As a Book Country member, you can Follow your favorite publishing industry topics. Choose your favorite topics to receive personalized notifications.
Covering all aspects of the industry: traditional publishing, digital publishing, self-publishing, and everything in between.
As a writer, there are any number of factors you can't control. Don't neglect the ones you can!
Getting published isn't easy. Each day there are more aspiring writers competing to win the attention of a finite number of publishers. And while every editor hopes to discover the next big thing, limited budgets mean that even quality work isn't guaranteed to sell.
But you're different. You're talented, focused, and hungry. You understand that getting published takes more than just craft. It also requires market savvy, professional networking, a little luck, and most of all, the commitment to keep going through the rough times. All of which you have in spades. Congratulations; that combination is all you need.
So long as you don't knock yourself out of the game.
Before I sold my novel, I joined critique groups and took MFA classes, attended conferences and schmoozed with authors. Along the way, I met hundreds of aspiring writers, many of them very talented, capable of illuminating raw human truths, of crafting sentences that hit like a punch in the eye. Some of them will make it.
The reason is simple: One way or another, many authors handicap themselves. Swept up in the idea of writing, they make mistakes that limit or negate their opportunities. Here are six ways to make sure you don't cripple your own chances:
Start at the beginning and write to "THE END"
Imagine you paint houses for a living, and you love it. You've got a terrific project coming up: great lines and multiple stories that intersect to form an elegant structure. Do it right, and you'll get the chance to paint another, and another, maybe for the rest of your life.
Given that, what would you do? Would you begin with the garage, stop mid-way, paint a patch around the chimney, then abandon that to stain the deck? Would you split your attention between three separate colors? Would you decide you'd rather paint a different house altogether?
Or would you look at the whole, plan your attack, then pick up your brush and work in steady measured strokes until you were done?
Writing a novel is much the same. One of the worst-and most common-mistakes writers make is not focusing. It's fine to think about the upcoming sex scene, or to daydream about the big finish. But start writing on page one and keep going till you get there. While the glamorous parts are more fun to write, focus solely on them and you'll neglect your narrative.
Likewise, it's dangerous to work on multiple projects. Completing a single book can take years. Try to write three at once, odds are you'll finish none.
And while it's practically guaranteed that somewhere in the midst of your novel you'll get an idea for a better one, resist the temptation. New ideas are the lace lingerie of writing, but novels aren't made of one-night stands. Like any relationship, commitment is key.
Cherish forward motion
When I was working on my first novel, THE BLADE ITSELF, I had a note taped to my monitor that read, "You are hereby released from writing the perfect novel." It was a sentiment that helped me navigate hourly crises of faith. Every time I began thinking that the book would be better if I went back and reworked, I read that mantra and forced myself to live it.
The net result was that instead of constantly revisiting my early chapters, I finished a first draft. It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was snarled and awkward, with characters popping up unannounced, significant timeline issues, and an internal geography that would drive a cartographer off the ledge.
But it was done. And everything else could be fixed.
Sure, sometimes you have a thunderbolt that absolutely forces you to revisit what you've written. But for most cases, consider maintaining a separate document of ideas and problems. Jot them down as they occur, and don't worry about how daunting the list looks. Mine ended up fourteen pages long, but once I had a completed story, fixing the flaws was simple.
And never forget: One complete rough draft trumps ten polished-to-a-high-gleam first acts.
Hate yourself in the morning
Everybody writes differently, and it's important to find the time and method that works for you, whether that's doing two hours every day or locking yourself away to churn out twenty Saturday pages. Which method you use isn't important.
What's important is that however you write, you need to set specific goals: page count, word count, finishing a chapter. And you need to feel badly when you don't meet those goals.
There's a writer I regularly see at conferences who's been writing the same book for six years. Every time I ask how it's going, he tells me how busy he's been, how work gets in the way, how he's still planning it in his head.
That's fine, of course — it's his prerogative. But no matter how good a writer he is, I'm not holding my breath to see his novel on the shelves.
The best way to complete any project is to break it into small pieces and then steadily accomplish those goals. For me, the goal is a thousand words a day, five days a week. Sometimes I get more, sometimes I barely scrape by, but on the rare occasions I leave the chair without that word count, I beat myself up badly enough that the next day I more than make up for slacking.
It seems harsh, I know, but the truth is that if you don't put one word after the other, you simply won't get there. If you want to be published, you have to treat this like a job.
