Getting published

So you've almost finished writing that book (or perhaps you've already finished) and now you're starting to think about getting it published. Well, we've put together some useful tips and advice from the experts to help you make your manuscript stand out.

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Extract from: The Art of Romance Writing fully revised and updated by Valerie Parv

All professional writers know the value of allowing a piece of writing to ‘cool off’ before submission. After a few days or a week away from it, you become more objective in your assessment and more able to spot any flaws. For this reason, I suggest that you allow at least a couple of weeks between completing your manuscript and sending it to a publisher. If you have already completed a book, the checklists can be used to assess whether it is on target before submission, to ensure that you’ve given your work every chance of acceptance. After evaluating your manuscript with the help of one of the checklists, you may find that it still needs work in one or more areas. Solving these problems at the planning stage will make the writing easier and more likely to appeal to a romance editor when the manuscript is finally submitted.

There are two final points I would like to get out of the way. Publishers usually specify the length of manuscript they require. However difficult it may seem, and no matter how many good reasons you may have, I urge you not to submit work which is appreciably longer or shorter than specified. (A couple of hundred words either way is usually acceptable.) It is the mark of the amateur to plead that the work couldn’t possibly be shortened. Reader’s Digest managed to publish the Bible as a condensed book. However painful it may be, make the effort to cut out every unnecessary word or phrase. Sometimes, whole characters and subplots have to go for the book to have the correct length and balance, with the emphasis squarely on the developing romance.

The second caution is one which worries many writers much more than it should. What if someone steals your ideas? Within a particular genre, similarities are bound to occur between books. In fact, there is no copyright on ideas, only on the form in which they are presented. No two authors will treat the same theme in exactly the same way. Therefore, you needn’t worry that a publisher will steal your idea. Editors are much too busy to bother. It is far easier for them to assign the book to you if they like the idea ...

One area you may want to treat with caution is the Internet. Some publishers regard work that has appeared on the Internet as already published, affecting the rights you may be able to sell in future. As well, work appearing on the Internet may not always be protected by copyright conventions, or you may be giving away ownership to the owner of the website without meaning to do so. Before posting your manuscript or work-in-progress on the Internet, it’s a good idea to read the fine print at the site, so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

Emulating writers you admire is a useful way to get started but you must work towards developing your own unique way of telling a story, your own style, adapted to the special demands of the romance genre.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules for how to write. What works for one writer may not work for another. What matters is the result.

The Art of Romance Writing

by Valerie Parv

With more than twenty million books sold internationally, Valerie Parv has made love and romance a career. This fully revised and expanded new edition is a necessity for the bookshelves of all hopeful romance writers.

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Extract from: The Writer's Guide by Irina Dunn

If you are just beginning your publishing career, start small with short pieces entered in competitions or submitted to periodicals such as literary journals, commercial publications, local newspapers, specialist magazines, and so on. The point of starting with the publication of shorter pieces is to build up your publishing resume to establish your credentials as a writer and to show prospective editors or publishers where else your work has appeared. ...

Many writers aspire to seeing their work, whether fiction or non-fiction, published as a book, but there is a lot more to it than just packing off your labour of love to a publisher. The competition is intense, and the more you understand about publishing trends as well as the selection and publishing processes, the better your chances.

Large commercial publishers receive hundreds and even thousands of unsolicited manuscripts each year. Some, such as HarperCollins, read only half of them and of those that are read, only about five end up on the shelves of a bookstore. In 1998, Penguin publisher Julie Gibbs noted that her company received an average of 70 unsolicited manuscripts per week - that is, some 3640 a year - of which only three of four were considered worthy of publication.

For this reason, consider having your work professionally assessed or edited before sending it to a publisher, funding body, or producer. An editor or assessor can critique your work, and suggest improvements where necessary; some even offer to comment on its commercial viability. Some publishers and funding bodies prefer to see manuscripts that have been assessed prior to submission and request that a reader's (sometimes also an agent's) report accompany the manuscript or script.

Publishers are most likely to take on a new writer if the work is written well, if the content is good, or if it is recommended by a literary agent or some other respected reader. Approach agents with the same proposal you would send to a publisher and ask them to read and assess it. Some agents charge a reading fee for this service, and not all welcome unsolicited manuscripts. Your local Writers' Centre can tell you which agents are willing to receive - and read - unsolicited manuscripts.

Commercial publishers will be more interested in your manuscript if you have a publishing record, whether in fiction or non-fiction. This is where your publication in periodicals, magazines, newspapers, and so on, becomes a valuable stepping stone to the publication of something more substantial. If you have won prizes or were recommended in literary competitions so much the better. Don't forget to include these on your publishing resume.

One sure way of getting your novel published is to win one of the big competitions for unpublished novels which guarantee publication of the winning entries*. The competition is great, but why not give it a go? Someone's got to win!

*Such as the Australian/Vogel's Literary Award - find out more here