Every writer's dream is to someday be published. Why else would someone spend countless hours behind a computer, typing up a story, editing it over and over again, trying to make sure everything's just right only to let the finished pile of papers that you've poured your heart and soul into just sit in some dark drawer gathering dust. Not to mention having to deal with all of the weird looks you've likely encountered when you've mentioned to others your desire to write a novel. You know, because if you're working hard at something but not currently profiting from it you're not really a writer, and you're really not working. At least that's what I've heard.
So the question you might be asking yourself is how do you go from being a closet writer who's pouring countless hours into your book to a published author who's grabbing a paycheck that hopefully covers your rent. The answer isn't a simple one. Being published isn't a guarantee of being able to make a living at writing, not to mention that for every successful writer there a hundreds of unsuccessful authors who are actually quite amazing at what they do.
Remember J.K. Rowling? Several years and countless rejections after finishing her last Harry Potter book she finally got published. For every one story like hers, there are thousands more that end miserably. It's not necessarily because the author isn't talented. There's the struggle of trying to convince a publisher to take a chance and doing so at the right time. There's the genre you're writing for, the way you're writing it, what's popular in society, and a whole bunch of other variables that we're probably not even aware of, and in some cases the publishers aren't either. Or at least I tell myself that as there's no other explanation for how popular 50 Shades of Grey became.
With that said though, there are definitely things a writer can do to improve their chances of getting published. Here are 3 things every writer can do right now to help their chances of finding a publisher once their book is finished. If your novel is already finished and you haven't done these things, now is a great time to start.
Build a Social Media Following
One of the most consistent things I've heard from published authors, or those working on getting publishing deals is the social media following. It's something that a lot of publishers are asking about, particularly the amount of followers a person has whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or any number of other websites where one can build an audience. The more networks you're on, and the more followers you have, the better.
Why you ask? Because your followers show the potential market of your book to the publishers. It's basically a built in audience that the publishers can tap into to sell your book and get an instant return on some portion of what they invest into your book. You know, because books cost money to print, and it costs money to market them. If you've got a Facebook page for your book with a million 'likes', that's a million people the publishers knows, or assumes, likes your book or your writing. That's also a million potential sales for them. The less risk they see with taking you on, the more likely they are to offer you a publishing deal. The earlier you start building the audience the better. Waiting until the book is done will only make the climb that much harder.
Edit, and Edit Some More
One of the things you'll likely hear from a lot of people, including published authors, is that editing is what editors are for. To an extent, this is true. Editors polish up your writing, including correcting spelling and grammar errors for the writer. For an unknown author that's never been published, you definitely don't want to leave the editing up to the editor because your book will likely never get to an editors office if it can't get past the gatekeepers.
This doesn't necessarily mean editing your whole book, although it's probably a good idea to go over it a few times even when working with an editor and before giving it to him. For your first submission though to different publishers, you want the first few chapters you submit to be as polished as possible. It's like submitting a resume. You don't want that first page riddled with errors unless your hope is for it to find a trash can before it's even read. That's exactly what will happen with mistakes in your first few pages of submissions. There are way too many authors hoping for an opportunity, and the publishers know this. If you don't care enough to have a polished and edited submission, they're not going to care enough to read past the first few mistakes.
Make Friends with Other Authors
This one might be a given, but some authors tend to be almost hermit like in the way they interact with other writers. Maybe it's the reason they started writing since writing doesn't depend on being in someone's circle to create a story. It's something one can do independently. It's also a sure way to make things harder later on by avoiding relationships that we should be building.
As much as many of us might like to claim we did everything on our own, and while a part of that is true in the actual writing process, there's also a part of success that relies on our networks and those we know. If an agent didn't give J.K. Rowling a chance, we may have never known Harry Potter. If people didn't buy her books she might still be on welfare. In our society, chances are none of us are completely self sufficient. Someone offers us an opportunity, or helps open a door for us through connections, etc.
What better place to find those opportunities than with others who are working towards the same goal. If anyone knows the story of Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Kevin Smith, you'll realize it was through their friendship that their names became known. When Damon and Affleck finished their Good Will Hunting script, it was Smith who asked his friends at Miramax to give them a chance. When Smith was starting off and had no name or financing, it was Affleck and Damon who were there for some of his independent films, likely not being paid at all, or paid very little. Through their friendship they continued to open doors for one another as each moved up the ladder of success.
Even my book, which has seen some success on Wattpad, is due to the friendship of another writer on that website. Between mentions of one another's book on our profiles, I also had written up an article about Wattpad itself where I mentioned her name along with several other authors. They returned the favor by sharing and tweeting the article, which Wattpad noticed. Wattpad turned around and offered to feature my book on their website. That's lead to over a million reads and quite a few followers for my first book, along with being featured on another Wattpad app called After Dark. If it hadn't been for those friendships, Wattpad likely wouldn't have noticed my book, and I likely would have been lucky to even see a fraction of those readers. Trust me when I say there are far better writers on Wattpad than myself that don't see a fraction of my reads because they haven't developed those friendships which create those fortunate opportunities.
In essence, those friendships are important. From sharing each others stories, liking them, tweeting them, and other ways of sharing we're lead to what we talked about originally with the followers that publishers noticed. Of course the story matters, and if there's not some foundation of a story that has some talent behind it, you'll struggle regardless. This ties into editing. But all 3 of these things play into helping a writer gain the best chance of getting published, and doing each one will help with the other.