Getting on the first rung of the publishing ladder
How do you avoid the slush pile? Should you self-publish? Insiders give their advice on getting a first book to print
Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin
What’s the single most important piece of advice you can give to someone trying to get published?Keep at it. The more you write the better you get, and while there is a high level of rejection, the majority of writers find their rejections improving over time (bizarre as that sounds).
Learn from every rejection and keep working to make your writing the best that it can be. Writers also need to define their success – publication comes in many forms and there are now many more routes to the reader than before.
Is there a trick to getting to the top of the slush pile?Making your book the best that it can be is essential – a good strong covering letter helps, a well-written synopsis and a great hook in the opening chapter will get an editor interested in the same way it will capture a reader.
When you submit a book for publication, it’s like a job application, you are hoping to enter into a professional relationship with the editor or agent. You submission needs to be well presented, and you need to have done your research on the editor or agent your are sending it to. There’s no point in sending a picture book to an academic publishing house – you won’t even get on to the slush pile.
Attending events and seminars or book launches is a great way to meet editors and agents. This will help you get to know what they are looking for and find a good fit for your book.
Do you recommend self-publishing through e-books or otherwise?Self-publishing or independent publishing can be a great route to market for authors whose books cross genres, that aren’t a commercial print length, or for writers who want to get their book out there faster than traditional publishing allows. It also gives writers complete control of their rights.
It all really comes down to the definition of success – if writers want to be read, it’s an alternative way to reach readers. It is essential, though, that anyone considering self-publishing ensures that their book meets industry standards if they want to sell well.
As an author you have a contract with your reader to deliver; poor editing and a dodgy cover let both you, the writer, and the reader down. And readers don’t hold any punches in reviews.
What’s the biggest mistake writers make?Putting the last full-stop on a new manuscript and sending it off. When you finish your first draft, that’s when the work begins. Writing is rewriting and the polishing and redrafting is an essential part of the process.