How to Submit Your Book and Actually Get It Published

How to Submit Your Book and Actually Get It Published
By Jordan Ardoin

 

Everyone who’s serious about writing has at least one goal in common: to get your book published. Unfortunately, another thing all writers have in common is the knowledge that getting a book published can be very difficult. Publishers receive anywhere from dozens to hundreds of manuscripts a month, and only about 10% of those end up published.
 

What can you do to set your manuscript apart from the rest and make sure your book is in that 10%? As in so many other professional situations, your first impression plays a big role in whether or not your book gets published. A publisher’s first look at your manuscript can make or break their decision to publish you. Therefore, it’s important to submit the best manuscript you possibly can and to submit your manuscript properly. Here are a few tips on how to do just that.
 

1. Polish, Polish, Polish

Poor structure and sloppy grammar leave a bad taste in the mouth of anyone reading your manuscript. Especially when that “anyone” has already read twelve sloppy manuscripts before starting yours. You want your manuscript to be a breath of fresh air, not another in a long line of headaches for a weary publisher. So, edit, proofread, edit, and proofread one more time before submitting. If you want to get your book published, you have to show the publisher your absolute best, and that means putting yourself through a rigorous and thorough editing process.
 

2. Include a Well-Written Query Letter

Many publishers will ask that a query letter accompany submissions. A query letter is basically a sales pitch that convinces a publisher or agent that your manuscript is worth their time. Your query letter is a first impression within a first impression, and it’s important that you write a good one. For detailed advice on writing query letters, check out our blog post on the subject.
 

3. Do Your Research

Research on your book can include information on possible target audiences, marketing strategies, or examples of similar books that have been successful. Including such information in your query letter shows the publisher that you are serious about not only publishing your book but also selling your book. Research on specific book publishers should include looking into what kind of books they usually publish and making sure your book is a good fit for them.
 

4. Follow Instructions!

Nothing looks worse for you as the author than when a publisher sets out specific, detailed guidelines for submissions and you don’t follow them. Take the time to read the publisher’s website thoroughly before submitting. Most publishers have a preferred format and want specific information included in your query letter or synopsis, and they will tell you all of this on their website. You worked long and hard on your manuscript; don’t ruin your chance of being published by making a careless mistake at the last second and not following directions.
 

If your manuscript is as squeaky clean as it can possibly be, your query letter is informative and formatted perfectly, your research has yielded loads of useful information, and everything is done exactly the way the publisher wants it, it’s time to submit your book! (Of course, you could always proofread one more time.)
 

Just remember, even if you take all of these tips to heart and follow them religiously, you will still get rejected sometimes. After all, only 10% of submitted manuscripts are published. However, by following the tips outlined here, you increase your chances of catching a publisher’s eye and achieving that ultimate dream of getting your book published.

How to Work Through Writer’s Block

How to Work Through Writer’s Block

The dreaded writer’s block. The bane of every writer’s existence. Once it hits, it seems like an inescapable mind prison, void of any creative genius…blank.

 

Don’t panic! I know right now it may feel like you will never have another great idea, or that you’ll never be able to write again, but that is far from true. There are many ways to push through writer’s block, and as this can be a difficult situation to navigate on your own, I thought I would share some of my favorite tips with you.
 

Read a book you love.

Remember that one book that fostered your love for the written word? The one that offers a continuous source of inspiration? Go back and read it! When in the midst of a creative slump, it can be easy to forget your why. Why you love to write. Why a good story is so important. Reading your favorite book, or even a chapter from it might give you that little spark you need to push through.
 

Freewrite.

Let your mind go crazy! Well…not too crazy. This is your chance to get out any and all thoughts that may be stifling your creativity. Writing through the block is sometimes where the most original stories come from. It’s okay if this feels unfamiliar, because not every great tale comes from a comfortable place. Don’t think too hard, just write.
 

Take a brain break.

