Of course, the all important first step is to finish a manuscript. Maybe not even one, it might take several. Most people don't realize it, but the average published author writes over half a million words before they sell.
Let me repeat that. Half a million words.
We may hear of those "overnight" successes, but they are rare.
Just be prepared that you might not hit a home run the first time out—but that's all right, because you'll be building contacts and learning valuable tips that will help your writing career.
Yet, despite knowing this, agents and editors report that 80% of the manuscripts they request never show up on their doorstep—or if they do, it's months to years later. Why? Because the writer pitched the manuscript before it was finished.
Think elephants have long memories? It's nothing compared to an agent's or editor's memory of the time you wasted!
Secret Two: Relax!
If you get sweaty palms and a feeling of dread as if your entire future as a novelist depends on what you can cram into this one page, relax. Why? Because the purpose of a query letter is NOT to sell your book. It is simply to make the agent or editor TURN THE PAGE.
Secret Three: Your top-secret weapon: the Blurb.
Your blurb is your most powerful tool. It's your chance to give a publishing pro a taste of your writing skills. The goal is, like fine wine or chocolate, to leave them wanting more!
It's also a great tool to use as a quick pitch at conferences and when people ask that dreaded question: what's your story about?
Secret Four: Rejection isn't always a bad thing.
Every rejection takes you one step closer to publication.
Yes, your dream agent regretfully declined your current manuscript. Okay, have a drink, take a moment to feel sorry for yourself if you must, but then turn around and take another look at that rejection letter.
If it asked or suggested revisions, then it's not a rejection letter. So grab your red pen and get to work.
If it invited you to re-submit future work, then you've made contact with a professional in the industry who is truly interested in your writing. Don't fumble the ball and cross them off your list—agents are over-whelmed with submissions and wouldn't be asking for more unless they meant it.
If it's a simple form letter that didn't even spell your name right, then paste it on the dart board and smile, because that agent wasn't the right one for you anyway! Turn around and get your next submission package out the door the very same day.
Secret Five: No Rules, Just Write!
Attitude is everything in this business. You must not only stay positive and professional but also passionate about your work.
After all, if you aren't passionate about your writing, how can you expect an agent or editor to be?
Award winning medical suspense author CJ Lyons is a physician trained in Pediatric Emergency Medicine. Winner of the Golden Gateway and a Golden Heart Finalist in Romantic Suspense, CJ is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime. Her writing has appeared in Romantic Times BookReviews, CrimeSpree, and Spinetingler Magazine. Her debut medical suspense novel, LIFELINES, will be published by Berkley March, 2008.