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Unlocking the Gate to Success: Get Your Book Published


Why that Book? How do readers decide to try a new author?

Unlocking the Gate to Success: Get Your Book Published.

Got Your Platform Handy?

By Brian Hill and Dee Power copyright February 2004

New authors often struggle trying to break into the closed community of publishing. Traditional publishing houses are very selective when acquiring books. While over 150,000 new books were published in 2003, estimates have been made that only 1 out of 100 books written gets published. "Writers Digest" has said that there are 24 million people in the US who describe themselves as creative writers. Less than 5% of these writers have actually, ever, been published.

A number of well known bestselling authors had rocky starts. Nicholas Sparks penned several novels before "The Notebook" was published. Stephen King’s "Carrie" was the fifth novel he’d written. James Patterson’s first mystery was turned down by 31 publishers (and later won an Edgar Award). Mary Higgins Clark’s first story took six years and 41 rejection slips before it was finally published. Janet Evanovich’s first three book attempts were, in her own words "sucky un-sellable manuscripts."

So what can a novice author do to scale the palisades to publication? There are several key factors to unlocking the gate to success:

Polish To Perfection

Make sure your writing is the best it can be whether a short story, magazine article or full length book manuscript. Many of the authors’ associations in Arizona offer seminars and workshops on writing, as do most of the public libraries. Arizona Authors Association, www.azauthors.com, Desert Rose Romance Writers, www.desertroserwa.org, and Society of Southwestern Authors , www.azstarnet.com/nonprofit/ssa/ are just a few examples of groups writers can join.


Recognize that being in the right place at the right time, or plain old luck, plays a part in publishing. The manuscript for "The Lovely Bones," by Alice Sebold, was orphaned twice at Little Brown, the publisher, in the ten months after it had been acquired and then went on to become an unprecedented runaway bestseller in 2002 and early 2003. Carley Philips had written 15 romance novels before "The Bachelor" was selected by Kelly Ripa on national TV. That national TV exposure rocketed the book’s amazon.com standing from 8,834 to number 1 in hours.

Know whom to contact

Publishers vary in the types of books they publish. Some only want nonfiction, others only romance. Some focus on children’s books, and other primarily Christian books. If the publisher is one of the big five, Random House, Penguin Putnam, Simon & Schuster, Time Warner, and Harper Collins, find out which imprint and the editor at that imprint, would be appropriate for your book. Contact those editors. Use the same screening with agents. Don’t send your mystery novel to an agent who only represents nonfiction. Two websites that can help you find publishers and agents and what they’re looking for are www.publishersmarketplace.com and www.writersmarket.com.


Know what publishers and agents want to receive. Most publishers will not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so don’t send them one. Send a query letter which describes your book and why you’re qualified to write it, to the appropriate editor at the publisher. The objective of the query letter is to pique enough interest for the editor to request your manuscript. If you decide you need a literary agent to represent your work, do the same. Find out what the agency requires and send those materials with the query letter to a specific agent. Include a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) in both cases. "Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why, 2nd Edition," Jeff Herman, Deborah Levine Herman and "Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write: How to Get a Contract and Advance Before Writing Your Book," Elizabeth Lyon, Natasha Kern, are two good resources to writing query letters and there are many others.

Never give up

Perseverance is a virtue. Don’t let a few, or even fifty rejections, distract you from your path to publication.

You only need one yes.

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