Clear your mind, go for a walk, listen to music, play video games, chat with friends. Whatever brings you joy, and allows your mind to take some time off. Sometimes, the best tactic is just to take a step back from the material, and allow your mind to wander a bit.
 

Change your setting.

It is not always productive to write where you are comfortable. While some of your best stories may have been written at your favorite desk or on your living room couch (where I frequently doze off while attempting to get work done), that may not be where genius hits you next. Try hitting up that cute coffee shop on the corner that you’ve always wanted to visit, or a local library. A change of scenery might just be the inspiration that you need.
 

In a twisted sense of irony, I was struggling with writer’s block while attempting to write a blog on how to work through writer’s block. But I persevered! That is what matters in the end. Don’t let your writer’s block get the best of you. Sometimes the best stories come from the most difficult places. Just remember to always keep writing.
 

Do you have any tried and true methods for beating writer’s block?
 

Share them with us in the comments!

How to Write in One Simple, Easy Step

book publisher
By Jordan Ardoin

 

So you want to write a book and publish a book. Or an essay. Or a poem. Or an instructional guide on raising emus. Whatever kind of writer you are (or want to be), at some point you’ve probably asked the One, the penultimate Question: how do I do this? Answering that question may seem daunting, even impossible, at first. How do you start the process of turning an idea in your head into an actual, physical piece of work?
 

The answer is so simple it’s almost hard to believe. How do you start? By starting, of course.
 

“Oh, no,” you’re probably thinking at this point. “I thought I’d finally found the secret to writing, but this isn’t real advice at all. What a waste of time. I’m never reading another blog post again.” But stay with me! This is good advice, I promise.
 

So many new writers (old ones, too) spend all their time stressing about what and how to write and never get around to actually writing. And there’s the problem. The only way to write is to write. As Shia LaBeouf would say, just do it! Whatever you’ve got in your head, put it on the page. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be good. Author Harlan Coben already said it: “Write. Just write. You can always fix bad pages. You can’t fix no pages.” (See, I’m not just making this up!)
 

I know, I know, “writing” isn’t exactly a simple, easy step. I lied to get you to read this; I’ll admit it. Writing is intimidating and frustrating and slow. It’s also very easy to put off. I know this because I’m probably the world’s best procrastinator.
 

Trust me when I say that I know how difficult it is to get started, and I know how difficult it is to stick with something you’ve been working on for a long time. But if you want to be a writer, you have to learn some time. And the only way to learn a craft is to practice it. So, let’s get writing.

Grammar Pet Peeves, Part 1

I’m writing this little series with you in mind.
 

Throughout my short time being an English major and a slightly longer time falling in love with major, I have come across many things that I have found problematic and have decided to share with you.
 

We all have been guilty of these, but some of us can learn from our mistakes. Others, well, either they don’t know it’s a problem or they choose to ignore it. I am here to help with that!
 

Today, we are going to discuss the differences of: and me vs. and I, among vs. between, and loose vs. lose.
 

And me vs. and I

 

You would be surprised at how many people believe that “and I” is always correct. Would you believe me if I told you that’s not the case?
 

Shocked, right? I was at first, too. When a statement ends with “and me,” it does not automatically write the statement off as invalid or false because of your belief of what proper grammar is.
 

How can you tell if it’s used correctly or not? Let me help you figure it out.
 
Always cross out the “and” part. For instance: Jess and I are going to the store. Take out “Jess and” and read what is left of the sentence.
 

I [am] going to the store. (Always check your verbs because it is going to be awkward!)
 

The sentence, “I am going to the store” makes sense, therefore, “Jess and I are going to the store” is correct.
 

Let’s try that again. Chat with Evie and I tomorrow! Again, let’s take out “Evie and.” Does “Chat with I tomorrow!” make sense?
 

Nope. It’s going to be me instead. Chat with Evie and me tomorrow!
 

