How NOT to get published – GUEST POST by Sarah J. Daley
To celebrate the UK release of her debut novel OBSIDIAN, Sarah. J Daley is here to tell you how not to get published.
First, we’d be remiss not tell you about her exciting debut:
Shade Nox is a fiend, a rogue, and a wanted murderer, though her only true crime is that she chooses to dress like a man. Proud and defiant, she wears her tattoos openly as any bloodwizard would, and carries obsidian blades at her hips. Those who laughingly call her a witch to her face soon learn an unfortunate lesson: Shade Nox might be an abomination, but she wields her blades with devastating precision, gleefully shedding blood for elemental magic that matches any man’s.
Shade scratches out a dangerous living in the broken Wastes, but now that they are growing more unstable and dangerous, Shade and her people need their own Veil to protect them. She vows to raise one—a feat not accomplished in over a hundred years. But the Veils are controlled by the Brotherhood, who consider them sacred creations. They would sooner see all the Veils collapse into dust than allow a witch to raise one.
With the help of her friends and allies, and her own indomitable will, Shade stays one step ahead of her enemies. Her zeal is only tempered when she learns the true sacrifice required to raise a Veil—a secret even the centuries-old Brotherhood has forgotten. It is too high a price to pay. Nevertheless, she must pay it, or she will lose everything and everyone she loves…
Obsidian is available now from Angry Robot
Every author takes a different path on the way to getting published. Some spend years in the query trenches before they get a break, and earn enough rejections to wallpaper their bathrooms in the meantime. (Figuratively, of course; it’s been ages since those SASE days.) Some lucky writers land an agent and a deal within a year of finishing their first book. Some paths are smooth, most are rocky. My path to publishing was an unpaved, one-lane desert road, and I drove down it with only a single headlight in the dead of night. A lonely, desolate journey, and one that took far too long.
I’ve been writing seriously since I was twenty, but I didn’t sell my first book until I turned 48. Even then, I didn’t do it the right way. I didn’t query agents; I submitted OBSIDIAN to one publisher. And up until that moment, no one else had even read the whole thing. My very first beta reader hadn’t even finished reading the original manuscript before I got my offer letter. Weird, right? Now I ask myself if maybe I could have gotten published sooner if I’d known what NOT to do. Let’s break it down, shall we?
- First, and this is perhaps the most important skill to embrace if you want to remain UNpublished, never, and I mean NEVER, let anyone read your work. Not your mom, not your best friend, not your significant other, not your favorite cat. Oh, and especially, for the love of all the gods, not anyone who might give you feedback or constructive criticism. Who needs that blow to the ego? No, it’s much better to hide your WIP from the world and quietly work on it in your spare time. You can let everyone around you know that you want to be a writer, of course, because that makes you – *cough* – interesting. (Or is it insufferable?) But keep your writing a closely held secret and just assume someone will magically find you and publish your masterpiece.
- Secondly, and this is up there too in level of importance, keep working on the book you started right after college. Yes, that one, that’s THE one. Your precious. It’s a masterpiece, of course. It’ll change the world. Oh, and be sure to constantly rewrite the first chapter. I mean, the first chapter is the most important one. Everything hinges on the first chapter, sometimes even the first scene. You must get it right! Well, what about the rest of the story, you ask? The middle, the ending? Believe me, all that will work itself out in time. Once you get that first chapter down, once it’s polished so bright you can see your face in it, then you can focus on the rest of the book. Hell, the rest will just practically write itself. But, man, that first chapter is everything.
- Thirdly, do not, I repeat, do NOT make friends with other writers. They are your competition, your sworn enemies. Every one of them is out to get you, maybe even – gasp – steal your ideas. (Sorry, I had to pause since my eyes just rolled all the way back in my head.) Don’t go to writer’s conventions and network with these people, you don’t belong there until you’re a REAL writer, anyway. And writers aren’t real until their name is on a book, damn it! It’s not like you’ll meet kind, generous, supportive individuals who might help your career. What? Are you living in a dream world? Besides, convention goers will immediately recognize you as a fraud and shun you; that’s a fact. And if you think you’ll find agents to pitch to who might actually want to represent you, well, that’s pure insanity. No, refer back to my first point.
- Lastly, (though there are many, many ways to stay unpublished – these are just the ones that worked for me) don’t query. Just… don’t. Good lord, what are you even thinking? Why are you bothering these poor, hard-working professionals? They already have all the clients they’ll ever need. And you’re still working on that first chapter, I hope, polishing that masterpiece until you can see through the paper. Querying is hard; I don’t recommend it. Writing a query letter is the equivalent of climbing a mountain. In winter. During a blizzard. You can’t see shit and the chances of falling off a cliff are very, very real. And the rejection, ugh, no thanks. What’s querying going to get you except maybe an agent? It is much better to sit and hope and despair privately, hunched over your laptop at the local coffee shop so at least all those random strangers will think you’re writing.
So, we’ve established the best way to NOT get published. Let’s do a recap: Write in isolation, rewrite the same book over and over, shun your fellow writers, and never, never query. All this excellent advice will get you to your ultimate goal: Wanting to be published but never getting there. I should know, I followed this pattern for longer than I care to admit. Only when I drove off that lonely, cold, isolated road and onto a well-lit highway did I land a contract. First, I wrote a new book. Then I let someone read it. Then I submitted the damn thing. I yeeted it through the pod bay doors at Angry Robot Books during their open submissions period, and somebody over there liked it. They really liked it!
That’s my story. The moral is, don’t be like me, at least not the me who worked in a vacuum for twenty years. Trust me, that is the longest, windingest, loneliest road. And you reap just what you sow.
Sarah J. Daley is a former chef who lives and writes in the Chicago Metropolitan area with her husband and teenaged son. She earned a degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Though she still enjoys the heat and chaos of a professional kitchen, she is now writing full-time. She enjoys traveling, creating costumes for comic con, riding the occasional horse, and streaming old sitcoms for background noise.