ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Publishing Industry – A Tough Nut to Crack

Updated on March 17, 2011

Editing Pencils

Many colors for many issues.
Many colors for many issues.

Prepare Well, and Elevate Your Prose

I aim this post at aspiring authors who seek to publish, for the first time, via a traditional publisher.

I love to read fiction, and one of my greatest joys is the discovery of wonderful new authors. Yet they are not as plentiful as one might expect. If you've been trying to publish your first novel (and I don't mean self-publish—anyone with a credit card can do that), you know precisely what I mean.

1) The traditional publishing industry is a notoriously difficult nut to crack.

2) Most agents require a referral, or preliminary contact at a writer's conference, before they'll take a hard look at a first-time author of fiction. Some agents express indignation at that statement but…come on…really? Who knew that just finding an agent who'll read the manuscript would be such a daunting task—such a crazy concept? I didn't…until I started the process. Yikes! Yet as broken as the industry is in this regard, first-time authors bear some of the blame—a great big chunk of it, in fact.

3) Most first-time authors are simply not ready for publication. Their work needs some…er…um…work. Most submissions that agents receive from first-timers are substandard. Agents, who are only human (Oh yes they are!), develop an auto-response psychologically: "Oh no! This submission is from a first-timer! Aaaaahhhhhh………" They must fight this tendency every day, I think. Some succeed—sometimes—and some don't. The walls they erect against first-time authors of fiction are formidable, which makes our task of cracking that nut an insanely difficult one. Is anyone else losing his hair? Yeesh!

You must be a good storyteller, of course, but you must be more than that. You must be a WRITER. In other words, WHAT you write is important, but HOW WELL you write it is equally so.

4) Agents are unforgiving when it comes to the work of first-time authors. You can get away with much less than do established authors. Let's face it: some poor writing makes it into print—but rarely from first-time authors of fiction. Do you think that's unfair? You'd best get over it, and do what you must to break through those barriers. If you can't accept that, please go back to your day job—save your sanity.

5) You must grab the agent on the very first page of the manuscript, preferably the first paragraph. In fact, why wait that long? Hook them with the FIRST SENTENCE! Front-load your piece; otherwise, they'll never see all the brilliance that awaits them deeper into your manuscript. As a first-timer, and assuming you don't have an "in" with the agent (referral, personal history, etc.), you have no reputation or track record to serve you. Therefore, grab them by the throat, right out of the chute, and don't let go.

6) No spelling errors! No grammatical errors! Period! Do you want to be a professional? Outstanding! Then write professional prose. Oh sure, there are those moments when, for purely stylistic purposes, you violate the rules of grammar. Fine, but remember: you're a first-time author. Agents will accept only so many of those "stylistic choices" before they determine that you simply don't know how to write properly. Besides, if you minimize those stylistic flourishes, they'll pack a much stronger punch (assuming you've executed them well); if you overload them, you'll water them down, sap them of their effectiveness. Don't be too cute by half, for the likely result may be the all too familiar: The agent stops reading your manuscript, perhaps with a frustrated sigh, and reaches for one of those wonderful little slips that start, "Thank you for allowing us to review your manuscript. Unfortunately…"

Good writing, even merely adequate writing, is an acquired skill. It requires rather a lot of work. Darn it! Yes, you must have some innate talent, but you must develop your natural skills to reach your full potential. You must work at it.

7) Read, read, and then read some more—fiction. If you write romance novels, for example, then read A LOT of romance novels. Know your genre. Know what passes as "publishable" material, but always keep in mind that the standards are higher for first-time authors.

8) Read, read, and then read some more—nonfiction. If you were going to be an electrician, you'd read books about electronics. If you were going to be an astronomer, you'd read books about astronomy. Need I say it? Well, all right: Read books about writing! There are some great ones out there. If you’re a first-timer, focus initially on those earmarked for beginners, and make sure that The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (Macmillan), is part of your arsenal.

9) Finally, if you’re serious about publishing your work, find an editor. Every beginning writer (and most established ones) needs an editor. We're too close to our own work. We often make mistakes that belie our skill level, meaning we know better, but we may read right over those mistakes when self-editing. A writer's mind puts up psychological barriers, as if it assumes that, if she wrote it in the first place, it must be right. Why else would she have written it? It’s rather as the old saw says: "Forest? What forest? I don’t see no stinkin' forest. All those darned trees are in the way!"

When it comes to your fiction, think of your prose as the trees and your STORY as the forest. If an agent can't see through the trees to find the forest, your STORY will wallow in perpetual anonymity.

'Til next time, remember this: Writing well is not easy. It takes work. You mustn't be lazy.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • resspenser profile image

      Ronnie Sowell 

      9 years ago from South Carolina

      Great hub! My wife recently read my Hub short story based on The Bodyguard movie and was confused. I thought it was simple but in a couple of days I am going to go back and look at it to see if I left out stuff I knew, but didn't tell the reader.

      I know I need a lot of work which is one of the reasons I joined Hubpages!

      Thanks for the insight!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)