Anytime you’re curious or it feels clunky on the tongue, try this tip and see if it helps. Sometimes, even if it sounds wrong, it’ll be right. I automatically omit the “and” and what comes before it every time I read it to see if it’s right.
 

Between vs. Among

 

Using these words can be confusing at times. There are times where they both sound right or one sounds better than the other. Maybe it helps the character or the flow is just better, but I’m here to tell you something. If you go with your gut, there is a high possibility that you’re wrong.
 

Between is used when mentioning two objects or people. For instance: This conversation is just between Sally and me.
 

Now, to add onto that, let’s say that there’s me, Sally, and Trey. It would make sense if the sentence was now, “This conversation is between us,” right?
 

Actually, no. Why? Well, as stated right before, there are now three people in the conversation. The correct word to use would then be among. So, the right way would then be: This conversation is among us.
 

Between is used in reference to two things. Among is then used for anything three or more.
 

Loose vs. Lose

 

Most of the time, people get these wrong because of typos. You meant lose, but you accidentally added an extra “o.” And, because nothing is perfect, your computer might have not caught it. Or maybe it did and made it loose instead of lose and you didn’t catch it. Yet, there are other times when people really do not understand the difference.
 

To help with this one, I’m going to spit out some definitions. (Note: since there are multiple definitions to these words, I am going with the first one offered.)
 

Loose (adjective): free or released from fastening or attachment.
 

Example: I must’ve lost weight! This shirt is loose!
 

Lose (verb): to come to be without (something in one’s possession or care), through accident, theft, etc., so that there is little or no prospect of recovery.
 

Example: Did you lose your wallet?

What Makes a Good Story, Post 2

What Makes a Good Story or Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

A Blog Series by Faith Green

 

Post #2: Avoid Cliché (read last post)

 

Okay, okay, I know. If you’ve ever taken an English class in your life, then this post seems cliché. Isn’t it ironic? Oops, I did it again. I crack myself up. I could go on, but the only person I’d be entertaining is myself.

 

At the end of this article, I’ll start a list of clichés that I hope you’ll add to, but for now, I’ll move on to the question of how to avoid cliché. Of course, the first strategy for avoiding cliché is avoiding cliché, but I’ll save you the déjà vu.

 

Confront the cliché.

 

Shakespeare displays one of the prime strategies for avoiding cliché, hyperbolic cliché in this case, with “Sonnet 130:”

 

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on head. (1-4)

 

The poetic voice continues this seemingly insulting rant for quite a few lines before adding, “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare/As any she belied with false compare” (13-14).

 

So, what’s his strategy for avoiding cliché? Confronting clichés by pointing out their absurdity and falseness. He’s not insulting his mistress by saying her eyes don’t look like the sun, her lips aren’t coral red, her breasts aren’t snow white, and her hair is like wire. He’s saying that people are ridiculous for making such comparisons in the first place. Now that’s not cliché, though it might be dangerous. Do not let your mistress see this, Mr. Poetic Voice.

 

Put a new spin on an old idea.

 

Cliché applies to storylines just as much as it applies to phrases. Here’s an example: a teen is getting into trouble. The teen is taught a lesson by a person or circumstance. The teen stops getting into trouble and grows up to be a functional adult. The end. It’s the classic coming-of-age-story. In Murran, though, F. F. Fiore un-clichés this ancient structure. Here’s what happens after his main character becomes involved with a gang:

 

When he’s framed for a crime and facing prison, Trey flees to a Maasai village in Kenya with his English teacher and mentor, Mr. Jackson. Though initially repulsed by the Maasai customs, Trey slowly comes to value their traditions and morals. As he goes through the Maasai warrior’s rite of passage, becoming one of their own, he learns that Black African culture is truly about. Only after confronting lions, disapproving Maasai elders, and his own fears does Trey begin to understand that men are made and not born. (Back cover)

 

Wait? A modern teenager does what? I have definitely never heard this story before, and that’s because Fiore has put a new spin on an old idea.

