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FAQ #2a. How do I get published?

If you're writing non-fiction, you may be able to sell your book idea via a detailed proposal, without having actually written the book first. With fiction, especially if you're an unpublished or unknown writer, in most cases you have to write the entire novel before trying to get it published. If you haven't written your novel yet, go back to FAQ #1a, How do I get started writing my first book?.

If you've already written your novel or have a solid idea for a nonfiction proposal and don't know where to turn next, I suggest once again visiting the Writing/Publishing section of your local library or bookstore, where you'll find loads of books offering detailed advice and information on how to get published. You'll want to flip through these books yourself to see which ones seem appropriate to the type of book you're writing, but if you get only one book on getting published, I'd recommend:

"Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents" by Jeff Herman (Prima Publishing)

When I was starting out, I found this to be one of the best resources for aspiring writers. It provides listings of literary agents, publishers, and book editors (including names and contact info) along with descriptions of what sorts of books they'll consider. In addition, Herman provides detailed advice on what to include in query letters and book proposals, along with practically anything else a writer needs to know in the quest to become published. This book is updated every one or two years, so make sure you get the most up-to-date edition.

I'd also recommend that you look for a copy of "Literary Marketplace" (also known as LMP, published by R.R. Bowker) at your local library. This is a huge, authoritative directory of who's who in the publishing industry. It costs a couple of hundred bucks, so that's why I recommend looking for it at the library.

If you're in the U.S., I might also suggest subscribing to the trade publication "Publishers Weekly," or a similar publishing trade magazine if you're outside the U.S. This is a great way to get a handle on the current bookselling market, which publishers are buying what kind of books, which agents are selling what books, what's going on in the business end of the publishing business, as well as reviews of forthcoming books.

Of course, it takes a lot more than reading one or two books and magazines to get your work published. Some writers have found it helpful to attend seminars on writing and publishing. Some writers join a local or online writers group to network and share tips and advice with other writers, both published and unpublished. It doesn't hurt to try anything and everything–whatever works! Getting your work published could take years and years of continuous effort–as it has for most writers, myself included. And once you do get your work published, things don't get any easier. Ralph Daigh, founding publisher of Fawcett World Library and author of "Maybe You Should Write A Book," wrote:

"Maybe here is the place to warn you again that writing is hard work, and anyone not willing to approach authorship as a job requiring complete dedication and every necessary sacrifice should not aspire to the profession."

There's no simple explanation or answer or trick to getting published. Try to learn all you can about the business of publishing while writing the best book you can possibly write. And when you get rejected, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. If there's any secret to getting published, I guess that's it. Never give up. Keep the faith.

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