You're a writer.
You’ve been a writer for some quite some time. But you're not published yet. Hmmm. The situation begs the question, "What are you doing about that?"
Here's where the mundane part of a writer's life kicks in. You want to write, to create, to inform, to entertain, to blister the page with compelling sales copy – but you don't have time for all that other stuff, like queries, promotion, networking, connection-building and all that stuff that just slows down your writing. Right?
Here's the thing. You must have goals. Your creativity wants to run wild and that's fine. But you still need goals if you want to be published, and published on a regular basis. You also need to do what you promise – to yourself and publishers.
So, let's take things one at a time.
First, submit queries on a regular basis. Design yourself a schedule. That's not to say you can't break it on occasion, but if you have self-imposed deadlines staring you in the face, most of the time it’ll help you complete projects. In general you need to find the pattern that suits you best. Here, for your edification, is mine:
If I'm writing a novel, I wait until I have most of it completed. Then I write a synopsis if I didn't do it before I began. Then I set up a query sequence. I scope out a number of publishers who are appropriate to what I've written. Don't think you can send a science fiction novel to a publisher who's asking for mysteries and get published. (Don't laugh. This still happens to editors time after time). You can’t, and won’t.
With prospective publishers listed, I create a file for the book and compose my query letter. I lead with a good hook, possibly a line from the book, then a brief sentence or two about the book, then a short paragraph about myself, which includes my case for why I can, and will, give them a great book.
At this point in the letter, if the manuscript isn't complete, tell them so. But then you’d better have something up your sleeve that will convince them you really will finish the manuscript, and on their timetable.
Most publishers who'll look at work from previously unpublished or self-represented authors want to know if a manuscript is immediately available. Same thing applies if you're writing screenplays on spec. If you get the attention of a producer with a logline or treatment, you’d be advised to have script in hand.
It’s crucial, in general, to check in the publisher's guidelines. Here, specifically, you’ll learn whether or not they'll accept simultaneous submissions. Unless there's a compelling reason to do otherwise, I'll usually go with the ones who do. Otherwise you wait until the other side of forever to hear back from one before you can submit to another.
If there is a compelling reason to submit to that exclusivity-minded publisher, include a simple, diplomatic statement in your letter that you will be submitting to other publishers once the response time has expired. Then track it, and make sure you do submit elsewhere if you don't get a positive response.
If you're submitting to those who do accept simultaneous submissions don't try to use it as a club to demand a quick response. Be polite and keep sending those queries out. I usually try to send two to four per week, and I usually do it first thing, before I begin my creative writing for the day.
Once you have a query letter set up on your computer it's a snap to make changes, so don’t forget to personalize the letter, tweaking it each time with, say, an informed remark about the publishing house and its appeal, or a nod to a book you’ve read from their catalogue.
Finally, one simple edict: keep putting out those submissions and tracking them. You'll get rejections, of course, even lots of them. Maybe mostly them.
You'll also, with persistence, get published.
Author of Doubleday western novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworks' fantasies (Ebook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating on a animated series. http://www.peggybechko.50megs.com/