Worry less about selling out and more about selling
I once read a manuscript, a crime story about a cop who had a passion for Hummel figurines. This was a side interest in an otherwise tough guy, and the novel was beautifully written: lush prose, vivid characters, a genuinely tense storyline that revolved around a well-researched political scandal.
But still, Hummel.
The author had written himself into a niche without meaning to. The sum total of Hummel aficionados in the world doesn't outweigh the complete disinterest of the rest of us. And so despite having a great story with plenty of suspense, what the author had seen as a quirky character trait ended up labeling, and dooming, the book.
Writing a book is art. Art is personal. Your characters and story say something about who you are and what you treasure.
Selling a book is commerce. The rules of commerce dictate that the more people interested in what you're writing, the likelier it will sell, and the higher the price will be.
The trick is to find a balance that lets your art function as successful commerce. This isn't about hitting the least common denominator; it's about avoiding niches. They may be comfortable, but they're cramped, and you want room for as many people as possible.
It's a musical fantasy thriller, with lasers
There's so much talk about having a "big idea" or a "high concept" that aspiring authors often feel like it's not enough to simply write a compelling book. Admirably enough, they want to do something unique, something that breaks fresh ground. Unfortunately, many attempt to do this by mixing genres.
This is, by and large, a bad idea.
It can be done. It can even be done brilliantly, as in Joss Whedon's Firefly, a sci-fi television series about intergalactic smugglers operating on border worlds similar to the American Old West. It was an unexpected concept that worked. An audience will always respond to a forcefully imagined world. The problem is that no one knows how to position the finished product.
Think of it this way: booksellers need to know where to shelve you. If yours is a crime novel, they put you with Dennis Lehane and Lee Child; if it's literary fiction, they put it beside Michael Chabon and David Mitchell. If your book features blaster-wielding damsels tap dancing against the clock to prevent a terrorist attack, they put it down.
Genre is a marketing tool. It tells publishers how to promote something, booksellers where to stock it, and fans where to find it. So as temptingly fresh as cross-genre novels can be, they're risky. Firefly is the perfect example: the writing was spectacular, the world vivid, the idea original. Critics raved and fans swooned.
The network canceled it halfway through the first season.
"What's your book about?" is not a trick question
Novels are like children — we obsess about them, delighting in their successes and agonizing over their failures. So it's no wonder that for many authors, condensing their story is a tougher battle than writing the thing.
However, it's worth the fight. Because sooner or later the person asking the question will be an agent.
When that happens, you don't want to have to make up an answer on the spot. Instead, have a couple of "hip pocket" versions in different lengths: a sentence, a paragraph, a two-minute pitch. For example, my one-sentence pitch is "The Blade Itself is the story of a retired thief who has to fight for his new life when his old one comes looking for him." Did I leave out a lot? About 86,974 words. But I conveyed the essence of the story, said the name of my book, and most importantly, respected my listener's time.
It's a difficult art, but a crucial one. The ability to present the core of your novel in a few words shows an agent that you're serious about the business and that you really understand your own story. Plus, as a side benefit, you may find that boiling down your book helps clarify the story in your own mind.
Getting published isn't easy. The best things you can bring to the table are a terrific book and a willingness to work hard. But beyond that, remember that a little forethought and some care can make a world of difference. After all, in this business there are any number of factors you can't control. Don't neglect the ones you can.
Marcus Sakey is the author of five novels, most recently THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES. Before becoming a full time novelist, he worked for ten years in television and advertising, which he jokes gave him the perfect experience to write about thieves and killers.
Marcus has shadowed homicide detectives, toured the morgue, gone shooting with Special Forces soldiers, ridden with gang cops, and learned to pick a deadbolt. He swears it was all for research.Visit MarcusSakey.com and follow him on Twitter @MarcusSakey.
Please choose the reason that best describes your concern. If you feel any
for information on copyright infringement and takedown procedures.
Book Country provides an RSS feed for those who like to read our Industry content in an RSS Aggregator.
Choose from the options below:
Are you sure you want to ignore this request or recommendation? It will be removed from your shelf.
You will no longer receive Connection Requests from this person, and they will not know that you have blocked them. You can unblock this person at any time in your account.
is now blocked.
You can manage your blocked people in your account.
Are you sure you want to block this person?
This member is now blocked.
You can manage your blocked people in your profile.
You will no longer be able to view this user’s Connections, read their complete books, or make Recommendations to them.
The user will not receive notification that you have Disconnected, but they will probably figure it out later. You can also stay in touch more casually by Following this person instead.
You are now Disconnected from this member.
