1. Milady
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    Milady Contributing Member

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    Do you need to BE published to get published?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Milady, Jan 30, 2008.

    From a lot of the research I've done, it seems that one of the best ways to get your manuscript out of the slushpile is if your name actually carries a little weight. In essence, you should already be published, at least in magazines, before you could have a chance of getting a novel published.

    Then again, other sources say it isn't so.

    But which way is it? If I were to, say, somehow make a career in writing in the waaaaaay-off distant future, would I have to start now with magazine submissions and work my way up? I, for one, absolutely abhor writing short stories. It annoys me to no end. So would trying to go in as a new-blood be hopeless?
     
  2. JustinaB
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    JustinaB Active Member

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    I would like that answer to this as well. I read on an author's website that she contacted an agent and his reply to her was that she had to be published before he would consider taking her on. So, she self published a book and then went back to him and said: There! Now I am published!
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but self-publishing anything won't impress any agents or paying publishers...

    and having had magazine articles or short stories published won't do much for you if you're trying to sell a book, unless you've made a name for yourself with them, that the agent will recognize...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  4. DavidHG
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    DavidHG New Member

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    If we are talking about the publishing of a manuscript, great writing sells itself, plain and simple. Sure, it helps to have a resume of pieces placed in magazines and literary journals.

    But if you have a fantastic manuscript, and you are smart enough to shop it around to those agents who publish authors with similar aesthetics, then you will sell your work.

    Self-publishing, on the other hand, will obviously not impress a publisher. That goes without saying.
     
  5. JustinaB
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    JustinaB Active Member

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    Thanks Maia and David! I wasn't worried too much about it myself. But, I had read it in a few places and was just curious. Thanks again!
     
  6. SunshinePenguin
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    SunshinePenguin Member

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    While I am not ultimately experienced in this topic, I do know that having a bit of a reputation in writing does help, though there are ways to acquire credit behind your name to help with recognition. For one, if you do not like short-stories, then I suggest you go into a few major writing contests to help you in the future. This way, you can say that you have entered 'so-and-so's contest, as well as boast a bit over placing if you do. There is a list of publishers that deal with the writings of previously unpublished writers that I have, though it is on a different computer. I will find it and post it here for you to look through though. Most can be contacted by e-mail for your questions.
     
  7. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I will echo what has been said but add a little:

    First: Self-publishing will not impress an agent or publisher. Yes, there are exceptions. You've written a wonderful nonfiction how-to book for example that you've managed to market and sell thousands of copies. But the reality is, claiming a self-publishing credit won't help at all, and may hurt.

    Second: It doesn't matter what's gone before, how many short stories, articles, etc., if the novel manuscript you're trying to get published (or represented by an agent) isn't good enough, it absolutely won't make a difference. Again, there are very VERY rare exceptions. For example, Are you a widely recognized celebrity?

    Third: Like everything else, the quality and reputation of the magazine you manage to get your short fiction published in will influence any notice (if any) publishers pay to the fact that you've sold stories. And a series of successes means more than one success...both in building some name recognition and proving the fact that you are a writer who produces quality work on a regular basis. Most publishers who take a chance on a new writer want more than one project out of them...They're almost certainly going to lose money on the first novel...for them it's an investment they hope will pay off.

    A few other things: Publishing in magazines that offer the same genre as the novel you've written and are trying to sell is important. Getting published in a semipro, let alone pro-rate paying magazine, isn't necessarily an easy thing to accomplish. The competition for those slots are very stiff as well! Many book publishers that accept queries and/or unsolicited packages/manuscripts may get a thousand a month. Many magazines get that many submissions as well.

    Novel writing and short fiction writing, while similar, have noted differences: Plot structure, pacing, backstory inclusion, characterization techniques, among other things. It's kind of like the difference between softball and baseball. There are many similarities. Some of the mechanics of the game, including rules and skills are the same or very similar. But there are noted differences in rules, skill sets, and strategies employed in each of the games. And being really good at one doesn't necessarily translate to being equally good at the other. One might even argue that a better analogy would be softball vs. kickball, but I think my example is close enough to get the point across.

