Tag Archive for: Making a Literary Life

Advice on Publishing Your Novel

by Linda Rodriguez
receive emails all the time asking me how the emailers can get their
own novels published. Usually, they know just about nothing of the
business of publishing, which always surprises me. If you took a year
or so to write a book that you hoped to publish and sell, wouldn’t
you owe it to yourself to research and learn something about the
business of publishing that you hope to join?

try to answer with a detailed listing of things they can do to
educate themselves about the business and to begin to connect with
the professional literary community. I have a feeling that some of
our blog friends and followers out there may be in the same
situation, so I’ve decided to write this blog post. Here’s my
resource guide to publishing a novel. It won’t get you published,
but it will give you a good foundation in the business of
publishing/being a professional novelist and get you started in the
right direction.

a novel to a major publisher today can be very difficult without an
agent. Most of the New York trade publishers won’t look at novels
unless they’re represented by an agent. Smaller specialized
presses, literary presses, and university presses will take unagented
queries during their open submissions period, if they have one. Often
they can be the best bet for a first novel that’s not necessarily a
commercial novel.
& Writers
a database of small, literary, and university presses.

of these won’t do novels, so you’ll have to sort through them.
Here’s a list of 16 small presses that do novels.

can also do an internet search for small presses that specialize in
your particular genre of novel, if you write in one of the genres.

agents, I would suggest that you check the website of the Association
of Author’s Representatives.

is the professional association of reputable agents. It’s very easy
to get involved with folks who call themselves agents and are really
running scams to part authors from their money. Members of AAR have
sworn not to do this stuff and are kicked out if they do, so you can
trust them.

good site to educate yourself and protect yourself from scammers is
Writer Beware.

is a site provided by the SFWA and MWA as a service for all authors,
science fiction or not.

the first thing you want to do is to get current copies of Poets &
, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer magazines.
These magazines often talk about which publishers are looking for
what kinds of books at the moment. P&W focuses more on the
academic and literary writer, while WD focuses more on the
commercial or freelance writer. If your library has them, also read
back issues of P&W, The Writer, and WD.
You’ll learn a lot about the business that way.

for professional authors groups to join. There are groups for
children’s writers, mystery writers, romance writers, sf/fantasy
writers, etc. These groups are usually tremendously helpful in
learning the publishing business and making useful contacts. If there
is a chapter of a professional writer’s organization near you and
it’s not your kind of writing, it can still be useful to you in
learning the business. I once belonged to the local chapter of RWA,
Romance Writers of America, though I didn’t write romance. I
learned about agents, what editors want, what is and is not
acceptable behavior in the publishing world, what are and are not
good contracts, and tons of other things that became useful to me.
Now, we have a chapter of Sisters in Crime here, and I’m active in
it, but that time in RWA laid a very good foundation for me. The same
goes for SFWA or any of the others. The purposes of these
organizations are to help their members with the business of
publishing and being a professional—and that’s very similar
across the boards.

book I always recommend to students and aspiring writers is Carolyn
a Literary Life
I’ve written about this book on Writers Who Kill before.

the best book for looking at how to be a professional writer and work
on getting published, how to get established within the literary
community, how to make a career as a writer without living in NYC,
and much else.

I were you, friend with a book manuscript under your arm, I’d start
with these resources. I’d also go to every writer’s
appearance/reading/event that occurs in your town if it’s a small
one or a good selection if you live in a big city with an active
literary community. Buy a book, if you can. Introduce yourself to the
writer. Follow up with emails or mailed notes talking about what you
liked about their reading or book—not asking for help
with your own. Friend writers on Facebook, and follow them on
Twitter. Don’t spam them about your own book. What you’re doing
is building relationships within the community of writers. These are
the folks who can answer questions for you or later (if you’ve
built a good, real relationship) give blurbs that will help your book
sell. Basically, my advice is to educate yourself about publishing
and become a contributing member of the community. Getting a novel
published is a long, hard haul, so arm yourself with information and

best single piece of advice I could give, however, is this—make
sure you write a good novel. Get professional feedback and revise,
revise, revise until it shines before you ever try to send it out. I
suspect that a certain number of folks who are looking for a
publisher for their novel have never had anyone professional look at
it and haven’t done much with revision. Writing is an art and a
profession. Learn about publishing, the business, while you learn
about writing, the art and craft. Editors and agents have long
memories. Don’t stick out in theirs from sending an amateurish
manuscript out. Make sure that what you send is the very best it can
be submitted in the most knowledgeable and professional way you can.

of luck!