 

Do you have more suggestions for strategies to avoid cliché? Share them in the comments where you can add to my list of clichés, too.

 

Also, if you’d like to check out Fiore’s book, click here.

 

Here are some clichés just subtle enough that they might fool you:

 

Humble beginnings

Last minute or at the last minute

Raven-black, snow-white, caramel-brown

Husky, short and stout, curvy, full-figured

Rail-thin, like a bird

My eyes are up here

Dense fog

Drastic circumstances

Only you have the power/the chosen one

Share them/it/your thoughts in the comments

Keep an eye out for our next blog 😉

What Makes a Good Story

What Makes a Good Story (Lessons I Learned the Hard Way)

A Blog Series by Faith Green

 

Post #1: Write Without Evasion

 

“Are you going to write about me?” my boyfriend of one year asks, looking down at me with his brown-green eyes.

 

“Uh….” My own eyes linger appreciatively on his Romanesque nose before I divert my attention to a piece of lint on his shirt. I pick it off. “Sure….”

 

It’s not a lie. I will write about him, but it won’t be like he thinks. Also, I will never, ever show him, or if I do, I’ll never let him know the piece is about him. It’s not that he wouldn’t make a good character. He’d make a great character, but that’s the problem. Characters require imperfections, and he’s got them. I don’t want the world to know that, though.

 

Scratch that. This article is about honesty.

 

I do want the world to know, but I don’t want him to know that I let the world know.

 

Because you’re going to let the world know, half of my conscience whispers.

 

Yup, I answer silently.

 

You’re a bad person, the other half of my conscience says.

 

I prefer the term “non-evasive author,” I respond.

 


The inclination to avoid certain aspects of an event or character is often a major obstacle for authors. Memoirs provide some great examples of this obstacle. Pretend you are writing about your childhood experiences. You have a father. Your father worked hard, which you respected, but he drank daily and deeply, which disturbed you. Both of these characteristics impacted you immensely, but you don’t want to hurt your father or your family. Do you leave him out of the piece? No. Do you exclude his drinking? No. You must be prepared to face, digest, and discuss the impact your father’s work ethic and his drinking had on you if you want to write a memoir about your childhood. Otherwise, the writing will be cliché, your characters 1-dimensional, and your memoir unsubstantial.

 

Here are some ways you might avoid literary evasion:

 

Write in the appropriate genre. The memoirist, for example, might approach his or her childhood through the lense of poetry or fiction. The flexibility of such genres could magnify the possibilities of the author’s exploration.

 

List your characters’ imperfections. You might do this during character-developing exercise before and during the process of writing. Be aware of these characteristics while you write and include them in your characters’ actions and dialogue. If you are the main character, do the same for yourself. Also, don’t forget that every narrator is a character.

 

Write confessionals. Be honest. No one, no one, no one is perfect. One way you might get in touch with your character’s “darker side” is by writing confessional. Unlike the imperfections list, this list is written “by” your character and should include confessions of their darkest deeds. Try to write at least a page’s worth for each character.

 

Here’s a sample piece I so did not write about anybody in particular:

 

“The Night Before You Left”

 

I Brought you Blue Moon and slipped into bed, waiting

 

You drank the beer

and watched T.V.,

spent half the night petting our dog

and telling her you’d miss her.

 

I finished my wine and fell asleep

instead of deciding whether to cry or speak.

 

To be fair, this poem is more about miscommunication than anything else…


Do you have any suggestions about how to write non-evasively?

 

Do you have a sample non-evasive piece?

 

Share them with us in your comments!

Character Building

Story Character Building

By Justynn Newman

 

You have created a wonderful, detailed, and dynamic setting for your book to get place. Now you are on the right track. You conquered procrastination and you have your setting, and maybe even some of your plot.

