More Advantages

Recently we talked about the difficulties new authors face in trying to get through the traditional publishing door. Let's face it, getting in is tough.

It goes without saying that we have to study the craft of writing, perfect our skills, and have an excellent story. But sometimes that's not enough to get noticed and move ahead.

Are there ways for unpublished writers to get an advantage, to get a few steps closer to the door? Here's my list again, and then I've added all of your ideas for getting an advantage:
  • Win a writing contest.
  • Find an incredible, fresh, never-been-touched story idea.
  • Look for an untapped niche in the genre market.
  • Meet an editor or agent at a writing conference and spark their interest.
  • Make regular comments on agent blogs.
  • Hire the help of a professional editor.
  • Target specific agents for our genre.
  • Make friends with an author who can pass along your manuscript.
  • Think outside the box and be flexible.
  • Never, ever give up; writing is subjective.
  • Submit new works consistently to the same editors.
  • Share our writing widely.
  • Volunteer at a conferences or workshops.
  • Trust God and pray for guidance.

Will doing any of these things really help move us ahead?

From personal experience I can say that finaling in a contest gave me a push to the top of the slush pile. But I did many of the other things listed above too: I found a fresh story idea, hired a professional editor, targeted specific agents, never gave up, and ultimately trusted God for guidance.

Often it's the combination of hard work and perseverance that eventually pays off. So, my question for you today is this: What is your next step? Which of the above suggestions are you working on to give you more of an advantage? Are there any new things you need to try?

More about my experience with professional editing tomorrow. . .


  1. Awesome list Jody! Winning a contest gave me an advantage, because even though the editor didn't think my story fit/was ready, she told me she would be happy to read future manuscripts. That was a great advantage right there, to have an editor know my name and look forward to reading something of mine! :-)
    Right now, I'm hoping the uniqueness of my story premise will help open some doors for me. If I ever finish revisions. *groan*


  2. Hi Jody!!!! I know I've told you this before, but this summer, I am going to edit my WIP and THEN let my dad see it. He is a professional editor/ghost writer, but I haven't let him see my work because, well, he's my dad and I want him to think what I've done is good! lol He gives me a hard time that I let you, a virtual friend, read it before him!!! Funny, huh? I look forward to reading your post tomorrow...maybe I will know what to expect from my dad. subjective can my dad be, do you think?

  3. Jessica: That's awesome that an editor asked to see more of your work. You better hurry and get her some more! Finish those revisions! Ugh! I know what you mean. I'm in the middle of mine, and it's slow going!

    Sherrinda: You are lucky to have your dad! That's SO cool! Now you'll just have to let him know to read it as if you were just another client (and not his daughter). The easy part about paying someone, is the more brutal they are the better, then you feel like you're getting your money's worth! We'll have to chat more soon and catch up!

  4. Hey Jody! This summer I'm focusing on my craft - I really want to polish it up, make my current three stories shine as much as possible. Then when I go to the conference, I'll be more confident pitching one to agents/editors. Studying the craft is always a good idea!

    What's the update with your new agent? Is Rachelle going to start pitching your story to publishing houses? I'm so excited for you!

  5. I'm at an impasse. I'm not sure whether to keep editing my current manuscript while waiting to hear back from agents or actually start a new story. I'm definitely in unfamiliar territory. (Oh wait...this is all unfamiliar to me!)

    Great Post. Hope everything is going well with Rachelle!

  6. Katie: I think studying the craft of writing and perfecting our style and stories has to come first. Sounds like you have a great plan for the summer! Progress with my MS and Rachelle is going well! I'll have to update everyone once I finish this proposal!

    Marybeth: Maybe once you hear back from some agents you'll get a better idea of what direction you need to head next! Maybe this is a good time to start brainstorming the next story!

  7. Jody:
    Excellent list! I am so proud of you, dear friend.

    I just got my ms back from the editor i'd hired, and was i shocked at all the technical changes it needs!

    After i picked myself up off the floor, i plowed in. The first devo took over an hour to fix! So, this will be my life for the next six months, unless...
    An editor or agent at the conference next week is more interested in my WIP than my 'finished' work, and then I will be working on completing that.
    And building up my platform by speaking more, getting more articles published, etc.

  8. Joining Writing Organizations can help, too. They offer workshops, discounted writing conferences, marketing opportunities once published, help build your platform, among other benefits.

  9. Yeah it's kinda frustrating because all I've had is 5 form rejections and one MS request. It's hard because I don't know WHY it's being rejected or if there is something I need to change. Sigh....

    BUT I do have an idea for a new book :D

  10. Jeanette: I know how you feel; editing is slow, painstaking work. But we need to keep at it to make our work as excellent as possible! You've got some great plans ahead of you! I'll be praying God will open doors for you at the conference!

    Joanne: That's another super idea! Writing organizations are such a great way to network and start to get our name/writing into the spotlight.

    Marybeth: A request for a manuscript is an EXCELLENT sign that your idea and writing are on track!! How exciting to get a request! Now the hard part is waiting to hear back on how they liked your MS!

