Est. Reading Time: 2 Minutes
During a particularly boring summer break between sophomore and junior year of high school, I passed the time by reading as much as I could. While reading the fourth book in a series I’d previously enjoyed, I realized with displeasure that the characters and plot were veering in a direction that I didn’t care for. I pondered what I would’ve done for the characters instead and – struck by sudden inspiration – I decided to create a story of my own.
Over the remaining years of high school and into college, I built a web of characters and storylines little by little until I finally compiled a full-length manuscript. It sat for a while, collecting dust, while I was engaged in my studies. When I finally returned to it, I decided my story was meant to be shared with everyone and resolved to have it published.
Learning about the publishing world
With no idea how the publishing world worked, I spent several weeks researching the process and compiling a list of next steps. I crafted a query letter and synopsis of my novel, edited my manuscript and began investigated publishing houses that were accepting unsolicited queries from first-time authors. Over the course of several months, I queried over fifty different publishing houses that expressed interest in Young Adult and Science Fiction works.
The average response time to a query submission is typically 6-8 weeks. Even worse, many publishing houses are too busy to respond to every query, so you only receive a response if they’re interested in learning more about your manuscript. In total, I received 38 rejections, a handful of no responses, and one request for a full manuscript. About three months after sending them my full manuscript, the publishing house sent me an e-mail stating they would like to move forward with publication.
Getting my book published
For the better part of a year, we worked together to edit, perfect, and format my manuscript for publication. An artist was contracted to create the cover art. Several initial copies were sent out to beta readers in order to obtain feedback and reviews. I was given advice on marketing strategies, social media techniques, and ways to attract new readers. A month prior to its release, I received a review copy of my book in the mail. Years and years of hard work had finally paid off!
I spent the next several months marketing my book to readers and trying to build my readership. I even managed to schedule a book signing at a local Indie bookstore once my novel debuted! Thanks to the book signing (during which I was extremely nervous) and word-of-mouth, my publishing company expressed interest in contracting me for a sequel. Lucky for them I’d already been working on my protagonist’s next big adventure.
Two years later, my dream came true all over again when I became a published author for the second time!
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Finish your manuscript
It’s tempting to start reaching out to agents and publishing houses before your novel is finished, but resist the urge. Think of how frustrating it would feel for an agent to express interest in your work only to find that it’s unfinished. This is a rookie mistake – don’t make it.
Give it a thorough edit
If you’re going to edit your own manuscript, take some time away from it first to help ensure you read through carefully and pick up on your mistakes. Another option is to hire a freelance editor and let them comb through for grammatical errors, typos, etc.
Craft a catchy query letter for publishers
Your query letter is, essentially, your first impression. This is how publishing houses and agents will decide whether or not they’re interested in your work. Make sure your query is free of errors, gives a true sense of what your novel is about, and shows who you are as a writer.
Do your research!
Before sending your query far and wide, make sure your manuscript fits the desires of the agent or publishing house. Understand the genre of your unpublished novel and the target audience before you send your query. Helpful hint: Many times, if an agent believes your manuscript is a good fit for another agent at the same company, they will send it along on your behalf.
Send those publishing queries
Each time you send a query letter to an agent or publishing house, document their name, the date, their website, and whether or not you’ve received a response. This will help you keep all of your submissions organized and allows you to follow up with anyone who has not yet given you a response.
Don’t give up on your publication dreams!
It can be discouraging to receive rejections – or worse, no response at all. Have faith and understand that the pathway to publication is a long, arduous process. The world needs your manuscript, so don’t give up!
About the Author
Jessica De Rubeis
Jessica De Rubeis is a freelance writer, scholar, and author of the Young Adult Science Fiction series Guardian Angels. After receiving her first publishing, she spent her college years researching and writing in all of her spare time. In 2016, she self-published a stand-alone dystopian romance novel, Sensorium. While supporting her husband through medical school, her focus shifted to works that prominently feature themes of mental health advocacy and the power of relationships during trying times.