The Writer’s Life – Barriers to Getting Published

I have made no secret my desire to get my work out in print but there are days when I wonder if I’ve got the chops to actually make it.  I’ve had several established (see published) authors tell me that I have what it takes.  The interesting (to me at least) thing about that is most of them have not read a single word of my prose.  If they haven’t read my work how can they honestly say I have what it takes?

I actually asked that very question of one of my author friends.  He is a writer with five books out and I have known him for a few years now.  I trust his opinion.  When he said I had what it takes I was troubled.  After all, like most people he has never seen my writing.  When I asked him how he could make such a statement he had this to say:  “It’s not the quality of your work as much as the quality of your persistence.  You have the fire to see this through.  Eventually you will prevail.”

Now I am paraphrasing what he said a little and while it boosted my spirits I still had doubts.  I have submitted my work and I have a nice collection of rejection slips.  Still it doesn’t feel like I’m making any progress.  I’ve thought long and hard about the problem and I’ve come to a conclusion.  There is one major barrier to getting published and that barrier is me.


Let me explain.

I am a procrastinator by nature.  I also tend to focus on one (major) project at a time.  Add a pinch of self-doubt and you have a recipe for problems.  I won’t call it disaster.  That would be too harsh, but it certainly slows things down.

Case in point, last year I did something that worked very well.  I sent out nine query letters to publishers for one of my books.  I got three positive responses to send in more of my work.  I sent the work into those three and waited.  That may sound normal because it takes time for publishers to scrutinize a submission.

The problem was, I didn’t do any more market research.  I should have had another nine ready to go when I sent the third submission out.  I didn’t.  Instead, I waited to hear back and lost lots of time.  I fell away from what had worked and went back to my haphazard submission style.  I’m still stuck in that rut.

Then I wrote a story specifically for a publisher thinking I knew exactly what they wanted.  Since they were sure to accept, I didn’t bother with market research or sending out queries.  It turns out I didn’t have quite the understanding I thought I did.  Fallback position?  Haphazard submissions.

Now are you starting to see why I consider myself a barrier?

What I need to do is formulate a solid plan and execute it.  And I will once I’ve got the edits done on my current manuscript (remember I mentioned my tendency to focus on one project at a time?).  Actually, I’ve got to break out of that habit and start the market research now and get those books on a more chartered submission path.  I don’t have to stop editing (or writing) to do that.

While you may be seeing a bit of a trend, there are other things a writer (say me, for example) can do to oneself to scuttle the chances of publishing.  For example:

  1. Let fear get in the way of submissions.  What if they don’t like me?
  2. Tweak a story continuously to get a  good enough quality product to actually interest publishers.  Of course, it’s never good enough, is it?
  3. Not know the market (this is a key one:  who is out there?  what mediums? where do you find this out?)
  4. No guts, no glory or lack of determination.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom.  There are also things you can do to increase your chances:

  1. Meet people:  publishers, agents, other writers.
  2. Know your goals and plan with them in mind.
  3. Just send your stories out.

Looking at that list, I’m not as badly off as I could be.  I know several publishers, many writers and a couple agents.  That has helped.  I am also very single-minded in my ambition.  I will get published.  And once that happens, I will get published again. There is no doubt in my mind (most of the time).  And I am sending my stories out.

Are you a barrier or an enabler?

Personal Update

I sent out “Mik Murdoch” again to a publisher I know.  I’m also busy editing my fantasy novel.  I expect the fantasy novel edit to be done by the end of March.  I’m also recording the next episode of “Get Published” next week.

How are you doing?


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