1. Educate yourself. I’ve spoken with a lot of aspiring authors recently and while they take their writing and dreams of publication seriously, most of them gave me blank stares and non-answers when I asked them what they know about the market, agents, and publishers. One even shrugged and said “I don’t know what publishers publish the genre I write”. This took me by surprise. Educating yourself about the industry is one of the most beneficial and important things you can do in order to achieve your goal of publication.
I started educating myself by looking at what my favorite authors had to say on their sites. I then moved onto other book/writing sites. One of my favorites is AgentQuery. The most important information I gained from this site was how to format my manuscripts. (Side note: Format is everything. Agents and publishers are very strict about the format of a document.) Familiarize yourself with publishers and their imprints, and agents and their clients. Read about query letters. Brush up on submission requirements.
To save you some time, however, I’m going to tell you an important fact: A publisher who makes the writer pay to be published is not a reputable publisher. A writer should never have to pay a company to be published. (Don’t confuse this with self-publishing, though.)
2. Read a variety of books. I read a ton of YA. YA (paranormal) romance, to be exact. Not only is it a genre I’ve always loved, it’s the one I write, so I’m sure you can see why I read it. But I do try to read books outside of this category. While I have yet to venture into the world of non-fiction, I do enjoy a nice swim in the pool of adult fiction. Wicked by Gregory Maguire, the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and Shakespeare plays are titles that are different than what I normally read/write, but I’ve learned a lot from them.
By reading outside your box, you’ll expose yourself to devices you may not see in the books you typically read. For example, reading a mystery novel might improve your ability to weave suspense into a story. Or you might learn how to write romance scenes by reading a romance novel or two. I gained new perspectives on narrative timelines and descriptions from the Night Circus and I make a conscious effort to use what I’ve learned when I write. I’ve seen a major improvement in my writing, which is exactly what I want and this difference wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t broadened my exposure.
3. Write what you love and love what you write. I know everyone says not to write for a specific trend. But what if you like that trend? What if you want to write for that trend? I say go for it. I’ve always been a believer of writing what you love and loving what you write. If you want to write a vampire love story, write it. If you want to write about a dystopian society and the strong individual who fights against the oppressive government, then do it. Don’t worry about whether or not the market is saturated with similar titles. Your stories are your own and no one can tell your story except yourself.
4. Be realistic. This last one is a bit harsh, but important nonetheless. As much as we all want our books to fly off the shelves, receive 5-star ratings, and get turned into movies, the reality is very, very few of us will ever experience this kind of JK Rowling/Stephenie Meyer/Suzanne Collins success. No matter how awesomsauce you think your book is–and it could very well be made of awesome–there is always going to be someone who doesn’t like it. Not everyone will love your work, yet not everyone will hate it either. Just be positive, happy, and supportive of your work. There is always a door waiting to be opened and you never know which one your stories may open.