Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to Get a Foot in the Publishing Door

One of the big struggles with traditional publishing is getting noticed by agents and publishers and staying off the dreaded slush pile. During the Sydney Writers’ Festival I attended a workshop run by Hazel Flynn. She is a successful freelance writer, editor and broadcaster. She offered many suggestions on how to get the proverbial foot in the door. Below are just a few:

1. Personal connections. It does sometimes come down to who you know in the industry. It’s not a guarantee of publication, but it will help your manuscript get read.

2. Get a literary agent. In Australia writers can go directly to publishers, however, manuscripts coming from agents will be read. Often unsolicited manuscripts will end up in slush piles if accepted at all.

3. Attend festivals and conferences. You never know who you will meet and there’s so much to learn at these events.

4. Do writing courses. This is a great way to get a sense of whether your writing is working. It’s a great way of honing your craft.

5. Check the acknowledgements in books similar to your own. This will give you an idea of who helped the author get published.

6. Self publish. Many popular authors started with self publishing.

7. Show flexibility. Be willing to accept advice. If an editor suggests changes, then it’s in your best interest to listen.

What other ways can you suggest to get a foot in the publishing door? What are you currently doing to get published?


  1. I'm doing the same old rigmarole, really. Checking out e-publishers, submitting queries to agents, attending conferences. But this is some very good advice, Lynda. Great pointers that we should all be striving to do as much as we possibly can. Thank you!

  2. now, where do we find a personal connection? :)

  3. Pull a tail feather off a peacock? ;)

  4. Another way of getting an agent's attention is to enter contests through local writing organizations. Often times the final judge is a an agent or editor. If you are fortunate enough to make the finals that means they are reading your first chapter. And sometimes they ask for more. :)

  5. I went straight to a publisher.
    And connections aren't hard to find - we've a whole world of helpful, published authors blogging.

  6. I have come across a few bloggie friends who publish via independent/small publishers. Also entering competitions for first novels might help too?

    Thanks for this list of ways to getting published! I hope you had a wonderful festival! Take care

  7. Alyssia, oh, good luck with your querying!

    Dezzy, we can find personal connections through festivals, conferences, blogging and any other type of social media, courses, friends of friends etc. Many options.

    Suze, lol. Easy! ;)

    L G Smith, excellent point. Contests are a fantastic way of cathing the eye of agents and publishers.

    Alex, yes exactly

    Old Kitty, absolutely. Great additional tips.

  8. I wish I knew!! I think conferences would be the best way.Thank you for sharing on my blog that you went through something like I am now.It helped!

  9. These are great types - thank you!

  10. I like the tip about self-publishing. This totally cracks me up, because such a short time ago the word was that self-pubbing or even going with a small press was death to your career. Even a year ago I read a post by an aspiring author saying she wouldn't go with a small press because it could hurt her chances to find an agent. Funny how things can change so fast.

  11. Great list! Self publishing is definitely different these days.

  12. I think the best thing to do is network. Definitely go to conferences and ask questions of every editor/agent you meet there. And the best thing you can do after the conference is to send a thank-you card to those editors/agents and show how much you appreciate the time they took to talk to you or to give a presentation or whatever it is. Most conference attendees get special priority when submitting to an agent or editor who was at the conference.

  13. persistence? Not giving up? I don't know. I'm feeling like I'm not the best one for this advice... but all that you've said is perfect! :o)

  14. Good points, I really should start going to conferences. But I need a conference buddy -- note to self-- stop being feeble.

  15. We don't have conferences and agents in India. But, the other points are true for writer's everywhere. Most of us (in India) start our writing careers by contributing for newspapers. It helps in getting us visibility.

  16. Sounds so easy. Just self publish and the agent will come to you. It rarely happens that way. Great list though.

  17. I got my publisher by entering a contest. I love contests!

  18. Thanks for the tips.

  19. Great suggestions. Writing a good book also helps. :) Easier said than done, hey? Hope you had a great time at the conference!

  20. LOL, Talli's suggestion. Yep, write the best book you can. But also, there are so many agent contests around the blogosphere, and you can make a great contact that way. I know people who have!

  21. Getting the personal connections seems key, but how to go about it without being a leech? I'm open to ideas, but I don't like to shmooze just for the sake of it:)

  22. Great advice, here - and don't forget the one and only effective query letter - a foolproof and tested method! :o)

  23. Terri, Thank you. That means a lot.

    Emily, :)

    KarenG, in the last 18 months the changes for self-pubbing is astronomical.

    Alexia, absolutely

    TA Demings, yes, networking is so helpful

    LTM, Not giving up is definitely a good tip! I know so many writers who have given up and it's tragic.

    Deborah, it's probably easier to mix at conferences if you go on your own.

  24. Rachna, that's also a good point. Building up our writing credits is also a great way to catch the eye of publishers.

    Laura, none of it is easy or guaranteed, unfortunately.

    Clarissa, yep, contests are brilliant.

    Susanne, :)

    Talli, actually, that might seem funny, but it's true. Number one way to catch the eye of publishers is to have a good story well told.

    Carol, yes, exactly!

    Mark, well, there's hassling, and then there is grabbing an opportunity while remaining professional. ;)

    D U Okonkwo, yes, having a top notch query is helpful.

  25. At the outset, I was foolish enough to think that I didn't want to get published through a connection to a friend of a friend. javascript:void(0)

    Now I know better. My ms won't make it if it can't stand on its own - even if I have the links to a publisher.

    Sometimes I do look at the credits in novels to see who was the agent, particularly if the book is similar to any of mine.

  26. These are all great suggestions. Sounds like you got your money's worth at the conference. Doesn't hurt to say some prayers, too!

  27. J L Campbell, so true. No matter how much you work, or how 'lucky' you are, you won't gain publication if you haven't written a great story.

    LynNerd, yes, oh yes. Prayers are an amazing help.

  28. Great list - wish I'd been able to attend that workshop!

    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  29. Let's hope I can comment. Blogger is driving me crazy ... Grrr.

    Great suggestions.

  30. Charmaine, it was a really good one, although I think the one we both attended was the best of all of them.

    M Pax, hmm, I'm wondering how many comments I'm missing out on because of Blogger...

  31. I must agree that having a complete manuscript is the number one key here. What's even the point of an agent, editor, or publisher if you don't have a finished manuscript?

    And, I'd like to add that simply schmoozing up to people isn't fun nor is it very helpful. My advice is to just make friends and things will go from there. When it comes to getting to know presenters at conferences, ask questions.

  32. cool tips.

    Check out our short story slam today,

    We love creativity, your input is valued.

    Happy Friday!
    Hope to see you in!

  33. Going to conferences is a great way. Also, get a few short pieces or articles published on the way to finishing your novel (and finding a home for it), then you'll have a bit of a track record and profile.


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