articles sitting on a host of different social media platforms and it became obvious during the meeting that many of these had been read by the editor, and he knew exactly what he wanted, which was a work of narrated non-fiction of about 80,000 words written in the same style as my posts. (For those of you who do not write non-fiction narrated non-fiction follows the exact same route as a novel, but the characters, narrative and dialogue are real, and you are permitted to add a splash of colour and intrigue).
It is impossible to describe the emotions that I experienced while standing on the famous Hachette terrace overlooking the river Thames. All my hard work had been worth it, at last, I was going to get published. (I would soon discover there were still several serious hurdles to jump before I saw my book printed all of which I cover in other posts on my Blog).
So, in summary if you want to get published then you need to get noticed.
Editors and agents are always scanning the newspapers and magazines for a talented new writer with a great back story. You need to make it as easy as possible for them to find you.
Which means you must:
- Write about what you love.
- Write about what you know.
- Ensure you are credited for your work.
- Do your research and find out what editors are looking for.
- Only write what people want to read.
- Never write for yourself unless you are writing your will.
- Spend a few hours, days, weeks creating your ideal reader and then only ever write for that person.
- Know exactly what you want to achieve and build a strategy around that objective leaving nothing to chance.
But most of all write with passion, work hard and with a little bit of luck your dream will come true.
Colin Butcher (International Best-Selling Author)
‘Becoming a Writer’ Dorothea Brande
‘On Writing’ Stephen King
Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook’