By Laura Childs, New York Times bestselling author
If you’ve written a book, congratulations are definitely in order. I’m sure it’s been a long, difficult journey. But now, let’s see if we can get that puppy published, shall we? First off, you’re going to need an agent, which means you have to write a whiz-bang query letter telling that agent exactly why he or she should represent you. In other words, you’ve got to write a short, intriguing synopsis and then enthusiastically explain why your book truly is the next best thing. Here’s the important takeaway – agents and editors are always on the hunt for the next best thing. Usually that means a great story with memorable characters, because a character-driven story is what’s critical these days.
Just as important, editors are looking for breakout books – books that are different, don't re-tell the same old story, and stand out in their categories. Yup, that’s the tricky part. If you’re writing genre fiction you need to know what the current trends are and what kind of books are selling well. If you’ve already been lucky enough to score an agent, quiz them on what today’s acquisition editors are searching for. And if you’ve been asked to submit your manuscript to an agent, never mistake slow response time for interest. Don’t be afraid to keep the pressure on!
Okay, now let’s talk about what goes into a successful novel. Clearly, the internal architecture of your novel needs to be flawless. I’m talking about plot, pacing, turning points, character development, dialogue, and building suspense. If you’re a little shaky on these points, take a class, read a book, or ask an author. It’s going to pay off in the long run. Also, in today's on-demand publishing climate, no matter what kind of book you’ve written, it's hugely important to establish an opening story hook immediately. These days, editors don't want pages and pages of build-up; they want you to toss your reader directly into the action. As my agent once said to me, “You're writing mysteries, so you’d better deliver a dead body right there in chapter one!”
Good luck and please always believe in yourself. Don’t ever let a naysayer tell you that you’re too young, too old, not good enough, not smart enough, or don’t have enough experience. Banish those turkeys from your writing life, because if you work hard enough, if you believe in yourself, you will get your novel published!
Laura Childs is the USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. She also writes the Afton Tangler thriller series under the name Gerry Schmitt. In herprevious life she was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs. Her most recent mystery, Egg Drop Dead, hits bookstores Dec. 5. Find out more at www.laurachilds.com