  11. Hi, Jody: Wow, that's some list. I need to work more on all of those suggestions.

    My computer has been acting up and for some silly reason it keeps going into opening explorer pages in hyper mode when I start reading blogs. So I've had to hard shut-down my computer constantly to prevent it from blowing a gasget. VERY ANNOYING!!! and time consuming.

  12. Many denominations have papers or journals that are looking for writers. They often take unsolicited manuscripts. They generally don't pay anything, but they provide exposure and a chance to say you are published. One book editor asked me what journals I write for, so they do pay attention to those things.

  13. Eileen: Sorry to hear about your computer problems. Last week I was having problems accessing your site and a couple of others! Don't you just hate it! It's such a time killer!

    Warren: More great ideas!! Getting our writing out there is such a great way to get feedback as well as catch the attention of editors/agents.

  14. Hi Jody,

    My favorite thing to do was the last one you listed. :D

    I think it works the most.

    Meanwhile, I'm pumped to have just joined a critique group. I am very interested to hear about your editor experience. I had one read my MS, but more for character feedback, etc. I'm curious about costs, etc.

    ~ Wendy

  15. That's a great list, Jody! Right now I am kind of jumping into new territory: marketing. Because I decided to go with a small press, I feel the pressure to do as much as I can to get my books out there. Not just for the sales of this book for the future of my writing. If this book doesn't do well, it will be that much harder to get an agent or a publisher in the future.

    I am praying a lot and trying to pursue as many avenues as I feel I'm supposed to.

  16. Great advice all around! I'm still debating about the professional editing thing, very expensive. I would add that participating in critiquing groups is a helpful thing too, and a little more affordable to aspiring authors.

  17. Wendy: I like the last one best too! Glad to hear you've gotten into a crit group. You'll have to let us know how the experience goes!

    Cindy: You're definitely hitting uncharted territory for most of us with marketing! I would love to hear more about how you plan to market and what steps you're taking! We can learn a lot from you!

    quixotic: I think critique groups can add invaluable feedback on our MS's. I haven't had much experience with one and wonder how it compares to having an editor?

  18. These are great tips! Right now, I'm trying to find that fresh, new story idea.

  19. Jody,
    Great ideas! For better or worse I don't have a book burning inside me and am focusing on getting published in magazines and book compilations. Your list gave me some more food for thought. Thanks!

  20. Jody: Thanks, i need those prayers!

  21. My next step is to prepare for ACFW. I went last year and wasn't as prepared as I would have liked.

    THIS year, I'm spending the summer editing my manuscript, and also trying to finish book two so I at least have a finished rough draft. I debated about finishing it... had been told that it's a good idea to just have 3 chapters and synop. for second/third books in a series (they are all different but have a few connecting family members...) But, the Genesis really helped me see that I NEED to finish it in order to make sure all my layers are there.

    But, editing book 1 to incorporate Genesis remarks and making it as clean as possible is goal #1.

    I also want to work this summer on reading more "craft" related books. I don't do that as much as I should, and I think doing so will help me while I edit... let again. *grin*

  22. Hi Jody,

    Love this list. I'm doing most of them, but especially the last one. :)

    I'm pulling together a workshop for new writers this fall and plan to share the link to your blog as a helpful website.

    Thanks for all the great info.

  23. Melissa: Hope you find that fresh idea soon!

    KelliGirl: I think building our publishing history is so important; sounds like you're on the right track!

    Jeanette: For sure! And I'll look forward to hearing about the conference! Wish I could have gone with you!

    Krista: We can learn so much by reading craft books! I've got two new ones to plow through too! And I think you're wise to go to ACFW as prepared as possible!

    Julie: Thank you! I'm honored you think my blog is worhty of mentioning!

  24. I'm still chipping away at the new version of my romantic suspense story. I wonder about the commenting frequently on an agent's blog. How would that really help you? Sure, they might see that you're a fan, but only your writing will sell your book in the end.

    You'll have to keep us informed about how your new adventure with an agent goes. Inquiring minds want to know. ;)

    Lynnette Labelle

  25. I've finaled in a couple of contests and received wonderful feedback from an editor. I've also participated in our local RWA conference and gotten attention from an editor and agent. I think your entire list can only be positive influences in the climb to becoming published. As long as it's done in a professional, positive way. I plan to continue studying the craft and line that I'm targeting, and will complete/polish and submit:)

  26. I love the list. Having authors as friends definitly helps. I'm about to embark on sending out my first set of query letters. I know I just need to do it, but I keep cringing at the thought:) This time around I'm praying for guidance and patience with the whole system:)

  27. Lynette: I'm not really sure if commenting on agent blogs helps. I know one agent stopped by my blog as a result. Maybe it would help if you're in their slush pile and then they can get to know you a little? I'm not sure!

    Chelle: I definitely think it's a combination of doing all of that hard work. And you're right. We have to do it professionally!

    Kara: How exciting to be sending off queries! It's one more step closer to getting toward publication! You'll have to keep us posted on how it goes.

  28. This is a great list! Definitely good advice...I'll have to get to work! *sigh* By the way, I could have sworn that I replied to this post. I am losing my mind. :-)

  29. Hi Litgirl101: I've done that too, where I leave a comment but then go back later and find out that it's not there! Weird, huh?


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