I've talked with thousands of talented writers over the years, and nearly all unpublished writers have 1 thing in common that trips them up, every time.
They rush to submit their work before it's ready or before they are ready—especially those writers who are fresh with the excitement of having just completed their very first book-length manuscript.
A typical example: Countless writers at our BEA pitch slam had just completed their books, and some were so new to the business they didn't realize that their manuscripts of 100,000+ words are a tough sell for a first-time author. (However: Good for them for understanding, maybe by accident, that you can speed your path to publication by meeting agents/editors in-person and learning these lessons more quickly.)
If you've just spent months (or years!) writing a manuscript, why rush it to an agent or editor, and why rush it to just ANY agent or editor? And why rush it if you're new to the publishing business?
When I read Tim Ferriss's Four-Hour Workweek, I loved reading about his process of due diligence in learning what it would take to write and publish a New York Times bestseller. He talked with dozens if not hundreds of people who knew how to achieve the results he was looking for. And he developed an excellent and concrete plan of how to position himself for success.
There are two things to always remember after you complete a manuscript or proposal:
- Is the book really done? Is it really the best you can make it? And have professionals (whether editors, agents, or published authors) encouraged you, because they see and know you are ready? Do you feel confident that it's ready to submit?
- Are you informed enough about the publishing business to understand where to submit the work, how to submit the work, and what obstacles you might face? Does your work break the rules of the industry? (If so, that's OK, but know it going in!)
For beginners, it can be difficult to connect with experts and professionals who can get you moving down that path of readiness. A good place to start? Local writers groups, online writing workshops, and writing conferences. (Shameless plug: Our next Writer's Digest Editor Intensive on June 20-21 will give you an editor's take on your first 50 pages, and teach you about industry expectations.)
You should also find a mentor, someone who has accomplished something you're after.
Your work and your success is worth the wait. Slow down.