HOW FIRST-TIME AUTHORS CAN GET AHEAD

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Interview with Editor In Chief Jos van der Sman

As the Editor In Chief of Get Published magazine, Jos van der Sman knows that getting your words in print is no small feat. Many writers spend year upon year attempting to get published in some way, shape or form, and have to face a myriad of rejections along the way.

If you’re looking to get your first book published, it’s important to give yourself every possible opportunity for success. Learn as much as you can, be open to listening to experts, and know that it’s not a quick process. Jos shares some key tips with writers who are new to the business in the hopes to help them reach their goals sooner, rather than later.

When should writers send their manuscript in to a publisher?

Manuscripts should only be sent in after people have received feedback. In particular, after a manuscript has been submitted to an Editor, and after the author has re-drafted the original. It may need several drafts, depending on the results of the feedback.

Is there a certain number of drafts that should be completed first?

There’s no set number, but it needs to be more than one. NEVER send a 1st draft to a publisher – it is a recipe for disaster! You need to be confident of a positive response, so anything you can do to enhance its appeal is worth trying.

Another method to improve your technique is to enter a writing competition – if you actually manage to get a prize, this will be terrific for your self-esteem (and can also be good for your pocket!).

What are some ways that writers can ensure their work is ready to be seen by an editor?

If a manuscript has had positive feedback from several people, especially from a sample of the target audience, it should be ready.

Find out why people like your work, and if they suggest improvements (e.g. changing the tense or changing to a 1st or 3rd person point of view) just try them out – you can be pleasantly surprised. A small change can matter!

Are there ways to get advice from knowledgeable people?

Yes; a good start is to join a writer’s group. Also, doing an online writing course is very useful. It’s even better to have done a TAFE or university course in Creative Writing. Hiring an editor is another way to get really helpful advice.

How much does this cost, on average?

This varies significantly, but you’re often looking at about $700 – $800 for an editor to thoroughly comment on your whole book.

If publishers like a manuscript, is the author’s writing job done?

No, usually more work is required. It depends on how much preparation has been done before the manuscript was submitted. If the work is ready to be published, authors may still be asked to submit another draft, possibly for a very good reason (e.g. legal issues or defamation). Another issue may be that the work is too long (or too short) for its genre.

What should authors do if they receive feedback they don’t like, and/or didn’t expect?

If you are an author who wants to improve, any feedback you get will be useful. What you do with that is up to you, but looking for consistency in the feedback is crucial to your success.

If many people say similar things to you, that will be a good pointer that there could be a problem. Feedback by its very nature consists of both negative and positive comments. Its effectiveness will be enhanced by how it is given.

For example, in Toastmasters, the organisation that teaches public speaking, feedback comprises the following components:

  • A positive affirmation of how good you think the work is.
  • One or two suggestions for improvement.
  • A summary, framed in positive terms, of your overall impression of the talk.

When it comes to writing, this “sandwich” method is also often used. It is always important for those critiquing work to explain and emphasise WHY they found something to be well done.

How can writers make their work more interesting to publishers?

There are a few elements to this. Writers need to be doing lots of preparation, and verifying that their genre is suitable to their work, and that they are reaching their target audience. In non-fiction, the use of humour, personal stories, anecdotes, and especially the layout of your work is critical, too.

In fiction, as a minimum you must have:

1. An opening
2. Character development
3. Plot
4. Conflict
5. Logical sequence of events
6. Resolution of issues
7. Final scene

If you are interested in getting ahead and would like more from Jos, email editor@getpublishedmagazine.com