By accepting this Connection Request, you will be allowing this member to read all the fiction you've posted, view your Connections, and the books, people, discussions, and topics you are Following. You can also receive Recommendations from your Connections and make Recommendations to them.
If you'd rather receive more casual updates on this person's activity, choose to Follow this person instead.
Please sign in or join now if you want to Connect with this person.
Your request has been sent to the member.
Sign in to share with your connections.
Done! You have recommended [Author] to [recipient].
Book Country Badges are awarded for community activity and accomplishments. You can earn badges for positive contributions to the site, such as writing a highly rated book, or contributing many reviews and discussions.
Each badge comes in bronze, silver, and gold. You’ll start with bronze, and then earn silver and gold as your activity grows. There are also versions of each badge at the genre level, master genre level (i.e., SF, Romance, etc.), and for all of Book Country. Our staff is always working hard to ensure fairness and good karma. The more you participate, the more rewards you’ll receive.
Preferred Genres help you track your interests and Connect with similar members. You can select as many genres as you like.
The Top Books and Top People in your Preferred Genres will automatically appear on your home page, updating every two weeks.
Recommendations make it easy to share interesting content with other Book Country members. You can recommend a book, discussion, person, or article to your Connections, and they can make Recommendations to you.
Recommendations appear in your notifications bar.
Connections are your friends and colleagues on Book Country who you have allowed additional access to your work.
Accepting a Connection request lets that member read all of the fiction you’ve posted (there is no word limit). Connections can also view who you are Connected to, as well as the books, People, Discussions, and Industry Topics you are Following.
You can also receive Recommendations from your Connections and make Recommendations to them.
To add a new Connection, send a Request to Connect. The member to whom you would like to Connect must accept your request to make it official.
Following is a way to casually keep in touch with a person on Book Country.
By Following a person, you will receive updates on their public activities on the site, such as uploading a new book or responding to a discussion.
People you Follow can’t see your Connections, make Recommendations to you, or see that you are Following them.
Private books cannot be read by site visitors or community members. Private books do not appear on the Genre Map or in searches. Some writers may choose to temporarily make a book private during revisions or while meeting with agents and publishers.
You can repost a private book to make it visible again. All comments and ratings will be saved.
Writers can Delete their books at any time, for any reason.
On rare occasions, the Book Country staff may Delete a book for copyright violations.
Deleted books are completely removed from Book Country, along with all comments and reviews. Deleted books cannot be recovered.
Locked Discussions are discussions that can still be read but cannot accept new responses. Discussions can only be locked by a Book Country administrator.
As a community for writers and readers, we want our members to receive thoughtful and constructive feedback on their work. Book Country Peer Reviews are designed to help writers improve in their chosen craft.
You must be a member to rate and review. Members can review a book once per draft.
Each review has several sections:
Share your general thoughts on the book. Did the writer categorize the book accurately on the Genre Map? Were you engaged by the material? What really worked and what needs work? Comment on whatever else you like.
When uploading a book, writers can select two areas on which they’d like guidance. Provide more detailed feedback based on these criteria.
Give each section a star rating from 1 to 5. This will help us determine how the book compares to others in the community. Your must rate each section to save your review. But remember, star ratings are not just a scale of bad to good; it’s also a scale from rough draft to polished manuscript.
It’s easy to work on your review over a period of time with our “Save for Later” feature. Please be aware, though, that if you have a review saved and the writer of the book changes his/her feedback criteria, the feedback that you’ve inputted for any old criteria will be automatically removed. Additionally, if the writer uploads a new draft of the book, your review will be lost. So don’t sit on it too long!
When writing your review of a published book, please bear in mind that the author is not longer revising the project. For example, you may want to write your review as if you are giving your opinion to other potential readers.
Heads up! By Connecting with this person, you are allowing this user to view
your other Connections, see who you’re Following, and read your complete books.
You can also receive Recommendations from your Connections, and make Recommendations to them.
The other user must accept your Request to make the Connection official.
Done! You have sent a recommendation to .
Click the left arrow to view the previous page.
Click the right arrow to view the next page.
Write a review of the book.
Use page tools to customize your experience and jump to sections of the book.
Are you sure you want to sign out?
It's easy! Upload chapters at your own pace or your entire book if it's ready. Make changes any time you like.
Everyone contributes at Book Country. After you provide three peer reviews, you can share your work with the community.
Book Country is a supportive community of fiction writers and readers who offer constructive feedback to help you improve your craft.
Our members include published authors and industry professionals. You never know who might discover your work.