    So, writing short stories may help, if not with the credits, at least improve upon story telling ability, writing effective dialogue, or a host of other things. Getting short fiction published in decent markets isn't going to hurt.

    Sorry if I'm rambling a bit...

    In the end, each editor or agent considers different things when evaluating projects they're willing to take on. Looking at the history of your favorite writers, one may find a string of short fiction leading up to novels. Often one may not. Talking to agents who represent best selling authors and editors at major houses...a short fiction track record means something to some of them, and others are indifferent.

    There isn't a single proven, guaranteed path to getting a novel published...but there is one necessary item: A superior quality manuscript (which has already been mentioned in this post and above).

    Terry
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not to mention persistence :)

    Persevering despite all the rejection letters you are sure to get before your first acceptance letter will surely be a sore trial.
     
  9. JustinaB
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    JustinaB Active Member

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    I feel that is the key Cogito... persistence. It seems like you just have to go into it knowing you will get rejected but just keep going.
     
  10. tonyshucraft
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    tonyshucraft New Member

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    Your writing needs to be good and that is a given but you have to believe in yourself and what you created to do anything. Selling your stuff is an art of its own.
     
  11. Anthony James Barnett
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    Anthony James Barnett Contributing Member

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    The only thing I can say, is that no publisher would look at my work for ages. I spent a number of years writing shorts for magazines / international competitions / radio and bing. The first publishing house that I approached with a new novel looked at it straight away, and accepted. It was published three days before Christmas 2007.

    So whether it was coincidence or what, the path seemed to work for me.

    Anthony
     
  12. DavidGil
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    DavidGil Senior Member

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    In one word, no. But it certainly won't hinder your chances if you're published through the 'proper' means. By that I mean, you didn't resort to self-publishing.

    However, I will admit when people ask you for past accomplishments, experience in writing etc., I'm a bit lost as to what I should put down when I have none.
     
  13. Milady
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    Milady Contributing Member

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    Heh, thanks, guys. Seems a few of you have the same trouble as me--your case sounds just like me, DavidGil. I wouldn't know what to put, either.

    I'm nowhere near finished with a manuscript yet, and of course I'll work on my quality before I ever dream of submitting something. It's just the other work I'm leery of. But from what you guys say, getting credits with short stories doesn't always help. Then again, it worked for Anthony James... Meh. I'm a long way off from having to support myself... and if all else fails, I'll simply get a real life to fill in while I work on my credits. No worries.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    anthony... i'm willing to bet that your previously published other stuff had nothing to do with your getting a book published, other than having provided you with the practice you needed to write well enough to write a marketable book... as for asking to see your book ms, the query letter itself was undoubtedly the motivating factor there, not just the list of credits you added to it, but i'm sure they didn't hurt...

    on another tack...

    i would never suggest saying you've entered contests as a way to get your work looked at by publishers!... it only marks you as an amateur who knows nada about the business of writing... now, if you're a screenwriter who won a serious major competition like the chesterfield, nicholl, or disney, that will go over ok, but entering contests still is not the way to impress anyone...
     
  15. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    What if you actually win them, though?
     
  16. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just as with where an author gets his short fiction published, whether it carries any weight or not--if it's a contest the editor or agent recognizes and respects, then it is probably a benefit. If it's not, winning the contest won't count for much of anything, and may even hurt--although I suspect it unlikely.

    The reason I say 'may hurt' is due to the fact that there are so many scam competitions out there, unless the editor or agent takes the time to google or yahoo search (which is highly unlikely) he may chalk up the contest as he would a vanity publishing credit.

    But back to the comment that Mammamaia addressed. Indicating in a cover letter that you entered a contest is the same as saying that you've submitted short stories to a market. It means absolutely nothing as anybody can enter a contest, just as anybody can submit to a market. So, what would inclusion of the fact one 'entered a writing contest' indicate to an editor or agent that reads the cover letter?

