How do I get my writing published?
So, your story is finally finished. Each phrase is a polished gem that contributes toward the final climax. No word is wasted. Now, you need a home to showcase your masterpiece.
First, study the market place. Focus on subject matter, length of stories preferred and whether or not the intended market accepts unsolicited and/or unagented submissions. Follow the rules. Send your story only to publishers or agents who deal in your particular genre or subject matter.
Include a one page query letter with your manuscript . This is your sales pitch for both the story and you. The query should contain a brief synopsis of the story and a short biography with publishing credits and experience. If you do not have writing credits, be sure to include your background that relates to the story. Remember every published author started somewhere.
Double check. Do not send negative or self defeating messages in the correspondence. For example — “This is my first attempt to publish.” “I am not an expert.” “I am a really a poet but wanted to try my hand at fiction.” You get the idea. Include some facts about the story — “The title of your story is a 95,000 word mystery novel.”
Polish the query as you perfected your manuscript. If you belong to a critique group, critique the letter. Remember the query is the potential editor’s or agent’s first impression of you. If it is a bad impression you will probably not get a second chance.
Also, many beginning writers use the copyright symbol on their correspondence with potential publishers, editors and/or agents. They do this in an effort to protect their work.
Unfortunately using © in letters and cover sheets of a manuscript sends a negative message. You are telling the person reading the letter that you suspect he wants to steal your story. When writing to an agent or potential market, writers need to make a good impression. Put yourself in the editor or agent’s place. If someone told me even indirectly they suspected I was a thief, I would not want to deal with that person and would probably reject their story without even reading it. And, if an editor or agent is dishonest, all the ©s in the world will not stop him/her from stealing.
Remember, you can’t copyright an idea, only the telling of it — the arrangement of words on the page. All stories are old ideas recycled through a new author’s mind. There is no new idea. Writers steal ideas all the time.
If you are really concerned about theft of your story, print out a copy. Put it into a large manila envelope, take it to the U.S. Post Office and mail it to yourself via registered mail. When the envelope arrives in your mail box, do not open it, but put it away in a safe place. If anyone ever does steal your version of the telling of the story, you have dated legal evidence of ownership. You can then take them to court. But do not insult a potential business ally.
Dixie Thomas Reale