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.