Linda Rodriguez’s Dark Sister: Poems
has just been released. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel,
based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native
American Poets Visit the Middle East
, an anthology she co-edited,
were published to high praise in 2017. Every Family Doubt,
her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police chief,
Skeet Bannion, and Revising the Character-Driven Novel will
be published in 2019. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every
Hidden Fear
, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last
and her books of
poetry—Skin Hunger
and Heart’s Migration—have
received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin’s
Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International
Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices
& Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and
Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good
Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has
been optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP
Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter
of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers
Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International
Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and
Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at

Visualizing Success

Linda Rodriguez
One of the best books on actually
living a writer’s life is Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See. I often
give it as a gift to serious aspiring writers I know. Carolyn is herself an
award-winning novelist, and her advice is pretty solid. (I have come to feel as
if she is my friend from reading her novels and this book again and again, but
though I’m on first-name basis with her here, I’ve never actually met Carolyn
First, she tells us to write 1,000
words a day every day. Blam! Just like that! Right at the beginning! But she
says they don’t have to be finished words—they don’t even have to be good
words. We just have to put down 1,000 words every day. And of course, it
works—because no one will be able to keep slapping random words on the page. We
start to make sense, and then we start to make story. So, her rule number one
is write 1,000 words each and every day.
Carolyn’s next rule will prompt
groans from everyone. She talks about the need to build a writing community and
to get involved in the writing community that already exists. So she wants us
all to write a charming note each day to a different writer or editor or agent
or reading series administrator, expressing our genuine appreciation for
something they’ve done or written. I suspect this will be the biggest stumbling
block among her rules for living the writing life, even though I’ve come to see
the sense of it. (I must admit I don’t follow this rule very often, though,
being no better than any of the rest of us.)
rules continue throughout this informal and witty book, and they are all good
rules. When I abide by them, I am in better shape than when I don’t. This I
know. However, it’s another part of the book that I want to talk about here.
 Carolyn makes a great case for
visualizing the career and life we want to live as writers. She talks about
well-known writers who have entourages, chauffeurs, phalanxes of attractive
bodyguards, or dramatic capes and trench coats. She makes a persuasive case
that each of these successful writers had at some time in the past decided,
consciously or unconsciously, that when they were successful they would
have—entourages/ chauffeurs/ bodyguards/ trench coats.
Carolyn encourages us to consciously
visualize the successful writer’s life we want to have in the future in detail,
including what we’ll wear, if that’s important to us, what friends we’ll have,
where we’ll live, and more. That kind of visualization is important, I think.
If we don’t put some thought into what we want, how will we know when we’ve
achieved it? She encourages us to go into detail because some of the details
are easier to achieve than others. It’s very tough to make the New York
bestseller list, but it’s not so hard to save up for a splashy cape
or dramatic trench coat.
So my question to all of you today,
as well as to myself, is what would your life look like if you achieved the
kind of writer’s success that you long to have?
not into splashy capes or trench coats or matched pairs of bodyguards, but I
think a chauffeur might be a nice achievement, especially on regular
professional visits to New York City (which are very much a part of my
visualization). Actually, I think I’ve already achieved this.
On my last trip to NYC to meet with
my editor and attend a poetry award ceremony, I found a livery car service that
took us all over the city at all hours and for less than a cab would have cost.
After the post-award-ceremony bash, native New Yorkers in our party were
futilely trying to gain the attention of cabs outside the restaurant while one
phone call brought our driver to pick us up in front and take us across town to
our B&B.
What would you visualize for your
life as a successful writer? Inquiring minds want to know!

REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger):

Marilyn, how big is big? The power’s in the specificity of the details. Do you want a fan base of 100,000? 600,000?

Mary, yes, first-class travel might well be a perk to visualize. A cook/nutritionist would help you stay in good shape so you could turn out more of your books.

Judith, the idea of ease is a great one. Things that make the different tasks we face easier for us will always be a favorite.