by Brenda W. Clough
I teach a writing class, at the Writers Center in Bethesda MD. I get asked this question, the question that scorches the heart of every author, a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of flame by night, at least once a year: How do I get published?
As you may imagine, the answer to this is complicated and long. If it were easy to get published — oh, but wait, it is! Just go over to Amazon and shove your work up on Kindle. But that’s not what people mean when they ask me that question. They’re thinking of Simon and Schuster, or Tor, or Del Rey — a traditional publisher. So okay, that’s the real question: how do I get Del Rey, or some other mainline house, to publish my novel?
And the first question I’ll ask you is, have you finished writing it? Nobody will buy half a novel from a writer with no track record. The one exception to this rule is if you’re already so well known that half of your novel has value. You can bet that if Michelle Obama, or Oprah Winfrey, or Meghan Markle, had half an SF novel in a drawer, a publisher would be happy, nay ecstatic, to buy it. Sight unseen! If Meghan is too busy marrying Prince Harry, they’ll find a ghostwriter to finish it for her. If you are of this level of celebrity, you already know it. Go snog Harry and stop worrying. If you aren’t? Finish writing it!
So you’ve finished the novel. Is it as good as you can make it? Fix everything, at both the macro and the micro level. There are thousands of blogs and posts on this subject. Search on the tags and categories in this very blog to kick up all the excellent advice offered here. Run it past beta readers. Workshop it. If you know it’s not good enough but can’t figure out how to make it better, you could hire an editor, but get it as far as you can yourself, first. Tiger Woods does not hire a person to putt the golf ball for him. He learned to putt, because golf involves putting. Learn your craft!
I hope you realize that the above two paragraphs summarize what can be years, decades, of labor. There are writers who take all their lives to get it to this point. Austin Tappan Wright would be a good example. His novel Islandia, was in his desk drawer when he died. I warned you this was going to be long. So let me save the discussion of marketing the work for next week.