Discussion with author Kim Knight
Who better to give advice on how to become a traditionally published author than someone who has just snagged a publishing contract?
With that in mind, we spoke with the lovely Kim Knight, a teacher and proud mom in the UK who recently scored a publishing contract with a US publishing house. Her debut romantic suspense novel will be published in September 2016.
Here are a few things that, according to Kim, you’ll want to keep in mind if you want to pursue traditional publishing:
Do your research
Few things get an auto-reject from a publisher or agent faster than queries for work that don’t fall within their published submission guidelines. Kim says, “Read each publisher's submission guidelines really carefully and follow them. Do what they ask for, include what they ask for, and leave out what they don't ask for.
Also, make sure that the publishers you submit to are right for you. What type of work do they publish? What genre are they actually looking for?” She also confirms that she “followed [her] current publisher's submission guidelines REALLY carefully, like to an absolute T.” In summary, even if you’re the next Justin Cronin, you won’t get a chance to realize your potential unless you put in a little work upfront to make sure you’re sending your request to the right agency and/or person.
Submit a really good query letter and synopsis
Your query letter is the first example of your writing voice that prospective agents and publishers will read. If it doesn’t shine, anyone reading it will assume your book doesn’t shine, either. We discussed query letters in our post entitled Crafting a Killer Query Letter.
A synopsis of your story—which is totally different than a query letter and a book blurb—should only be included in your initial communications with an agent or editor if specifically requested in their submission guidelines. We’ll post more about how to craft a killer synopsis in the near future, but in the meantime, Kim says, “Make sure your synopsis is really clear and well laid out. A character profile also won't hurt. With your query letter, keep it to the point and spell check everything! If need be, put your documents to one side and comeback with fresh eyes a day later.”
Whether it’s in your query, synopsis or in the pages of your book itself, don’t try to stifle your own unique, creative writing voice in favor of trying to sound like someone else (like, say, a famous author in your genre). Kim says, “Be original and don't try to write like another author. Being you is probably what got you the contract in the first place (if you get an offer).
Set realistic deadlines
Before signing a publishing contract, make sure your publisher doesn’t try and push you into unattainable deadlines for the edited version of your book (and yes, they will expect edits. There are no instances of first drafts EVER being published as-is. I dare you to find one!) Kim says that no matter what deadline your publisher is asking for, “don't put yourself under pressure to rush the completion of the book. Add on an extra month if need be, just to be sure you can meet that deadline. You want your finished book to be the best it can be. You don't want to look back and think ahh…I could have tweaked this or changed that.”
Consult a professional
In this industry, there are, sadly, thousands of publishing scams and vanity presses out there clambering for the opportunity to take an aspiring author’s money and profit off his or her dreams of literary glory. For this reason, before you accept any contract, make sure to consult an attorney. Kim says, I had a girlfriend of mine here in London (who is a lawyer…I lucked out by making friends with her at university) look over [the contract]. I fine-tuned everything…then signed on the dotted line. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Final words of wisdom
In closing, Kim says, “Start to put yourself out there as an up-and-coming author early, and believe in yourself; you'll need it! And don't do it for the money, do it for the love of writing and the satisfaction that you have completed a book.
Of her journey to publication, Kim adds, “It has been a surreal experience, and if I can do it anyone can!
If you would like to follow Kim’s journey and get a preview of the first chapter of her book, you can follow her blog at www.kimknightauthor.wordpress.com or @kimknightauthor on Twitter.
How about all you writer types out there? Have any questions or comments? Let’s discuss!