Tips For Writers: Where To Submit Your Fiction Work

Once you have completed your fiction manuscript, you must determine your plan of action that will lead you to publication.

You've finished the Great American Novel, or short story, or novella. And while it might not be great, you know that it's good and publishable. Now what?

First time authors have an up-hill battle in finding publication, but the rewards can be immeasurable. Knowing how to begin to sell your manuscript will take much of the guesswork out of what you need to do. Keep in mind though, you've finished the creative part of the process. Now you need to put your business hat on and handle the next steps like a true professional.

As you decide where to submit your completed fiction, you have five things you can be doing. Many of these can be done concurrently. First, join a critique group. Then, keep your eyes open for literary agents, publishing houses, fiction contests, and writers' conferences.

If you do not already belong to one, you need to join a writers group. A writers group is a cross section of people who all write and are willing to critique each other to help advance each other's writing skills. You can find a group online, at your local bookstore, or by talking to other friends who you know write. These fellow writers will ensure the finished product is perfect. Ideally, the best time to join a group is when you start a project so that you can receive feedback throughout the process. But in this case, it is certainly better late than never to join one.

Next, a literary agent is a professional who will market your book to editors at publishing houses. Agents have relationships with editors and know who might be interested in your project. They are able to use their professional relationships to get your work the attention it deserves. Agents will also be able to steer you away from houses where your project might not be appreciated.

It is important to note that not everyone who hangs a shingle out saying they are a literary agent can be trusted. Legitimate agents almost always are members of The Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc, or AAR. They make their money when they sell your book, typically drawing fifteen percent from your take. You should not contract with an agent who charges reading fees.

Before contacting an agent to ask for representation, visit the agency's website to see what kind of writers they represent. Your science fiction project probably won't draw much interest at an agency that focuses strictly on romance. Another way to research agents is to read the acknowledgements many authors put in the front of their books. If your writing is in the same genre as a popular best seller, read the acknowledgements to see if any mention is made of that author's agent. When contacting the agent, mention that your novel is in the same genre, but do not compare it more favorably than that. You would never want to say that your book is the greatest thing since "The Firm" or that you are the Second Coming of Stephen King.

When communicating with anyone about your fiction project, keep the drama to a minimum. Never tout your work as the next "Gone with the Wind" or "Farewell to Arms". That's for an editor and the public to decide. In any written correspondence regarding your writing, edit, edit, and edit some more. If this writing is sloppy and filled with grammatical and spelling errors, why would a person ever want to read your longer project?

These same rules apply when you begin to correspond with editors at publishing houses. Know what and whom each house represents before you contact them. Again, a house focused on religious fiction will not see the beauty of your erotica novel. To find agents and publishers, invest in "Writer's Market", a huge book filled with thousands of publishing houses, magazines, and agents.

Information on these contacts include the publishing house's name, information on what kind of writing they're looking for, which editors to contact, and what information they want you to send in. Before contacting anyone you find in this book, verify the printed information by checking out the agent or editor's website. Things may have changed since the book went to print.

Typically, neither agents nor editors want to see your manuscript in its entirety. A query letter or book proposal acts as your first piece of communication. A query letter is a one-page letter that tells the reader who you are, what your project is about, and why you're the person to write it. Good and bad examples can be found in "Writer's Market". A book proposal offers this same information, as well as a chapter summary and sample chapters. Each publisher and agent is different in what they want to see. The most important thing is remembering that you use every grammar rule you know, keep it neat, and give the reader exactly what they're looking for.

While you're looking for an agent and/or a publisher, you can also enter contests to see how your project fares. Contests are listed in writing magazines, like Writer's Digest. A search on the Internet can lead you to a huge cache of possible contests to enter. Fellow writers in your writers' group may be aware of contests as they come up. Some contests have fees, others do not. Some offer publication if you win, others offer small cash prizes. But the feedback you receive from the judges could be the information you need to perfect your project and find a publisher. You will need to weigh the pros and cons of each contest to determine what is right for you. If you struggle with writing for deadlines, entering contests might help motivate you, as there is always a deadline.

A final option as you go forward with your finished fiction project is to attend a writers' conference. These occur year round, throughout the country, and range in time from a few hours to several days. Though they are rarely free, the benefits can be immeasurable. Professionals in the writing world offer courses on countless topics. You may attend a session on writing a perfect query letter, or contacting an agent, or how to craft a publishable fiction novel. Even if you think your manuscript is complete, you can still get ideas to make it even better.

In addition to the classes conferences provide, you may also get the opportunity to be critiqued by and/or meet with editors and agents from around the country. Sometimes these meetings are included with the conference fee, other times they are an additional charge. But the feedback you receive, and the networking that can occur, is worth its weight in copier paper.

The Internet is a good source for information on conferences, as well as writers' magazines and your local writers' group. Sometimes conferences are for all fiction, other times for particular genres alone. Make sure you choose one that will appreciate your writing.

You may be thinking the hard part is complete, now that the writing is done. But the fun has just begun. You have so many options of how to proceed with your novel, jump in with both feet and see where you end up!

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