Matt, how do I get my book published?
I get asked this question by authors or would be authors a lot.
When you get published through a major publisher, there is an almost mystical sense of awe – as though you did some type of magic; curried favor with the gods, or performed some other type of metaphysical slight-of-hand.
I understand this to a degree. Writers are my heroes – always have been (or at least for as long as I can remember). They create education, mystical worlds, and have their words quoted – repeated as important and valuable and authoritative – for no other reason than that they are in print, on a bookshelf in some store or library. And believe me.. when my first book was published, finding it on the shelf at the local bookstore (and in the library) was and is intoxicating. (of course.. it is better to not find it on the shelf and instead receive notes from readers who enjoyed it and found it valuable.)
In fact, my perception of writers kept me from doing something with my writing for a long time. I mean, who was I to be ranked among that number? What qualified me to become a maker of magic?
Hint: I’m not! I’m not qualified to make magic.. But I can write!
Getting Published is NOT Accidental
First, I talk to writers and aspiring writers all the time and one of the first things I tell them to do (after getting “The Elements of Style”) is to pick up a copy of Stephen King’s book, “On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft.”
Mr. King will tell you about his writing life (which is pretty magical) but more important will work to convince you that writing is NOT magical. Writing is work! He’ll also kill your concept of your “muse” – that mythical creature who creates your inspiration and brings you the words. If this frightens you.. lean into it and read what he says about it.. If your muse is “real” – his words won’t change that. And if your “muse” is a figment of your imagination – well.. time to put that baby to rest so that he/she/it stops giving you an out…. Ie: “my muse did not show up this morning.”
Songwriters and writers do the same thing.. unable to explain their creative process they say things like, “I don’t write my songs, I discover them.” As though they are floating around the cosmos waiting for you to find them.. it is sort of drag that some authors find all the classics..
Sorry to pop your bubble, but I disagree. I write my songs and I write my essays, articles, books, etc. I sit down and construct them in my mind and on the paper (or computer screen). It is a function of brain-power and trial and error. You are not channeling some off-site (out of head) personality. You are writing because you are a writer.
The sooner you understand this, the better. It will help you improve as a writer and help you produce more as well. You want that, right? To writer better and produce more? You want to get published.. yes?
Truth: Your muse won’t publish you and an editor or large publisher could care less whether your muse shows up – I promise.. they care only that your writing shows up. In fact, laying the blame or credit for your words on a muse is a copout. If you words are bad – don’t blame your muse.. And if your words are good – don’t turn over the credit to your muse (or for some, God).
I promise you, some mystical creature or the creative force of the universe or God, would have done better than your best anyway. Settle in to accept blame or credit where it is due. You are the writer… not a transcriber.
Here is the other thing about that.. the reason that Steinbeck was a GREAT writer is not because he was good at “finding” his books in the cosmos.. he was good at writing them. Claiming that they are “floating around” to be discovered, discredits the skill in which a writer writes.. don’t do that.. it is insulting!
A strategic approach
I am going to provide a strategy for becoming a published author. When I say published, I do not mean, vanity press, pay-to-get-published, or some other self-published option. If you are being “courted” by a publisher that asks you to put up any money and pay for things like editing, cover-design, publicity, etc. – you are not being published! Sorry! Reality check! You are becoming a publisher!
It is not that I am against self-publishing. It can be an effective way to create product and even generate some credibility. In fact, that is all a blog is – an online publication. Use such vehicles wisely. They are powerful!
Over the next couple of blog entries – and probably in video a few times as well – I am going to provide a strategic approach to getting published. It is going to be a strategy that, if employed, can help you develop a platform, gain readers, and build the credibility that will help you more easily approach a major publisher or an agent.
Even if you don’t go the major publisher route – ie: you wish to remain self-published – the strategies will provide a good basis for growing your audience and, quite frankly, improving your writing and production.
Feel free to ask question or add comments
Let me know your thoughts, questions, fears, or ideas. I want to make sure I give you the best information possible and get to your questions. You can submit them here or go to my contact page and send me a message.
You are the writer. Accept blame and credit where it is due.