How Do I Get Published?

A number of people read my article 10 Things No One Told Me About the Publishing Process this past weekend over at social media Jedi Kristen Lamb’s terrific site. Of course, that info is secondary to the primary step of getting published in the first place.

Since many people know that I have a book coming out, I’ve been asked two questions more than any:

  1. What’s your book about?
  2. How does someone with a book idea or working manuscript get published?
writing fast

Photo by hisks via stock.xchng

So I thought I would just take this space to help answer that second question about how to become a published author. Remember, I’m hardly an expert as I go through this process for the first time, but I did spend years writing and studying the business.

Also, I’m answering those who want to be published traditionally by a publisher that buys the book and prints it, so this list isn’t about how to self publish.

Here are 5 things to consider if you want to become a published author. (<<tweet that)

1. Know how the industry works

Sure, that’s why people ask the question in the first place, but publishing is a business first and foremost. There’s a structure in place with a hierarchy and set entry points. Exceptions to the rules are rare. Some helpful tools include:

Remember, how to get published is a different question than how to be a good writer, which brings us to…

2. Be a good investment

Unless your name is Snooki you have to be able to write. Many people figure they can write a book because anyone can put words in order on paper. Of course it doesn’t work that way with art, music or other creative areas. Writing is a craft and requires skills that need to be refined through hard work and experience. Take 10 seconds to read this succinct breakdown from Jeff Goins called What Everybody Ought to Know About Writing.

Then if we’re good enough publishers want to know if we’re able to sell or not. “What’s your platform or audience?” they’ll ask (especially with nonfiction). We have to position ourselves as people with something good to say and an audience ready to jump on it.

3. Invest into your potential success

Buy good books on writing to learn the craft. If you think you’re ready consider a trip to a writer’s conference. Beware of shady opportunists though by researching everything.

4. Timing is important

The publishing world is a land of turnover and change. Trends change quickly but the process moves slowly, so most of the time you have to be ahead of the curve. If you try to write whatever is hot at the moment you’re likely too late. Additionally, we never know how the world will turn or what cultural questions may overtake us at any moment. We just have to be ourselves and hope publishers find us relevant.

5. Success usually takes time

Steve Martin says that he spent 18 years as a stand up comic. The first ten years were spent learning, and the next four were spent refining his craft. The last four, he says, were filled with wild success. He became an overnight success after 14 years of near anonymity.

That’s how it can be for writers, at least it was in my case. My first published clips came before I ever thought about what I was going to do for a living. At 25 I was hired by a company as a full-time writer of a publication in which I could write almost anything I wanted. Then my contract ended and writing moved to the back burner for years. On the flipside, I really got serious about writing about three years ago, so many people can get there in a couple of years.

The reward can be awesome, but this path also comes at a cost. You will face opposition from people you love and strangers alike. It’s a grind, and even success means you’ll work harder than you ever thought you could at writing. The good news is that if you love the words then it won’t always feel like work.

Again, this is just my experience which is admittedly limited. Plenty of others move faster because they’re better, more prepared, or any number of other things. You never know until you try!

The main question is this: If you think you have what it takes, are you willing to do what it takes?

Have you ever dreamed of writing a book? 

What steps have you taken toward that goal?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

  • I’m not looking to traditionally publish but I just wanted to stop by and show some love. Congrats again on the book!

    • Thanks Jennifer. You know I appreciate that support and can’t wait to get hold of your books!

  • Thanks, Clay, for your insights! Looking forward to exploring these things in greater depth.

  • Absolutely. I think most of us who have blogs would like to be published. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Love Hyatt, MacGregor (who’s hilarious and bold), and Lamb (and now that sounds like a bad law firm!). Your book arrived from Amazon yesterday, a day earlier than predicted. As an avowed horror story fan and Christian, I can’t wait to dig in!

    • That’s great Linda! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      • One added thought: I’ve recently learned that my writing time (though too often unprofitable financially) is not frivolously spent. If this is my gift (and I believe it is), then NOT writing is wrong. The parable of the talents is now my guide in this regard, and it keeps me writing when I would rather do the laundry by smacking it on a rock or clean the toilet with my toothbrush. 🙂 Starting your book today!

        • Totally agree. Writers have to write. It’s how we’re made.

  • Susie Lindau

    I can understand the strangers, but have you figured out why our friends don’t always support us? Maybe I am the odd duck, but I always am excited for my friends and their accomplishments.

    • Friends AND family can bring resistance I think Susie. Sometimes it’s a form of protection I think, that they don’t want to see us get our hopes up only to fail. Sometimes it can be about where they feel we should be investing our time. Mostly though, they don’t understand that published or not we have to write or we’ll burst. We’re wired in a way that means words have to come out of us. If I never had a chance at reaching anyone or making a dime I would still be writing because that’s how I’m made I think.

      • Susie Lindau

        Those are great points. I think that can be true of relatives, but in regard to friends, I think they think of us in a certain way and don’t want us or the pecking order to change. When I meet new people, it is completely different!
        I LOVE the psychology behind this. It also makes me think that there must be a way to roll out a book in a way that draws people in. I can’t tell you how many times I have been repelled by those that constantly bombard me with the same news flash over and over. You are not doing that by the way.
        If I figure it out, I will let you know… 🙂

  • Actually, I was planning to change my name to Snooki.

  • J M Gallagher

    Yes, going to a writer’s conference can be *very* eye-opening (beginning with the level of your own craft).

  • Matt W

    I’ve ordered your book, I can’t wait to read it! How are you?

    • Great Matt thanks! I’m busy and good. Let me know what you think.

  • Hey Fryber. It’s been interesting watching you change your branding. New for me to digest. Am still figuring this whole thing out. I am thrilled for your success and can’t wait to read your book. I think it was wise to take a break from blogging and really dedicate yourself to that project. So many people try to juggle too many balls. IYKWIM.

    • Thanks Renee. I’m glad I took that time too although sometimes I wonder why I didn’t get more done! I’m learning how true it is that once the book is done the real work begins. Publicity and marketing are no easy tasks.

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