How I Got Published by Traditional Publisher and You Can Too
By Stephanie Campbell
Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a published author. I had this image in my head of what it would be like. I would write my book, it would get picked up within weeks, and I would be able to push out novels and everybody would love me. With this dream in my head, I wrote my first book, Until We Meet Again. I located non-fiction guides that told me who to contact and what to do. First, you write a query letter. I wrote one, albeit a sloppy one. After that, you write a plot synopsis, which was once again very sloppy. I then sent out my query letter by mail and was crushed by my rejection a month later. I continued this conquest, pushing through the “nos.” I finally decided on self-publishing, paid two thousand dollars, and got my book self-published. My editor, unfortunately, wasn’t very good and I ended up with a sloppy book with little sales. It wasn’t until after I turned eighteen and I pulled my book from the market that I got my first traditional publisher and looked back and realized I approached publishing the wrong way.
Yes, this appears to be a gloomy story, but it really isn’t. I’m going to share with all those authors striving to be published out there how to get published without making my mistakes. And even if you love the idea of self-publishing, you can do that FREE on CreateSpace.
First, many people ask me, do I have to have my book written in order to approach publishers? Yes, yes, yes. Unless your book is non-fiction, when you have to have a forty-page proposal written anyway, do have your book written. My best advice to those trying to write is for thirty minutes each day let nothing stand in your way and work on your novel. Step by step, inch by inch, you will finish your book.
Secondly, if you have a finished manuscript, don’t expect to be accepted unless you self-edited your book multiple times yourself. Get yourself a good copy of Chicago’s Manual of Style and make it your best friend. This was a big mistake I made when sending out my manuscript to people. I assumed they wouldn’t care about the errors. Microsoft may have great spellcheck, but you need to dig in deeper to find the real mistakes. Also, editors in publishing houses read your manuscript out loud in order to catch errors in flow. I would recommend doing the same.
When attacking publishers or agents, the query letter is your sword and the plot synopsis is your armor. A query letter consists of a tagline (your story summed up in one sentence), a blurb (your book in one or two paragraphs), and your bio. In your bio, only write what is relevant to your writing history and your book. You may farm mushrooms in the rainforest, but if you’re writing a book about cats, that’s irrelevant. A plot synopsis is your entire manuscript summed up in three to five double-spaced pages. Never, never, never leave out the ending of your book to leave the publisher or agent hanging. They are looking at your book for market potential. Also, avoid fancy font. Use Times New Roman always unless otherwise specified and let your writing speak for itself.
Next, decide your route for publishing. You can’t touch the “big six” publishers (Random House, Scholastic, HarperCollins, etc.) without an agent, but they are tough to get for a first-timer. Agents take on very few clients per year. After the agents, there are independent publishers that will take un-agented submissions. For both routes, you will need your query and synopsis.
My recommendation is this. Go to Pre-Editors and Editors and query the agents on the list. Make sure to pay attention to query guidelines like “exclusive submissions only” and “simultaneous submissions accepted.” Exclusive submissions mean the publisher or agent wants you to query only that publisher or agent. Simultaneous submissions mean you can query others on top of them. Most agents allow you to query simultaneously. After you have queried them and (if) haven’t gotten a positive response, go to the independent publishers and query them. Please pay attention to the Pre-editors and Editors guideline list and avoid who they tell you to avoid. That’s the great thing about Pre-Editors and Editors. They post warnings about bad business practices. Don’t pay for a traditional publisher. A true traditional publisher or agent will work for free. They pay you, not the other way around.
Okay, I know that sounds complicated, but you can do it. I am twenty-one years old and have published many books through traditional publishers. I even re-wrote Until We Meet Again and am now publishing it through a bigger publisher via my agent. I am just your average, everyday Nancy with just a little side serving of “weirdo.” The only difference between those who publish and those who don’t is the belief in oneself and the knowledge about the subject.
You CAN write that book.
You CAN get published.
You CAN be everything you imagined.
Self-belief is the number one key it takes to getting published. Don’t give up because of rejection letters. Everybody gets them. I have enough of them to wallpaper my house. Follow the guidelines, keep trying, and you will get a publisher and your book will be wonderful. Don’t ever let something stand in the way of your story.
About my latest release, Late but not Never:
Seventy-eight year old Trinity thought that she was too old for falling in love, until she finds it in the most unlikely of places.
Trinity Davis is seventy-eight years old and has never been married. She spent her whole life living and breathing her career, but now, after being forced to retire, she realizes how much she’s missed. After seeing a brightly colored pamphlet for a dance at the senior center, she decides to go. What she doesn’t expect is to meet the soul mate that she has spent her entire life waiting for.
Trinity Davis was the cat lady, except she had no cats. In fact, she was allergic. But that didn’t change the truth about her. She was seventy-eight years old, unmarried and living in a small home all by herself. That qualified her as the cat lady in her own mind. The lonely, old cat lady.
A sigh escaped her throat.
Currently, Trinity lingered in her bedroom, but sitting in front of the television made her knees ache just as much as standing did. She cursed old age as she put both feet on the ground and stood up. A stray white hair got in her face, and she pushed it aside before turning and hobbling to the kitchen. She put her hands on her painfully thin, arthritic hips as she went and ignored the pain. She had worked as the CEO of a design company for twenty-five years, and before that, she had been a secretary and a designer. She was too big of a trier to give up just because her hips bones were fused together.
As she went into the kitchen and opened the door to the refrigerator, she blew out a sigh. She saw the packages of food left by the Meals on Wheels people. She peaked in at one of the meals and grumbled. It was supposed to be mashed potatoes and salmon, but it looked more like the throw up of the cats she was so allergic to. She shut the refrigerator door and frowned. No use eating now. She’d figure something else out later, or luckily, she would reap the added benefit of old age forgetfulness and just not eat at all.
Just as she was about to return to her room to begin to rifle through some more design magazines, reliving the moments when she had reigned as an amazing business woman, something bright green caught her eye in her stack of mail. It would have to, she reasoned, what
with her right eye going bad and everything. She looked at the mail again and hobbled toward it, intrigued. Mostly she just got junk mail these days.
She picked up the bright green paper and cocked her head, frowning. The paper was far too bright and had way too many explanation points. To help me see it, she thought.
Come to the Senior Center!!!
Every Night is something EXCITING!!!
Bowling, dancing, old movies!!!
For people sixty-five years and older!
Cripes, she thought, grimacing. They really need a new copy editor. She put the paper down, but she couldn’t stop looking at it, even after she did. She couldn’t help herself. She was intrigued by it. A part of her wanted to go to that senior center. A part of her wanted to know if it was as EXCITING!!! as the bolded lettering and the three explanation points relayed. Mostly, she wanted to see someone besides her own reflection. Who would have thought how lonely retirement could be?
About the author:
I am the published author of The Willow Does Not Weep, Racing Death, Case Closed, Mirror of Darkness, Hot Wheels, Dragon Night, Poachers, Dragon Night, Tasting Silver, Late but not Never, Specimen X, Tales of Draga, E is for Eternity, and P.S. I Killed My Mother. I have written another screenplay available, His Name was Dan Jose. My short story, The Beauty in Ugly, is being produced by Lower End Productions. I am represented by Sheri Williams of Red Writing Hood Ink.
If you want to read more about my release(s) or just want to keep up with me, please feel free to join with me on any of the following websites.
My website: http://stephaniecampbellreleases.weebly.com/
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/StephanieECamp
My agent’s page: http://www.redwritinghoodink.net/
You can also hear me talk on The Candy O’Donnell Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/candyodonnell/2012/10/23/author-stephanie-elisabeth-campbell.
I have also spoken with Silver Star Media at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/angelsandwarriors/2012/10/27/meet-stephanie-campbell