Will Your Book Ever Be Published?

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Every writer who has browsed the pages of the Writers Market is familiar with notations like this one:

Publishes 25-30 titles a year. Receives 5,000 queries and 1,500 manuscripts a year.

Since more books are written than published, what can you do to improve your chances of publication?

No guarantees are offered, but you can improve your chances by reading a book by Pat Walsh that has this lengthy and discouraging title: 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published & 14 Reasons Why It Just Might (Penguin 2005).

Walsh, former journalist and a founding editor of MacAdam/Cage publishers, provides a humorous look at the hard facts of what it takes for an author to get a book from the creation stage to publication.

Here are some of the 78 reasons for non-publication:
Reason 6: You think writing is easy
Reason 9: You do not care about language
Reason 19: You do not know grammar
Reason 21: You do not know enough vocabulary
Reason 22: You read your writing aloud too much
Reason 23: You have a tin ear for dialogue
Reason 41: You go to writers’ conferences for the wrong reasons

As a reader of DWT you know that Reason 9 does not apply to you. You can also feel confident that you are doing something practical to keep Reason 21 from applying to you. As you might imagine, what Walsh has to say about Reason 19 strikes a chord with me:

How familiar you are with grammar before attempting to write a book is up to you, but I think you should know the parts of speech, verb tenses and modifiers, sentence and paragraph construction, and the difference between active and passive voice.

Walsh anticipates the objection that having to review basic grammar is somehow insulting to a grown-up writer. Typical of Walsh’s no-whiners-please approach:

If you feel [basic grammar practice] is a remedial chore best suited for kids, you are right. So are multiplication charts, table manners, and toilet training. If you have not learned those by now, you should. Do not give prospective publishers another reason not to take you seriously.

All is not doom and gloom, however. Among the 14 reason why your book might be published:
Reason 1: You wrote a good book.
Reason 2: You’re honest with yourself
Reason 10: You learn from rejection

Writing is hard and getting published is harder. Walsh’s style is humorous, but what he has to say is of great value to the writer trying to storm the ramparts of the publishing industry.

You can find the book on Amazon.com

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7 thoughts on “Will Your Book Ever Be Published?”

  1. This article came through on my RSS reader, so I clicked through thinking I’d find a link to the book on Amazon. But none? There are two ads here for how to make money with a blog, so the like of an Amazon-affiliated link for this book is puzzling.

    Anyway, this does look like a good book. Thanks for the pointer.

  2. Grammar! We love it. Seriously, though, using correct grammar can make the difference between amateurish and professional writing, clarity and confusion, and publication or dust collecting.

    We are long past being surprised by the number of authors (and other writers) who are inconsistent and accidental in their use of grammar conventions. If this is you, our advice is: get help. Good writing always matters.

  3. “Reason 6: You think writing is easy” – I agree. Anyone who takes writing easily will never pay enough attention to get their books done the right way.

    Another reason (for non-publication) is not clear about target readers. Just like marketing, there must be some certain people who enjoy reading your new book. And we should know what they like, and even more important: what they dislike!!!

  4. Why would reading your writing aloud “too much” be bad? I was always taught (and have found) that you can spot grammar, word choice, and other problems by reading something aloud.

  5. Seems like a good book. Now that I have seen this review I will get it from the library. I have seen it there, but I never checked it out.

    P.S. I am usually the one hanging around the “Writing” section looking for new and good books to read.

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