Monday, August 24, 2009

How Publishing Works - Part Two

Okay, so this is a little later than 'tomorrow' but here goes ...

Your partial manuscript arrives at the publishing house (or in the submissions email inbox). You should hopefully receive an acknowledgement of receipt. If you've submitted to Harlequin / Mills & Boon, you'll receive a snail mail confirmation with a reference number, possibly in addition to an email confirmation if you've subbed to one of the lines that accepts email subs. Your submission will be handed to whichever editor is 'on duty' that day. If you've submitted to an epublisher you should receive an acknowledgement via email and your submission will be handed to the relevant editor. No matter what publisher you submit to, the average wait time on a response is 3-4 months!

If the response is a rejection, allow yourself a short period to mourn (24 hours is good) then put it behind you and move on to the next project. If you're like me, by the time you receive your first rejection you will already have learned so much during your wait that you'll have a good idea how you can make the next one better. At a later date, we'll post about the different types of rejection letters and what you can learn from them.

However, if you've received a request to see your full manuscript, dance up and down for joy and break open the champagne. You are now officially out of the slush pile! Before you send off your complete manuscript, take note of any suggestions you may have received in your request letter. This is the start of your working relationship with an editor and you want to show that you can work with them and learn from them.

Again, expect the editor to take anywhere from 3-9 months to respond to your full manuscript submission. All editors are busy people, especially in these days of budget and staff cut-backs, so be patient. At this stage, you could receive a rejection, a request for a different manuscript, or a request for revisions. All of these are invaluable, because by this stage you'll be getting feedback on your writing.

A revision request, while it is exciting and worth celebrating, is also likely to be very scary. As with a rejection, allow yourself a couple of days to get over it. Your initial reaction may be "but that's a huge re-write! How am I ever going to do this?". Take a day or two, then re-read the letter. Break it down into manageable bits, starting with the big stuff and working down to the smaller stuff. Take your time and do it right. It'll be worth it.

Unfortunately, revision requests can still lead to rejection ... or to yet more revision requests. There are enough bruised writers out there who can tell you that they've been rejected after multiple revisions. It's heart-breaking, but you're so close. Don't give up. With every story you write, you're learning and growing. In publishing, perseverance pays off. There are many successful published writers out there who wrote 10 or more manuscripts before they finally sold.

One day, you'll hopefully get The Call from your editor and you'll make a sale. By that time, your manuscript will have passed up the chain of command within the publishing house and will have been approved at the highest editorial level. But this is still just the very beginning ....

For what happens after The Call, watch out for our next post.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How Publishing Works - Part One

You've completed your manuscript. What comes next?

Firstly, congratulate yourself on an amazing achievement. Most people who say they'll write a book, or who start writing one, never finish. You're already ahead.

Next, no matter how great you and your friends think your book is, find someone (or a couple of someones) who know your genre and ask them to crit your work. Do not expect them to pat you on the back. A crit partner's job is to find the holes in your work and to help you make your writing stronger. That inevitably means some criticism in with the praise. But this is a whole topic on its own, which I'll address in a future blog post. Alternately, you can pay a professional to edit or critique your manuscript.

When you finally think your manuscript is as strong as you can possibly get it, you need to submit it. This is an important step. You cannot believe how many people complete novels and then never send them out into the world. Yes, you should be writing because you love writing, but you are also denying yourself the incredible opportunity to be published.

Now you are ready to hit send - but where do you send it? Research the options available for your kind of novel. Who publishes that genre? Do they accept unsolicited submissions, or do they only accept submissions via agents? Then check out the submission guidelines for the publishers or agents you've chosen to target. Many agents or editors (the people at the publishing houses who read the submissions) want a query letter, a synopsis and the first 3 chapters. But they all differ in what they want and how they want it. Make sure you give them what they want or you will be sabotaging your own submission.

Once you've hit 'send' on the email or handed the envelope across the post office counter, be prepared for a very long wait. Publishing is probably the slowest business in existence. The best thing you can do now is start work on your next project and try to forget that your little baby has left home.

What happens next?
Well this post is already long enough, so check in tomorrow for Part Two.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Masterclass 101

As we at South African Romance Writers are yet to be published, we don't claim to have all the answers. But in our journey so far we've learned a great deal and we'd like to share what we've learned with those who are starting out on the path to publication.

Tomorrow we'll start with a post on the basics of How Publishing Works.

To kick off, I'd like to ask any blog readers out there if they have any questions they'd like answered. Have you ever wondered how long it'll take to get published, or how much you'll earn, or whether you should wing it as you write or plot carefully before you start? Ask away ...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Writing Contests

There are a few contests currently open to aspiring romance writers in South Africa:

If you have a completed single title novel you might consider Penguin's contest for aspiring African authors. For more information, check out

For category romance writers, Harlequin is running another Presents contest (Modern & Modern Heat to us here in SA). All you need to enter is a synopsis and first chapter - but as Amanda Holly can attest, it's probably a good idea to have written a little more than that! Winners of the last two contests have already sold their completed manuscripts to Harlequin, but even if you aren't confident of winning, I highly recommend you enter. Every entrant is guaranteed feedback and I know several people who've had full manuscripts requested based on their entries. (Isn't it time you submitted yours, Mandy?) Details are available on

Finally, Essentials magazine is running another Voice of Africa short story contest in conjunction with Mills&Boon. Pick up the August issue of Essentials, or visit their website at[IGcms_nodes][IGcms_nodesUID]=da425e83de610e013f2f16d3fdbfdca3. The prizes are absolutely awesome!

So get writing, and please leave a comment to let us know if you plan to enter any of these. Good luck to all entrants!