New writers coming into this business often don’t care much or know how to get a novel traditionally published. They know how to self-published (with Indie publishers being an off-shoot of that), so that’s their focus.
But the Traditional route is still our gold standard. So what’s the secret of how to get a novel published that way now?
First, do know that if you want distribution through the channels that will get your upcoming bestseller in actual brick-and mortar-stores, Traditional publishing is the only way. That’s one of the “secrets” all the new avenues of putting books out don’t tell you.
This distribution is truly key, and even in the digital age, is a big reason why the traditional method is the top of the pyramid.
So many writers come to me, quite disillusioned with the self-pub process, as they sold 50-100 copies—which is exactly what these presses expect. They make their money off the writers, not off of selling books, which is backward from the way Traditional publishing works.
Funny thing though, even though becoming Traditionally published has gotten more difficult, the process really hasn’t changed much.
And new writers are breaking in to become published authors every single day. I know this to be a fact because as a book editor, many of them are my clients.
Difficult? Yes. Doable? Also yes.
Of course, it all starts with the manuscript. And writing one that measures up to Traditional publishing’s standards is quite difficult indeed. It always has been. But again, now the top of that pyramid has grown oh-so-tiny.
What does that mean for you? Yours has to be better than the other 2 million manuscripts that cross publishing’s doors every year.
But isn’t that what you seek for your book no matter how it’s published? You want it to be the very best it can be.
So how do you break in?
֍ Take your time.
Settle in for the long haul. Writing well isn’t easy to learn. Creativity is paramount, of course, but I cannot tell you how many writers I’ve worked with who had a thimbleful of talent, but dug in to learn all the skills involved in writing a great book, and went on to publish and publish well.
֍ Work with a professional.
Once you get the first and second and third drafts down, have studied and learned as much as you can, revised some more, then work with a great book editor—one who understands publishing from the inside out, and has been vetted by the industry. What you will learn will amaze you.
Agents and publishers these days expect a manuscript to be pretty much camera ready before representing/publishing. That’s one of the things that has changed enormously over the years.
֍ Keep learning your craft.
Keep getting better as you go through revisions.
Before self-publishing, writers took years and years and years before finally perfecting their art enough to get an agent interested. Often, this was a second or even third book before being published.
I know—we’re in the era of instant gratification. But the last thing you want is to toss a book out there and look back years later at an elementary effort. Right?
֍ Know the market.
I know as well—so many writers don’t want to write to the market. They believe this will cramp their creativity.
But you want to know the secret? The opposite is actually true! The specs of Traditional publishing are there for a reason. Not only is this what readers of the various categories and sub-categories expect, but the specs ensure that the book itself is tight, has great characters, and follows the arc of the storyline.
This is one of the main keys to how to get a novel Traditionally published. In short, it works 😉
֍ Go to writing conferences.
Not just to learn the craft, as often the break-out sessions address various nuts-and-bolts of writing, but also to meet literary agents and editors.
The funny thing about this business, even though it deals with words on the page, it’s a people business as well.
Agents sell to editors they know. Not always, but quite often. And agents love to meet new writers at conferences and often take on manuscripts from there.
A writer friend of mine, who hadn’t been able to snag a literary agent, met a NY editor at a conference. The editor took a shine to him, and his manuscript. The editor’s interest, of course, got the attention of an agent, who signed the writer, and sold the manuscript to the editor.
Jack Ballas then became one of the bestselling authors of Traditional Westerns.
֍ Never give up.
It truly isn’t over until you quit. I’ve known so many writers who became successful authors later in life.
Of course, Norman Maclean is my go-to. He received countless rejections on his novel but pressed on. A River Runs Through It was published when he was 74.
Persist! You only get better as a writer the longer you stay in the game.
How to get a novel Traditionally published hasn’t changed all that much. It’s always been a tough nut to crack and still is.
But you can do it. I see it happen every day. What are you waiting for?