A number of writers have asked recently what obstacles they can master that still might be blocking their path to publication. Although these are covered numerous places online, below are listed six major hurdles that must be jumped before reaching the home stretch.
1. Mastery of that old bugaboo the query letter: Your query letter is your interview. Make a bad impression in front of a perspective employer and you don’t get the job. It’s that simple. What I see on a daily basis are sloppy, arrogant, aggressive, in your face, and even abusive query letters. If you want to connect with me, show me you have the ability to be a professional writer, even if you aren’t quite there yet. Don’t curry me, flatter me or con me. Write a simple business letter that (a) shows me the product wrapper (title, word count, genre, and a one-line overview, (b) gives me a jacket blurb, and (c) shows me your credentials. I want nothing more or nothing less.
2. If you get past the interview you are in the door; however, now you have to prove you can do the job. If you say you are a baker, then you have to know how to bake bread. If you say you’re a novelist, you now have write novels that readers will pay $28 each to read. If you think you’ve written something that a publisher will risk twenty thousand dollars or more to print, then show me that novel.
3. Have you every stood before a group of listeners and held their attention for an hour or so? Do you do this regularly? Have you written a syndicated column for a newspaper? Are you a celebrity? Do you have an audience or a platform; name recognition that will help sell what you write? Do you blog? Does your blog have thousands of hits per day? Have you prepared yourself to be a modern author? If not, we will have difficulty placing your novel because many of your contemporaries have these qualifications and are in line ahead of you.
4. Do you visit bookstores often? Do you know where to find novels similar to yours in that bookstore? Can you describe your genre in one word? Do you know your genre inside out? How many novels have you read in your genre? If you cannot answer all these questions, then you are not ready to query agents.
5. Would you change your title if asked? Are you ready to have your novel ripped apart? Could you shorten or lengthen your novel if asked? Would you be willing to change your novel if an agent or editor told you it would make your book more salable? If you cringe at someone even mentioning changes, then you are not ready to be published.
6. Master, perfect and be published more than a few time in one area, genre or category before trying to conquer another. Don’t be a dabbler in many areas but master of none.
This may be hard to hear but being published by a major publisher has never been easy. Read the six points above and be honest with yourself. Have you achieved mastery of just one or many of these roadblocks to publication? If not, work on at least one of the six and when perfected and polished, query an agent. If you are like many; rush to finish a novel and rush to find an agent before considering where you are as a novelist or what effort others have to put forth to sell what you’ve produced, then you’re efforts will be rewarded with form rejections.