A public speaker and visiting lecturer for many years, Ginger has been a reader for the James Jones First Novel Award and is currently a judge for the East-West Writer's Contest. Her works have been awarded honorable mentions and she has placed in several writing contests. She is looking forward to writing full-time in 2013. She took time from her busy schedule to describe the process she followed to publish her first novel. So without further ado, will ...
Someone Find My Hair, Please?
I’m writing this post while I'm in the final stages of publishing my new novel. Run, River Currents is slated to be released on or around August 3. Edits, book cover design, contracts, interviews, blog posts. I’m pulling my hair out in clumps, I’m so busy.
Throughout this process I’ve been asked a million times, “How did you get your book published?” I know there are a thousand books on that subject alone, but what I think people are aching to hear is a simplified version of how to get it done. That’s why I’m here. Simple advice, from a simple kind of girl. After all, I am blonde.
Here’s the Simpleton’s Guide. Follow it. Get published. Really.
Have a real desire to write, and then write a lot. Every day.
Learn the craft of writing. That means you need to learn to understand these simple terms:
- Sense of Place or Setting
- Showing, Not Telling.
Network. There is so much truth in the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The other side to that is that it’s easy to get to know people. Don’t lock yourself in a closet. Find a conference or a writer’s event and even if you can’t afford to pay to go, you CAN afford to volunteer at the event! It’s amazing how many contacts I made by giving my time!
Write a good “log line.” I’ll give you this one. A log line is a one-sentence attention grabber, as you only have a few seconds to get the pitchee to ask more questions about your story. Here was mine. Got me a boat-load of agent and publisher business cards with this one:
Twenty-seven-year-old Emily Evans, stands over her father’s coffin, lifts her arm, and punches full force into his face. “You’ll never be dead enough, “she says. “Never.”
Doesn’t it make you wonder why she’d do such a thing? Well, that is why your log line is so important. With the little bit of time you usually have to pitch your story, make it worth their while.
Now write a “pitch.” For those unfamiliar with that word, it’s the “story” you want the editor and publisher to know. It comes right after the “log-line.” It should come off the top of your head after many, many rehearsed hours. It should sound as natural when you share it with them as it does when you tell a friend about your manuscript. And it’s still a manuscript until it’s published, so don’t go and show your “newbieness” off by calling it a book. Also, a “pitch” can be part of a “query” letter if it is sent in written form to an agent or publisher. The style is the same. Short. To the point. The only difference to me was the fact that I was face-to-face in pitch conferences and I was not in an e-mail query. Both required the same kind of intensity.
Here’s the written part of my pitch and then how I broke it down so I’d remember it when I gave a verbal pitch.
The rage-filled act sets Emily on journey to rediscover the peace she’d lost as a child at the hands of her father. Memories of her father’s brutal attacks battle the lessons of hope and forgiveness she’d learned at her grandfather’s side along the banks of the Tobique River. As she recalls the summer tent revivals and baptisms, the harvest of the forests and potato fields, the drowning of her best friend, and the fly-fishing excursions with her Bible-toting grandfather, the weight of her present life choices balance precariously between the horror of her past and the uncertainty of her future. Emily is at a crossroads. No longer able to live with the rage that boils inside, a rage she has taken out on her husband and her siblings, she determines to end her personal struggle beneath the waters of the Tobique. She wades into the river and, taking one final breath, presses beneath the rushing flow. Will the Tobique finally cleanse her of her past, or will it take her life? The Women’s Fiction manuscript ends with Emily’s renewed ability to forgive.
When I pitched in person, I kept in my head, Who? What? When? Where & How?
Who? - Emily, her father, her mother & her grandfather
What? - She had to find escape from the memory of her father’s attacks & her
mother’s emotional abandonment
When? - She had to act now
Where? - Emily had to return to the good memories of her youth
By categorizing what I needed to say and explaining my genre, I was able to pass on my thoughts seamlessly in a conversational manner, instead of stuttering or talking too long, both things agents, and publishers really prefer you not do.
When written, I kept the story idea short and to the point. Sure, it’s not the perfect pitch, but it did let the intended listener know that the story was a balance of good and evil and had a strong “sense of place.” I also told them the ending. No one who wants to publish your manuscript will want to wait to read the whole thing before knowing the conclusion of the crisis.
Work up a short bio. Publishers, agents and editors need to know a bit about you. Don’t make it long, but make it pertinent to your story. Here’s mine:
Although a fictional story, many of the happenings in the manuscript are based on true events, as I grew up in the north woods of New Brunswick, Canada, the setting for Run, River Currents. I’ve recently graduated from Wilkes University with my M.F.A., and interned with Etruscan Press. I was a reader for the 2011 James Jones First Novel Award, as well as a judge for the East-West Writing Contest. I travel over 160,000 miles a year teaching business courses at colleges across the nation and am a public speaker and blogger for my company.
By giving your audience a peek at your knowledge base (i.e., based on true events, I grew up there, I have learned the craft of writing and I have read, critiqued others' works, and have a built in base for marketing because of my travel and speaking), you let the person know and understand why you were the best person to write this particular story.
Then you start looking up every single agent, editor and publisher who might want your particular genre. I found the following two sites to be my best resources:
www.fundsforwriters A great blog by Hope Clark. It’s $16 a year for a membership and is filled with loads of contests, job and grant opportunities around the world.
www.writersmarket This is another subscription site, but I will tell you, the resources are up-to-date, listing agencies and publishers for your book, all easily found with a simple search engine.
Continue searching for outlets by asking your friends for contacts, or look in the acknowledgement pages of other books in your genre. The editor, agent and publishers are always mentioned there. E-mail a query letter to them. Keep e-mailing. Follow up. Save the many, many rejection letters you’ll get. Someday you’ll get to say, “What did they know?” Then maybe, soon, someone will say yes!
There’s no perfect way to get published. It’s all about hard, hard work. Took me many conferences, many pitches, tons of rejections and a little dumb luck.
So, there you have it. A one-two-three guide for figuring out how to get your first story published. I call it the Simpleton’s Guide, because, after all, I’m still blonde, hairless right now, but blonde. Oh, as a disclaimer, I got published because a friend recommended my work to her publisher!
Ginger Marcinkowski's novel Run, River Currents may be found at http://www.amazon.com/Run-River-Currents-Ginger-Marcinkowski/dp/1935961713/.
Follow her blog at http://gingermarcinkowski.blogspot.ca/.