There have been a number of African writers making it up the best-seller lists, from the ubiquitous Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to new authors on the block like NoViolet Bulawayo and Dinaw Mengestu. So how can you get yourself on the same bookshelves and replicate their success?
All of the writers out there will already know how difficult it is to get a response from a publishing company, let alone being published by one. The big publishing companies seem to sit on a pedestal that is so high. Emerging writers struggle to even reach the doorbell and with self-publishing on the rise it seems silly to waste time sending around hundreds of submissions. With this said, there seems to be a number of new writers that are being published by smaller companies who can see the worth of your words, irrespective of how many copies they think you might sell. So hope is not yet lost!
By following these ten steps to getting published, you’ll be setting yourself up for more likely success in the publishing world.
You can’t write a book without having a clear idea of who you want and expect reading it to be. By thinking about the reader when writing your manuscript, you set out to write a story that is honest and relate-able, which are two necessary qualities for any good read.
What is it that you’re trying to say or explore? By keeping the purpose of your book at the forefront of your mind, you will have direction and there’ll be no holes or mysteries for you as the writer. A reader wants to feel safe in your hands, like they know and you know exactly what is going on.
I cannot stress how important honesty is for a writer and how appealing it is to a publisher. The publisher wants to know your voice, so be true to yourself in your writing. Speaking as yourself not only builds a relationship between the writer and the reader, it also exudes a level of confidence, which is want every publisher wants.
If you want to be noticed by a publishing company, you need to be writing the things that they take an interest in and quite simply, those things are books that stand out and are different from the others at the bookshop. Be bold and break boundaries, run with your ideas and do not apologise for them.
A book reads that much better when the writer has a personal investment in the story, when the reader can feel that the writer believes this to be a story that has to be told. It also serves as great motivation for finishing your book to a high standard as you, the writer, almost feel that you have a moral responsibility to do so.
As a writer in a sea of other emerging newcomers it’s difficult to get noticed and get your name out there, so you have to try to be as visible as possible. Write for a myriad of platforms like magazines or newspapers, have a blog, attend writing events and build up your networks. Publishers have been known to scout writers from articles or blogs that they have been intrigued by so just keep writing.
As a writer in a sea of other newcomers it’s difficult to get noticed and get your name out there, so you have to try to be as visible as possible. Write for a myriad of platforms like magazines or newspapers, have a blog, attend writing events and build up your networks. Publishers have been known to scout writers from articles or blogs they have been intrigued by so just keep writing.
Look at the kind of books these publishing houses have previously published and ask yourself whether your book would fit in comfortably: do you think this company is the right ‘home’ for your book?
A number of publishers only accept solicited manuscripts. This means they only accept work that they have asked for, be it by putting a call out for manuscripts or after having arranged a submission with a literary agent or referral. Getting an agent could be beneficial, but is also quite expensive and could possibly end up being a waste for an emerging writer.
A publisher doesn’t want to read a template letter attached to your manuscript, they want to feel that you know them and like what they do specifically. Sincerity is key when writing both your manuscript and when submitting it to publishers.