To write a novel that will be appealing to a major royalty publisher involves more than just talent and hard work. It requires creating a plan from the outset and the discipline to follow it.
Everybody Has a Story Worth Telling
If you have begun reading this article, there’s a good possibility you have either been told this, heard this, or feel this way for your own reason(s). And while it may not be irrational to believe that each of us has a story worth publishing, doing so in a manner that is palatable beyond our family and closest friends is indeed what separates writers. But is the latter part of the preceding statement always true?
It’s Often Not a Matter of Ability
I don’t think it would be out of line to state that we’ve all read a novel which we’ve paid our hard earned money for and later shaken our heads in wonder and disgust at how the book every got published. You might have even said to yourself (and often) that you’ve written material much better than what you just read, but your story was rejected. So why did a writer’s inferior material attract a publisher when your superior work hadn’t?
Specific Manuscript Faults that Can Cause Rejection
Assuming that basic grammar and punctuation were not an issue, several factors can determine why a manuscript was never considered publishable. In no particular order, here are some of those reasons. And please note that all of these shortcomings are the result of inadequate editing.
– Certain plot elements seemed contrived
– The characters were not interesting
– The scenes were not fully developed
– There was not adequate conflict
– The dialogue was not realistic
– The pacing was slow
– The premise was poor
– Formatting was wrong for the genre
– Paragraphs and/or chapters were too long
These are some of the common reasons for rejection, yet you may have just read material from a major imprint that contained some if not many of the very flaws that are listed. How is this so? Read on.
The Not So Obvious Reasons Poor Material is Published
It is important to understand that today’s publisher is interested in readership potential more than ever, and an established author with a guaranteed readership is key. The penchant to print books that will assure a certain number of sales encourages the following:
– Books are written too fast, and this results in diminished quality
– Books are poorly edited, since many publishers do very little of this work any longer
– Some of the most successful authors do not write all of their material
– Some of the most successful authors do not write any of the material under their signature
The list is much longer, but the point is obvious. And this is why a plan is critical for an unpublished author or an already difficult task can soon become insurmountable.
Before you Commit the First Word to Paper, Formulate a Plan and Force Yourself to Follow It
For those writers who have the foresight to create a plan and the discipline to follow it, here
are a few suggestions that will at least give each of you a fighting chance to have your novel considered by a quality agent and a bona fide royalty publisher:
1. Determine the genre or sub-genre in which you will be writing. If you should be having difficulty with this, go to the free http://www.agentquery.com/default.aspx web site for definitions.
2. Review current novels in your genre to determine the authors who are being published and by whom. Make a list of these authors’ agents (they are generally referenced on the novel’s Acknowledgments page). This will provide you with a group of agents to query, and you’ll likely find that some (or another agent in their agency) will accept unsolicited material.
3. More important than any of the issues in this list, it is imperative that you write your novel so it is an exact fit for the publisher’s definition of the genre.
4. Pay attention to word count, paragraph length, chapter length, and general layout. Avoid long runs of italics and all parentheses (the latter is purely a personal hang up of mine).
5. You can certainly take advantage of critique groups, writer’s workshops, and friends and relatives. But have a professional editor–whom you have thoroughly checked out–at least read your manuscript before sending it off. And if you do take my advice on this, find an editor who has experience with royalty publishers in your manuscript’s exact genre.
6. You will not get a second chance with an agent or publisher. And the list of good ones who are still accepting unsolicited material in both arenas is dwindling fast. So make your manuscript as perfect as possible in every way prior to sending it.
Put the Cart in Front of the Horse and Create Your Liner Notes First
This is the time to put two paragraphs of your dreams for your novel on paper. Design beforehand what your liner notes (and ultimately your query letter) should look like when your manuscript is finished, and your characters will never be shallow and your scenes can never be weak. Now follow your dreams.
Robert L. Bacon is the Founder of The Perfect Write(TM) theperfectwrite.com
For authors, The Perfect Write™ is now providing FREE QUERY LETTER REVIEW AND ANALYSIS. Post your query to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org(no attachments) and visit the Sample Letters Page for examples of successful query letters.