    And as Mammamaia stated:
    Knowing the market you're submitting to (or agents) makes a difference in this. Some research might indicate, for example, that an agent represents a writer who lists among accomplishments on their website, winning a contest...or has judged for one...maybe that will help. Some editors worked at magazines before working for a house that publishes novels. One at Tor, for example, began his career editing for Asimov's Science Fiction.

    I should note that I am sure there are exceptions. For example, there are probably some contests out there that WF members know of which have qualifications that must be met in order to enter. But, I suspect that the qualifications necessary to enter are probably the same bits of information that could be listed in a cover letter.

    Terry
     
  17. Shreyass
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    Shreyass Senior Member

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    Shop around, persistence, and work your way up. Also, write well ( A helpful summary :p)
     
  18. flashgordon
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    flashgordon Contributing Member

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    I think being published - in any form - is a good door opener. It is not essential, but these days publishers are looking for writers that have what they call a "platform." This is basically a presence in the author's genre - including an established audience (or potential audience). So, if you blog and can point not only to your quality writing, but that people actually are reading your blog and commenting, then that is a good sign to the publisher that your work will likely sell in printed form. However, it is not required and from my experience on both ends of it the writing matters most. If the writing and story are compelling or timely, then your chances of getting accepted are much greater.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    blogging is not considered 'being published' by most agents and acquisitions editors, sorry to say... unless you're arianna huffington, i wouldn't recommend mentioning your blogs in a query, if you want to be taken seriously...
     
  20. LinRobinson
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    LinRobinson Banned

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    Misses the point. Blogs don't establish "being published", they're useful for establshing a "platform".

    Which is really all that prior publication establishes. That there is some reason why your books might sell. All else being equal, given the choice between a person with 20 articles in various small mags and a slim verse of poems, versus a guy with a popular blog and 33.435 friends on myspace...guess who gets the nod?

    The publishing industry (and even what's considered "published") is changing a very fast rate. I publish paid material every week, sometimes almost every day. I'm in constant contact with agents and editors as a working writer. (Not that I enjoy that contact particularly)

    And it's changing really fast. My attitude towards how to approach the market has changed greatly in the past six months. So if you're getting your information from Writer's Market, you are lagging behind the curveball.

    So, yeah. It was a co-incidence. Prolific writers never get the nod: starry-eyed newbies wonder out with their odd little book and have a best-seller on their hands.

    My advice would be: don't think in terms of "credentials" and "resume". Think in terms of "platform", of "reasons this guy's book will sell and if it doesn't you'll have a plausible excuse for your superior".
     
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  21. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

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    Quoted for truth.

    If you're a writer, you have to be sure of it. We're supposed to be artists. The only problem we have is that people actually have to read what we write, and chances are they're only paying you 10% of the attention you gave it in the first place.

    Fiction these days is simple. It's flashy, it's fast, and it has a sixth grade vocabulary. But that dosen't mean you can't sell whatever you want if you just do some god damned hard work and believe in yourself.

    Also, never stop editing. Invent a routine to edit by. Here's the one I use.

    Ch - 1: Rough sketch in my brain. Take in every idea I get from TV or by writing poetry or whatever I happen to see and pack it into my framework for the story. Write it. Edit it. Release it. Edit based on review. Re-write it if neccesary.

    Ch - 2: Same as chapter one. Write, edit, rewrite, edit. Then put both together and edit, then rewrite.

    That increases the workload on you 4 fold, but, for every two chapters, you'll have four stories with different ideas and styles that you can mix and match when you're finally done with the book.

    Like most writing manuals say. Now that you're finished with a book or an article, expect to spend twice as much time editing it than you did writing it.
     
  22. nburwell
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    nburwell Senior Member

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    There is nothing that will guarantee an acceptance of a manuscript. There is no magic kit or potion, even with all of the books. You need confidence, persistence, consistent belief in your book, a desire to get published, a knowledge of the publishing industry and most importantly, a refined and perfected manuscript that is formatted to the your industry's standard. One of the first things agents do is look at the piece of paper to see if the writer has used correct form -- in their query letter. Previously published work is not a necessary element of manuscript acceptance; in fact, it is a very small part of it and usually a very worthless use of your time if you plan on purposely trying to get published for extra attention by an agent.

