Saturday, January 19, 2013

It's Not Just About the Story

You have this great idea for a story. You've outlined it, maybe written a chapter or two. Where can you publish it?

Whoa, stop right there. I often hear from new writers who want to know where they can publish when they haven't even booted up the computer.

1) Write the dang story.
2) Edit the dang story.
3) Edit the dang story ten more times.
4) Get other "qualified" people to edit the story.

Okay, let's say you have a completed story. Now what?
1) Write a phenomenal query with a hook that yanks the reader in (a different query for each person you submit to).
2) Write a solid, concise synopsis (or book proposal if nonfiction).
3) Match your piece with the needs of whoever you're pitching.

Okay, but you've done all that, and it's not selling.

1) Stop pitching. Something is wrong.

2) Build a name by writing short pieces, magazine features, other works so that you build a portfolio. Yes, I know that takes time. This isn't a computer game where quick response times earn you a higher score.

3) Enter credible contests, like the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award that opened this week.

4) Join writer's organizations. Participate in writing groups. Start thinking like the full-time writer you want to be.

5) Blog or develop a newsletter following.

6) Edit your story again, hard.

Notice I didn't say self-publish when you couldn't sell traditionally? That's because self-publishing is NOT what you do when you cannot sell traditionally. Your work should be good enough for traditional publishing if you choose self-publishing. If you want to self-publish, then do it, but also do all the other things on this last list as well.

To be known as a writer, you have to act, submit, perform, behave like a writer. Throwing a  manuscript out there in the world, waiting to see if it sticks somewhere, isn't taking the profession seriously.

And the rejections often let you know that.

(**NOTE: This is a recent editorial from TOTAL FundsforWriters, the paid subscription newsletter from - I've been asked several times for the use of this piece at conferences, classrooms and other blogs. Feel free to use it, giving credit to C. Hope Clark, editor of and author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series - Lowcountry Bribe, February 2012 and Tidewater Murder, April 2013 - Bell Bridge Books - )


Anonymous said...

I do wonder, sometimes, if the 'portfolio' is irrelevant. One might be able to write shorts etc. but not a whole novel. Just a thought.

BECKY said...

Great advice as usual, Hope! I've mananged to do things pretty much the correct way, without really knowing it at the time! LOL Can't wait for your next book to come out!

Hope Clark said...

Anonymous- a portfolio can have magazine pieces, contest wins, and anthologies.

Hope Clark said...

Becky - keep hammering away at it! And thanks for the comment about the next book. Makes me nervous thinking about it . . . worrying that readers won't think it holds up to the first book. Funny...I used to think that book two was much better than book one. Self-doubt is so quirky.