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Question
I spent the past four months outlining and brainstorming my subject, only began writing when I had my notes in order, and three chapters in-I feel very good about the overall project. By the time I even mention to someone that I'm working on something, I've normally already envisioned the project in it's entirety.

My question is, how can I get taken seriously enough for someone to even give my manuscript a chance to be published? These pages are a part of me-as childish as that sounds, and I want to make sure that I do this right.

Do I need an agent?


Thanks,

Paula Lattimer
North Carolina

Answer
Paula:

You don't sound childish in the least when you say your work is a part of you.  Of course it is!  If you did NOT have that feeling, I wouldn't consider you a serious writer.

Now, as to how to get taken seriously...  First and foremost, take yourself seriously.  That seems to be a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many beginning writers don't act like professionals.  What I mean is that they don't regard the whole publishing enterprise correctly.  They view it as something other than A BUSINESS.  But that's exactly what it is, and as in virtually all businesses these days, the only thing that really matters is the bottom line.  In other words, publishers don't really care how GOOD a book is.  They care about how SALESWORTHY it is.  Some of the worst written books out there are bestsellers.  Books will sell by big-name authors, or celebrities, on name recognition alone.  But the rest of us have to work seriously to make our work the sort of things that publishers know will sell.  

Unfortunately for those of us who care far more about writing than selling, it means we have to become salespeople.  We have to sell ourselves and our work to the publishers.  We have to convince them that the work is going to make them a profit.  We don't want to think of our books - things we slave over for years, perhaps - to be reduced to mere commodities.  But that's what they are to the publishers.  Not to readers, mind you, but they're a different animal altogether.

An agent can certainly help you.  Agents today act like the "front desk" of many publishing companies.  You have to get through them in order to get where you want to be.  Publishers "use" agents (indirectly) as a screening process.  If an agent doesn't think the book will sell, why would a publisher look at it?  Publishers are busy, so the agent provides them a valuable service.  So you really need to convince the agent that your work is what they're looking for.

Sadly, this isn't easy.  But there are many fine books out there that can help you master the skills you need to land an agent.  Peruse a few at your local bookstore.

So act professionally.  Make sure your manuscript is as good as it can be before you submit it to an agent or publisher.  Make sure it's properly formatted (again, lots of books to help you with this), etc.  

Just consider that YOU are a businessperson, too, even unpublished.  If you take yourself seriously, others have little choice but to do the same.

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Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

Experience

For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

Education/Credentials
BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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