Are You Ready to Get Published?

Are you ready to get published?

Obviously this sounds like a stupid and obvious question. Of course you are – why else would you be in SARA? Our ultimate goal is to publish and stay there once we arrive. But are we truly ready just because we’ve written a book? Only you can answer this question.

Two years ago an agent requested my full manuscript (on my very first submission), and I sent it off with visions of her accepting it. It was ultimately rejected. A nice and encouraging rejection, but a rejection nonetheless. Was it her personal taste? Maybe, but more than likely my book just wasn’t ready for publication. I couldn’t see that at the time, but looking back it is very clear to me.

I’ve heard many agents and editors say the single most consistent problem they see with submissions is that the work isn’t ready to be submitted. This isn’t necessarily specific, it doesn’t address whether or not it was the characters or the conflict or even the overall writing where the author failed. We can only assume that something substantial was wrong.

Part of this can be blamed on writers developing relationships with other writers – I hesitate to even say that, but it is common for writers to encourage other writers to submit their work without ever seeing that person’s work. Obviously we can’t expect people to reserve their opinions until they review everyone’s writing – we don’t have time to read all of our writer friend’s work. And we do want to encourage people to submit. You can’t sell unless you do so. But we should also educate our fellow writers on the value of waiting until your work is really ready.

Shelly Thacker began her workshop on internal conflict with a disclaimer, “take your time,” she said. I don’t believe I’ve always understood this, but I get it now. Writing is so exciting especially when you find others that share your passion. But in that excitement we forget that this isn’t a race. The point should be to make our work the best it can be, not to see how quickly we can sell, or how many books we can write a year.

I attended another workshop at National in Washington D.C. presented by Stephanie Bond. She said something so simple in that workshop and yet it has literally changed the way I feel about my writing career. Good writing is not an accident. What does this mean? Well, to me it means that no matter how much talent I have, hard work is what will make my writing shine enough so that it is ready to be on the shelves.

So again I ask you: Are you ready to be published?

Are you willing to take your time and hone your craft and work hard to ensure your book is the best you can make it? Are you willing to continue to do this with each book your write?

How about our limits? How far will you go to make that first sale? Would you change the names of all your characters? How about your hero’s hair color should the interested editor suggest she really hates blonds? What about your favorite subplot? Would you cut it if meant signing a contract?

We all have questions like these to answer about our own writing. And while we can’t know exactly how we will feel and react in any given situation, I think there is merit in testing yourself and setting up some guidelines and standards.

Know yourself. Know your limits. Know how hard you’re willing to work to make your writing the best it can be – and know these things before you get the call.

Robyn Ratliff has been a member of RWA since 1996. She currently serves as President and Webmaster to her RWA Chapter, San Antonio Romance Authors. She writes historicals set in Victorian England and is currently dividing her time between writing her next book and Agent Quest.

Copyright © 2007. Robyn DeHart. All Rights Reserved.

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