When you think about the hundreds of thousands of writers that are out there submitting things to editors, you have to wonder if yours is good enough to beat the competition. Well, if you act like a professional, then yes, it probably is good enough to beat the competition. The question at that point becomes, "How do I act like a professional writer?"
When I attended The Children's Writers' Bootcamp with Laura Backes and Linda Arms White last April, they said that it's not that hard to be considered at the top 5%. The main reason is because the other 95% are typically amateurs. Here's how to stand out as a professional:
- Perfect your craft - do writing push-ups.
- Be a smart marketer - do your research.
- Use perfect grammar, punctuation, and follow guidelines - don't make common mistakes.
Perfect Your Craft. There are lots of ways to become a better writer.
- WRITE, WRITE, WRITE.
- Read, read, read.
- Study books you love to read.
- Study books you wish you had written.
- Study books you think are similar to yours, but not too similar (you don't want to accidentally "plagiarize").
- Read and study books about writing, about character, about plot, about anything you need or want to learn about that is writing related.
Smart Marketing. If you have a rhyming picture book, make sure you do your research. Don't send it to an editor that abhors rhyming texts. If you have a middle grade novel, then don't send it to a publisher that specializes in acting and theater. If you have a YA novel, then don't send it to a publisher specializing in teacher education. Make sure the publishers you select actually FIT with what you have written.
- Study the market.
- Know the genres.
- Know your genre.
- Know what different publishers' tastes are.
- Read and study a Book Market. Own one. My favorite is the Book Markets for Children's Writers by Writer's Institute Publications.
- Keep a journal of all the books you read. Include publication date, and publisher.
- Use proper grammar and perfect punctuation. Proofread.
- Follow editors' guidelines.
- Address to the correct person and spell names correctly.
- Write high quality cover letters, query letters, and manuscripts.
If we do these three basic things, we'll already be a cut above the competition. At that point it becomes more a matter of timing, opinion, and business. But above all else, you have to tell a good story. At least 8% of the time. Just kidding. ALL the time!