Sunday 31 March 2013

So, You Wrote A Story, Now What?

What does a writer have to do to become a published author with a traditional publisher?

Illustration by Samantha Kickingbird
This advice comes from my experiences of learning to write well first and then, becoming a published children's book author.

When I first started writing seriously, some twenty years ago, I thought every story I wrote was worthy of being considered for publication. That was so not the case.

I think a lot of writers have that same syndrome when they are beginners. It's called the Ego Syndrome.

So my first rule of advice is to get over yourself, burst your ego bubble, and get to work. I know that sounds cruel, but it is the absolute first rule of becoming a published writer.

So once you have a story completed, then what?

Edit, edit, edit, and then edit.

A good piece of advice here is to leave that story alone for a few weeks, then go back and edit it for possible better words to use, ditching more adverbs than keeping, and  most important, the killing of useless words and sentences (useless words and sentences are those that do nothing to move the plot, character, or scene forward).

I know, the killing of our own words is the hardest killing of all. This is also the process of killing your ego, which for a writer is a very important lesson.

 So you're ready to start submitting your story? Not yet. More work.

 Leave that story alone again for a few weeks. The next time you edit, go over every sentence individually, looking for ways to enhance that sentence by re-writing or re-wording so that the writing flows. Re-write the sentence a dozen ways if you have to. You will know when that sentence is the best it can possibly be, when the words flow off the tongue like something similar to music.

Submit now?  No.

Another edit for punctuation and grammar. You will not believe how many times the Spell Check on your writing program has the wrong word usage, or how many times your punctuation can be simplified.

Okay, three major edits and you might be ready to start the submitting process.

The submitting process is loads of work. One of the best things you can do before you start submitting is to research the publishers; find out what they are accepting, follow the guidelines listed by each publisher, learn how to write a great cover letter and/or query letter.

The book, Book Market for Children's Writers, will become invaluable to writer who can follow the rules in the submitting process.

And now that your ego bubble is burst, you've done your best work, the rejections that follow should not deter you from getting your book published.  And quite possibly, many rejection letters will follow.

My first book, Sir Princess Petra - The Pen Pieyu Adventures, had 27 rejections before finding a home with a traditional publisher.

Chin up. Persistence will get you published if your story is well edited and written well, and you follow the guidelines set out by publishers before submitting your manuscript to them.
Illustration by Samantha Kickingbird
Visit my author's website at:   

The author has a journalism diploma from the Schools of Montreal and an advanced diploma from the Institute of Children's Literature.

 Visit my author's website at:              


  1. Wow! 27 no's before finally a yes. I didn't know that many publishers were out there, Just kidding, but that is an awful lot of rejection slips to bare. How did you handle those?

    I can appreciate all the editing you suggest. I have seen way too many decent stories that were difficult to read because of spelling and punctuation, or grammar.

    I have heard of "writers" bragging that they wrote their "book" in a week and had it up on Amazon the nest week. That is not edited. How could it be in that time frame.

    I think with all this easy publishing going on the quality has greatly diminished. Even more disturbing is the number of people who buy and read this not so great stuff because it is priced at 99 cents or, heaven forbid, at the high end, $2.99.

    Soon, readers will forget what a good book really is, a labor of love by a dedicated author. Just maybe, your post will hit a chord with some of these "new writers" and they will put forth the effort to produce a book they can truly be proud of.

    Another informative, instructional, and interesting post. You've convinced me. I will be editing, editing, and editing again before editing. Thanks, friend.

  2. Hi Sue,

    Well, 27 rejections is not that hard to swallow when you realize that each publisher the story was submitted to has their own quota for the year.

    For instance, even though a publisher's guidelines state that they accept fantasy, they may have already accepted one fantasy in that year and that filled their quota.

    Did you know that, Mulberry Street, by Dr. Seuss had at least 27 rejections and, The Cat In The Hat,even more than that.

    Through all the rejections of book one, I did receive a lot of encouraging notes from publishers saying they couldn't use my story, but they liked it.

    When the writer has a well written and well edited story, the rejections from publishers are more about presenting to the right publisher at the right time.

    As for those books for .99 cents on Amazon---I think readers will eventually catch on.

    Yes, writing a book is a labor of love. It takes many months to write an produce a good book.