Friday, September 30, 2005

The Road to Publication - Handout NJCWG 9/6/05

The Road to Publication
Presented by Louise Bergmann DuMont
At the NJCWG – 09/26/05

Are you an author who is just bursting to publish a book? What do you need to do before you earn the right to submit your manuscript to an agent or a publishing house? What creates the smoothest path and avoids unnecessary pitfalls and detours? The answer is found in your clips (clips: published articles which show evidence that other editors found your writing worthy of publication). You need to start small. Take-home papers and small press (often for no pay) publications offer the greatest opportunity to new writers.

Getting published (whether it's a book or an article) is as much the result of following the correct procedure as it is skill and talent. Both the Christian (CBA) and US (ABA) publishing industry, just like any other business, works on trends, contacts and sound business principles.

Chose a market. New authors often work backwards. They write a story or an article and then try to find a publisher who wants to publish their work. This wastes a great deal of time. Every publication has specific needs, wants, slants, formats and quirks. When you do find a suitable market for a piece you've already written, it is likely that you'll have to do a serious rewrite to accommodate the publication. A better way to go about your writing is to choose a market that is open to new writers and uses freelancers for least 80% or more of their publication.

Research your market. Know your target. This means understanding their audience, their editor and their advertising. Read at least five past issues. You can get these at the library or by writing to the publication and supplying the appropriate self-addressed stamped envelope for them to mail the publications to you. The world as a whole doesn't much what kind of scarf you wear this winter -- but if you are teenage girl you will want to know that short, "fuzzy" scarves made from "eyelash" yarn are all the rave. If you are targeting a publication with a large female, teenage audience, this information could be important.

Follow the Writers Guidelines. The second greatest reason that writers are rejected is because they don't follow the publisher's "instructions." If you don't have a copy of their writers' guidelines, you can usually find them online. If you can't find them there, you can always write and request a copy of their guidelines. Follow them to the letter!

Know what the current market and industry needs. What is hot - not just in regard to general trends, but for the genre you write and the industry as a whole. If there is a current glut on the market of "end of the world" scenario literature, a publisher is less likely to take a chance on a new author in this venue. Make your first piece something in the same genre but with a different slant. You also need to know the current writing trends. Learn what publishers want and fill their needs. That is the quickest way to publication.

Know how to approach editors and publishers. Does the editor you are targeting want a complete manuscript, a proposal or query letter? Do they accept email queries or only postal mail ones? Will they accept phone queries? Do they prefer a formal or informal approach? How can you know the answers to these questions? Study Sally Stuart's Market Guide. Talk with other authors. Join writing groups both local and online ones. Ask. If in doubt, make a phone call and ask the receptionist or editors administrative support person. They are often happy to tell you what you need to know. Do NOT ask to be treated special or for "inside" information. That will most certainly turn them off. DO act professional and treat every person you talk to with respect.

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