How to get published:
1. Write a good book (which should take about 10,000 hours – the “write a book” part only takes 100-500 hours). Enter competitions and submit short stories to magazines in the meantime. Make writer friends and get actual critiques (the ones with real criticism, which should include “start over” at least once).
2. Go to a writing conference/s and make a contact (or twelve) – it really IS a job interview, so clean your teeth (etc), use your manners, and research your market thoroughly before you go (including reading their books and being realistic about whether they’re the right market for you). Never say a bad thing about any publisher – firstly because they work harder and longer than most writers do, and secondly because they’re all friends with each other and astonishingly gracious to newbies. So join the kind culture.
3. Send your book to a name, not a slushpile. Then rewrite and repeat. Hedge your bets, but don’t send to absolutely everyone at once. (And, FYI, send to agents before/instead of publishers – but #2 still applies.)
Today’s entry is all about Number Two (take that however you like). This pic was taken as CJ and I drove home from the NSW Writers’ Centre Children’s and Young Adult writers’ Festival (“Ratatouille” was playing in this Maccers, which amused me very much):
During the sessions I learned:
1. Publisher B (the one who’s had one of my books for fourteen months, and another book for seven months) has their acquisitions meetings on every second Tuesday. One of my goals yesterday was to find out exactly what day those meetings happened, and now I can relax on every other day. I also made sure I shook hands with the head of the relevant department and told her who I was. It sounds like an irrelevant detail, but it isn’t. When my name is mentioned, she can add that, in her experience, I have personal hygiene and a fabulous red dress. Ultimately, publishers contract the author, not the book. Now she’s seen the product behind the book, she will feel more comfortable saying yes.
2. Publisher D said – as a sign of how great their slushpile method is for discovering ever so much new talent – they’d accepted five books from the slushpile in the last two and a half years. That means the average chance of acceptance (and remember, this was MUCH higher than usual) is roughly one in TEN THOUSAND. I knew the chance was small, but I didn’t know it was that small (and they hadn’t discovered a single slushpile gem for the three years preceding that). See why #2 is important? (I have her card, and her permission to submit directly to her. That means I now have solid contacts at three of the biggest Aussie publishers. Yay me.)
During the day, I also spoke to two other publishers (both much smaller, but sometimes that’s a good thing). One of them is probably too small for me (but you never know). The other, who I’ll call Publisher H, was already on my list of places to send “Farting My ABCs” (but they’ve been closed to submissions all this year). She said to up my word count from 7,000 to 10,000 – easy. I’ll continue checking their website for when the doors re-open, and then I’ll make sure to mention our conversation in my cover letter. Again, knowing who I am matters.
Other horrific tales:
1. Moya Simons’ second book was a YA verse book. Her editor had her rewrite it seven times (and do a lot more harrowing holocaust research than she had already). It eventually became a kids’ chapter book (no poetry remains), because that’s what the publisher thought was best (and, in my opinion, they were right).
2. Mo Johnson wrote a book (possibly also a second book) that was 25,000 words long. She was asked to increase the word count to 40,000, which she did. They said she’d done great, and could she actually make it 60,000. She did. Then they said it was REALLY great, but actually could it be 45,000 – and just as poignant, please? And she did. Because that’s what a professional writer does.
I also went through the websites of the guest authors and picked five to read that looked older-reader enough (and either funny enough or fantasy enough) to suit my taste. They were all good, but one of them blew my mind. I’ll tell you which one – and why – tomorrow.
I also made a bunch of new writer friends (didn’t find any from Canberra, sadly, but Wollongong seems to be the writing capital of Australia), and there’s at least one who visits Canberra often – plus of course we have the internet.
From http://bookshelfporn.com/, here’s today’s library picture: