A monthly column written by an Authorlink contributing editor.

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by Susan Malone

March 2003

We’ve been talking these last months about the market in general and how you can survive it emotionally, while furthering your craft as well. Because you know, this business can really get you down. I often work with new writers, and watch as wide-eyed enthusiasm turns to shock and then dismay to often depression when they get to the marketing stages. And it IS a shock. Publishing is a much different industry from what it appears on the outside. As we’ve discussed in recent months, what has always been tough to break into has now become incredibly difficult, and is getting more dismal by the day.

Faced with this, many folks look to the plethora of new self-publishers. And, if you have one book in you—a self-help that accompanies your primary business; a business how-to that you are already in a market to sell; a family heirloom written for your family alone—going that route works fine.

I’ve discussed at length the problems with self-publishing in general, and the point of importance here is simple: if you’re a serious writer, and want to pursue this as a career, you must go the traditional publishing route. Period.

Long sigh, you say. But hark! More than one way exists to skin this elusive polecat. So, what can you do, as per getting your work sold?

You gotta become smarter. Just because the doors seem bolted shut doesn’t mean you can’t pry them open. It just takes more work. A lot more work.

And, as with most upstart endeavors, you must break it down into manageable parts.

First, do your homework. This will save untold amounts of time and dollars, and set you up in the right direction. Peruse the Internet sites dedicated to writers. But beware—many are not what they seem, and are, in effect, fronts for self-publishing ventures. So, keep that in mind. If you’re reading this, you already know which one I consider to be the best of the bunch—Authorlink. And I don’t just say that because I write this monthly column for them. I’ve fought these publishing battles for a long time, and as a professional, I know that a better site just doesn’t exist. Look at their success—around eighty books have been sold through author listings here, and about 400 writers have found literary representation. Show me anyone with a higher success rate. But for God’s sake, don’t take my word for it—compare for yourself.

Take, for example, Authorlink’s new Market Report. Check it out. It’s chock full of the publishing news that actually PERTAINS to you. Check out the Publisher’s Weekly Hot Deals section as well. Find out what’s happening in the industry.

And that’s where you begin: WHO IS SELLING WHAT, TO WHOM, THROUGH WHICH ROUTES? Dig in. Find out what the specific editors at the specific houses are looking for. That information exists—study it. Editors change jobs in this industry all the time—sometimes by choice, sometimes not. But what they seek usually only changes marginally, depending upon the needs of the House in which they then find themselves. Search out which agents are selling to which editors, and what they’re selling. Many agents list sales on their own sites.

Keep up with new imprints. Again, these open up every day, and are often more amenable to taking on new authors. As the market changes, the imprints follow.

MAKE CONNECTIONS. Hook up with successful folks in this business. Although the words must be on the page as we say, in order to sell those words you need to network. This is truly a people-to-people business. Join a writer’s group. Again, be careful. Make sure these aren’t the gray-haired ladies in sneakers, but professional authors. The good ones very often bring in agents and editors, whom you can meet and pitch your work to. Meet them. Go to conferences. Yeah, they’re expensive. But no more so than spending the next four years copying and sending out queries and samples in the dark. And the reputable conferences bring in topnotch agents and editors. Meet them. Enter contests. Again, enter the reputable ones—most of those are judged by those same topnotch agents and editors. Get your work SEEN. Even if it’s rejected, doesn’t win, etc., you can still make a connection to someone who, down the road, may buy or represent your work.

Form relationships with editors. This doesn’t mean hound them. It means find an editor who believes in your work. For example, if you write short stories, submit them to a variety of appropriate places. If an editor encourages you, send her the next story. Often, a magazine editor won’t buy the first or second or even third submission. But, somewhere down the line, they’ll buy YOU. Work with professional editors. I’ve hooked up a host of my writers with agents (and even publishers). Again, this is a people business. Meet the professionals in it!

Go to book signings. Meet the authors. Pick their brains as to how they broke in. Most will gladly discuss their work AND their publishing horror stories with you. From that you can glean what not to do, as well as what worked.

Work smarter, work smarter, work smarter. Writers are breaking into this business everyday. BE ONE OF THEM.

About Susan Mary Malone

Author of: By the Book (novel); BodySculpting; Fourth and Long; Five Keys for Understanding MenFifteen Malone-edited books have recently sold to traditional publishers! She is a contributing editor to Authorlink.com