 

The next step is to populate your story with characters as dynamic and awesome as your setting. Making a complex, interesting character can be difficult. Almost as difficult as it can be to meet such a person in real life. However, you are a writer, and it is your duty to make such characters. You may feel lost and you may struggle with creating someone with a full range of feelings and views. It is much easier to just throw in a character with a cardboard cutout personality, but nobody wants to read about them. Below I go over a few techniques that I find helpful for creating well-rounded characters.

 

How to Create Well-Rounded Characters in Your Story

 

Role

The first thing to do is think about what your character’s role in this story is. Are they the protagonist, antagonist, antihero, hero, loser, etc? Once you know their role you can begin to flesh them out. What do they look like? How do they present themselves? Are they funny, mean, intelligent, dramatic, or something else? A robot from the 7th dimension would act and talk quite differently from Steve the Days Inn manager. That’s a bit of an extreme example, but keep in mind what your character is like at their core. Also, avoid focusing on just one trait. Come up with a few personality traits for your character. Incorporating multiple traits will help your character come to life!

 

Reason

Now that you have their basic personality down, you can start asking the most important question: why? Why is my character like this? Why do they behave this way? These questions are excellent tools in determining how your character became the person they are now. Take this time to write up a backstory. Who are/were their parents? What was their childhood like? Find out what shaped them and really try and think as this character would. Many times, it’s hard to separate your own opinions from your character’s thoughts and beliefs. With a well-developed story for each character it becomes easier to avoid having all your character’s voices muddle together with themselves. Keep your characters separate. Developing them before the story begins makes them more solidified as an individual’s: they become entities separate from yourself.  If you make your characters distinct, then they will come across as distinct to your reader.

 

Motivation

Next, think about what motivates your character. Everyone wants to accomplish something and your character probably does too. Getting down to a character’s base motivations and goals will help you seamlessly incorporate them into your story. Think about your plot and your setting. Ask yourself, how can this character move, hinder, or add to the overall plot progression here?

 

If the answer to the question above is that they cannot contribute to the story, then scrap them. The people in your story are there because they are significant. If a character does not add anything substantive to the story, or worse takes away from it, then they need to go. It can be hard to let go of characters, but it is something all authors must do. Who knows, you may always be able to incorporate that character or idea into a future piece.

 

That is my tidbit of advice, feel free to share your though processes and techniques for building characters below!

Comma Advice

Commas Save Lives

By Hope Hall

 

Commas are complicated. They come with too many rules and just as many exceptions to those rules. Even if you want to break the rules, you have to know them to break them. And once you know them, you can recognize when following or breaking the rules works in your favor.

 

So here’s some comma advice to keep in mind.

 

When you join two sentences with a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so), throw a comma in front of the conjunction of your choice. The comma will keep the conjunction from running into the next sentence.

 

Consider the difference between

 

John ate a slice of pizza, and Sarah glared at him.

 

and

 

John took the last pizza slice and ate it.

 

In the first sentence, we actually have a two-for-one sentence, the first sentence being John ate a slice of pizza and the second being Sarah glared at him. So we separate them with a comma and the conjunction and.

 

The second example though is a little different. It has two verbs, took and ate. But John is the only subject doing those verbs. We have only one sentence. In the latter sentence, and joins two verbs, not two sentences. So we don’t need a comma to separate the verbs.

 

In this instance, the comma’s presence or absence alerts readers to what they’ll read next. Are they going to read another sentence or something that is still part of the sentence they just read?

 

Commas also set apart introductory elements from the main part of a sentence such as

 

In the kitchen, the empty pizza box lay on the counter.

 

Because Sarah hadn’t eaten since yesterday, she was very hungry.

 

Now consider this sentence

 

Sarah was very hungry because she hadn’t eaten since yesterday.

 

Although this third sentence has the same element as the second sentence, because she hadn’t eaten since yesterday is no longer introducing the sentence, so it does not need to be separated from the rest of the sent.