    Learn about the publishing industry and what agents really want. Read up-to-date books, do your research and make sure you know what your manuscript is supposed to look like and read like. It is not just the context or the story that matters. Agents look at the shell before they even consider seeing what's inside. It's your presentation that matters first. If you were given a minute to propose your book, would you really spend it going on about your previously published short stories and poems?

    In a word, no. It doesn't hurt, but it also doesn't matter. Pristinely formed proposal packages is what you want.

    ~Natalie
     
  23. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why all the contempt for self publishing?

    Everything I have read gives pretty much the same depressing message...if you're not already an "insider" of some kind, then the proverbial "snowball's chance in Hell" probably applies to your chances of getting published by the traditional media. Even if you manage to overcome the immense odds, then you, as a newby, should expect to spend all your waking minutes doing the vast majority of the marketing of your own book.

    The first time author carries all the responsibility for marketing and only receives a paltry 40 to 50 cents per copy for books sold through the traditional distribution system. That sucks! Especially when most new authors never earn a dime more than their anemic advance.

    What happens if an aspiring author also posses a strong entrepeneurial drive?

    Self publishing might be just the ticket. I discovered the folowing:

    POD was ridiculous. By the time they produce a physical book, the price drives your book completely out of any potential market. All other issues are moot, as price, alone, negated the value of this approach.

    Vanity press created a less expensive book, but with little or no control. They usually own the ISBN number and certain important rights.

    Initially, I was discouraged. The traditional approach seemed like a ridiculous waste of time and the "self publishing" options did not make sense to me. Having been an entrepeneur for over 30 years, I quickly seized on the solution. I built my own publishing company from scratch. I purchased a book of ISBN numbers and registered the company with appropriate national registries. A very talented graphic arts designer contracted for my book cover...did a great job, too! A professional copy editor picked apart my 140,000 word manuscript (that's an ego-wrenching experience!). My printer/binder worked closely with me to produce a quality book, using high grade paper. I even paid a little extra to add more "white space" per page to make the book easier to read. Total cost? Around $4.00 per book for the first 1000. Reprints are closer to $3.00 per book in 1000-count batches as the editing, graphic art and typesetting costs have been amortized in the first printing.

    At this production cost, I can make ten times more money per book sale through my e-commerce enabled website than I could if a traditional publisher graced my work with "legitimacy". I even have enough margin to hire a book broker and sell through brick & mortar books stores with more than double the profitability I would have receiived from a "legitimate" publishing company.

    To me, selling my book is an economic decision. I don't give a hoot about the haughty opinions of literary snobs in traditional publishing circles. All I want is happy readers who fall in love with my characters and can't wait to buy the sequels...which brings me to my point.

    If an author truly believes his or her book is compelling, then why not let the readers decide? Why chance the fickle whim of too-busy agents and editors, who won't take time to give your work a fair shake? I'm gambling thousands of dollars that I can find enough buyers to recover my expenses and make a profit. My break even is only 478 books. If, as a first time novelist, I have to do all the promotional work myself, then why not invest that effort at a MUCH higher profit per book? As far as the quality of my writing, I'm happy to let the readers decide! But, alas, I will not be viewed in the publishing world as legitimate...come to think of it, I never knew my dad, so I've been "illegitimate" all my life. Why change now! LOL!

    .....NaCl

    ps I have 15 years experience writing for an outdoor fishing magazine, averaging 6 to 10 published articles per year. The comments above apply to a new adventure with my first novel.
     
  24. FinalConflict
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    FinalConflict Member

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    True, the chances of being picked up are greater if you are already published, but it's not like you have to be published to get published, if the publishers like what they see, they should, should being the keyword there, should pick up your pitch, but i don't really know, better to ask someone with experience on it, I'm just locally published so I wouldn't really know.
     
  25. Wintermute
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    Wintermute Banned

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    If you needed to be published in order to get published, there wouldn't be any published authors, would there?

    Your work is what matters most. Credits are moot compared to an amazing piece of writing.
     

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