Well, it’s Saturday morning and I’ve been thinking a lot about the process of trying to make it as a fiction writer. Almost two weeks ago, a good friend asked me how to go about finding a publisher for her short stories and her book. I had a lot of advice to give and it occurred to me that maybe more people could benefit from some of this information. I can’t claim to know everything, but I have sleuthed through tons of articles and books and websites and forums to gather the gems of wisdom that seem to filter to the top, so I’ll share them here and hope they prove useful to someone. Your mileage may vary. One of the most important things you can do as a new writer is getting your work up to a professional quality. This means learning grammar, learning to write good and compelling dialog, description and action, and understanding the difference between telling you reader what is happening and bringing them into the action. Take some writing classes, join a critique group (in person or online), read about writing, read books by successful authors in your genre(s), dig through articles in magazines or online. Learn everything you can about what you are trying to do. If you have the time, critters.org is a good critique site, but you must be able to give at least one in depth critique a week to be a member. Other writing forums can offer a lot of good advice as well, such as sffworld.com, but always be prepared to give advice or critiques when you can regardless of the forum out of consideration for your fellow writers.
When you think your manuscript is ready for submission, go back through the same process of research to learn how to write a good query and cover letter as well as a good synopsis. These are hard skills to perfect, but you can use many of the same resources mentioned above to help you learn how. When formatting your manuscript, sfwa.org has good information on formatting, along with numerous other articles that may prove useful.
As soon as you have a completed, polished manuscript (as a new writer, your best bet is to have a finished product before you approach a publisher or agent) you can start the process of finding a market for it. Here are a couple of the pages I use to help find publishers to submit to: Ralan.com and Duotrope.com. You can also get a copy of the current Writer’s Market at your local bookstore or subscribe to their list online at https://www.writersmarket.com.
When you find promising markets, take the time to read their websites, not just the submission guidelines, which you should follow precisely, but dig through the FAQ pages or blog pages if they have them to search for any gems that might give you an edge over the competition because it is fierce. It is also a good idea to read some of the stories/books they have published in the past if you can. Before submitting, it doesn’t hurt to look at Predators and Editors and see if there are any warnings against the market you plan to submit to, but be aware that some information could be biased by people who are angry about being rejected.
For short stories, when you have done your research you can submit your work.
When submitting novel length work, you need a finished manuscript and, while some publishers will still accept unagented work, finding an agent is recommended. Agent Query is good place to look for agents. Always check to see if they represent work like that you are trying to sell. If you want an easy filter, you can screen for AAR membership in the search, though a lot of great agents are not AAR members. Follow the same website investigation for an agent that you would for any other market (submission guidelines, blogs, etc.). Any respectable agent who shows an interest in your work will not hesitate to provide a list of authors/books they have represented and will not charge you any fees.
Some of the resources cited focus in the SciFi and fantasy genres, so you may have to do a little sleuthing of your own to find appropriate resources for other genres.