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Seven Steps To Publishing Success by Lee Masterson © Copyright 2000-2003
"Nobody can guarantee your success, except yourself"
I don't recall where I originally read that piece of advice, but it is so true. Sure, there are the lucky few writers who receive a kick-start from a distant cousin in the industry, but let's face it - that cousin would have been no help at all if the writer himself had not put in the initial hard work and written something worth selling in the first place.
But unless you are related to someone who happens to own a publishing house, you're pretty much on your own.
So let's take a look at the Seven Steps that should send you on your way to Publishing Success.
1 - Read
Read everything you can get your hands on. Devour articles, scan newspapers and check out reviews. Read great books that hook you and suffer through really bad books. Learn to spot what makes them so enjoyable, and look for the pieces that make a piece of writing bad. Remember to keep these things in mind for your own work.
Reading other people's work can be a wonderful source of inspiration, but it can also teach you much about your own writing.
2 - Plan
Have a basic idea what you are going to write before you begin. If you are working on an article, or a short story, know what points you are going to include and how you are going to end it.
If you are writing a longer piece, such as a novel or biography, take the time to sit down and plan where the story is going to begin. Create complete character outlines. Know the world you want your readers to immerse themselves in better than your characters do.
Be sure your plotline is filled with tension and plenty of conflict to keep readers turning those pages to see what happens next. Make absolutely certain you have a strong ending planned that ties up all of your plot's loose ends and won't leave your readers disappointed.
3 - Write
This step sounds so logical but, surprisingly, a lot of people don't do it. They have plenty of great ideas, and loads of inspiration, but nothing concrete goes down on paper (or on the screen, as the case may be).
Many find they do not have enough time to write. Some suffer from an attack of the procrastination bug. Others simply have not found a way to break through their stubborn writer's block yet.
But in order to get published, in any form, it is essential that you WRITE something. Unless you begin writing, you will never know if what you have created will be worth anything. Who knows? You might just surprise yourself with a spark of hidden talent.
4 - Revise
If you are lucky enough to have been born with the amazing gift of being able to write professional quality prose on your first draft, then this step is not for you.
Most people, though, do need to revise what they've written. Sometimes more than once. Think of the editing process as a great way to learn about the strength of your own writing. Honing your work, correcting any spelling problems, polishing each scene until it shines, defining a character until she dances off the page - all of these things are the finishing touches to any piece of writing.
Print out your story or article on paper. Seeing your words on a different medium can highlight problems that are not always so apparent on the screen. Use a bright red pen to correct anything that strikes you as wrong or unnecessary. Make notes in the margins and between the lines.
Be ruthless with your revisions. Edit out any scenes or sections that detract from your main point. Add a few details you might have missed on the first draft about how your character is dealing with a particular problem.
When you think you've edited everything there is to edit, join a workshop or critique group. Perhaps an impartial reader will pick up a few things you might have missed, and when you have some critiques to work with, REVISE AGAIN
5 - Submit
This sounds like the easiest step. Right?
Wrong. A large number of writers never find the confidence to send their work out to be judged (or worse, rejected!) by a complete stranger. Others never finish the tale they began. And there are still other writers who will spend years revising, searching for perfection, never feeling happy with the work they have created.
Know when to let your work go, and submit it everywhere you can think of. Be optimistic here, but also be professional. Do your homework - research which markets will be suitable for your piece. There are plenty of market guides around which list submission guidelines, pay rates and some even make a note of response times, too.
Take the initiative and find out which market you would like to present your work to. Keep track of where you send everything, and note down the date you submitted it. If something is returned to you with a rejection slip attached to it, file the rejection and send your story out to someone else THE SAME DAY.
Persist and be patient. Every writer will be rejected at some point in their careers, and not always because their writing was no good. Perhaps the publication you submitted to already has enough articles or stories to keep them busy for another twelve months. Or maybe you submitted it to the wrong editor - a publishing house which deals with science fiction will almost certainly reject a romance manuscript.
Treat rejection slips as a numbers game - for every rejection you receive, you are one closer to acceptance. Send your work out again. The next editor who receives it might just be the one who says "yes".
6 - Promote
The title of this article is "Seven Steps to Publishing Success", and it is important to realize that simply being published is not the same thing as achieving publishing success.
A dedicated reader wants to see more work from an author they already admire or enjoy, but how do you gain that reader's attention long enough to entice him to have a look at your work? A new author is faced with some pretty stiff competition here.
Established authors have already been through the promotional mill and have created a wide readership for themselves, but popping your lonely title on a shelf beside multiple copies of a big-name author's books is not going to guarantee your success.
You will need to promote public awareness of your story or article. Read as many articles on self-promotion as you can find. Be creative in your pursuit of public awareness, but be professional in your approach at the same time. Learn how to write your own press-releases, and send copies of your books out to be reviewed.
Broaden your horizons a little, and write other pieces for different markets, designed to give future readers a hint at what you're capable of. A person who enjoys your articles or short stories may be more willing to spend their hard-earned cash on your novel once they have seen your style.
7 - Do It Again!
As soon as you have finished one piece of writing, sit down and write something else. Begin from the beginning all over again. Don't promote your one and only piece of published work forever. Get another title sitting alongside it as soon as you possibly can. Write another article and fill up your growing portfolio. Scribble out a short story just for fun.
But above all, keep writing.