Creative Inspiration: Where does it come from?

publish your book

By Editorial Intern, Anjali Ajmani

Being a writer, I can say most of my creativity surfaces from my own experiences. If I’m writing a short story that features a dog, the dog is probably going to look like one of my dogs: blonde with floppy ears and a curly tail. If I’m trying to decide the setting for my story, I’ll probably pick a city or a town that I’m familiar with, like Albany, Georgia, which is where I was born. This way, the setting for my story will be believable and realistic. When focusing on my characters, I usually fashion them to look like people I know or people that I’ve seen before. Writing is easiest when I can see what I want to write in my mind.

 

Plot ideas often come from events in my life. If I’m having a bad day, I’ll write out what I’m feeling easily because the feelings are fresh. Vacations that I’ve taken serve as strong inspiration for stories. Thinking back to my childhood soccer games and playground days serve my creativity well. Sitting in a library surrounded by books helps me best get into a creative mindset. PetSmart is another place that gets me thinking creatively. All I have to do is look at the birds being silly, and I become inspired to write.

 

My creativity also stems from my imagination. I once wrote a short story featuring talking apples. A mother goes to Publix and buys several different kinds of apples for her and her daughter. I got the idea after visualizing food, in this case, apples, having feelings and telling stories. I wanted to write a story about apples that feared being eaten. I based the names of the apples off of their types. The Granny Smith apple was named Smith. The Pink Lady apple was named Lady. The McIntosh apple was named Mac, and so on. Smith and Lady share a night together while the other apples tell each other the stories of their lives before they arrived at Publix. The following morning, the daughter decides she wants to eat the Granny Smith apple as part of her breakfast, and Smith dies. This story is really a story of what ifs. What if apples could talk? What if apples had dreams and fears? Asking yourself questions can provide inspiration for a story.

If you’re struggling in the creative department, try not to become frustrated. Brainstorm through your life. How have your own experiences shaped your creativity? What are your sources of creativity? Are you a traveler? Are you an athlete? Are you a foodie? Are you an inventor? Everyone has their own unique creative inspiration. I’d like to hear about yours.

 

 

 

 

How to Write a Query Letter

Book Publisher

By Editorial Intern, Anjali Ajmani

Writing a query letter can be scary if you’re not familiar with what goes in one. You want the agent or publisher to pick up your story with gusto. You’ve finished your book, and you feel great about it. You’re ready for the next step: submitting it to a publisher. Here’s an overview of what goes in a query letter.

  • The beginning of your query letter should introduce your manuscript. You want to provide the agent or publisher with a first impression. Include your word count, the genre of your work, and who the target audience is.

 

  • After you’ve introduced your book, insert a sound bite. The sound bite is an interesting clip from your story designed to hook the reader. It is not a summary or a synopsis. The sound bite is supposed to attract the agent/publisher and make him or her want to learn more about your story. For example, John Green’s sound bite of The Fault in Our Stars might go like this: What does love mean to two teenagers battling cancer? Keep in mind that a sound bite can be a question.

 

  • The synopsis can follow the sound bite, but note that the synopsis usually isn’t in the query letter. A synopsis is usually submitted with the manuscript as a separate document or attachment on a submission page. The synopsis is, of course, a summary of your story. The synopsis can be a paragraph or two. A synopsis of The Fault in Our Stars could be the following: Cancer patient and book enthusiast Hazel Lancaster meets and befriends Augustus Waters, a former cancer patient, at a cancer support group. Hazel and Augustus travel to Amsterdam to meet Hazel’s favorite author, where Hazel then falls in love with Augustus and must come to terms with the fact that his cancer has come back.

 

  • You should introduce yourself in the last part of your query letter. Tell the agent or publisher who you are, what works you’ve written and published (if any), and your occupation. Don’t get too detailed, and don’t make your letter read like a resume. The agent/publisher doesn’t need to know where you used to work.

When you’re finished, get someone to look over it for you before you send it out. You want your query letter to be the best that it can be. Realize that it might take a few drafts to get your query letter just how you want it. Good luck!