The Big Secret To Getting Your Book Published

Happy Monday everyone and welcome to the porch. I’ve had a number of people ask me lately about how to get a book published, and so I thought, why not just bring that subject to the porch today and share the secret with everyone?


So very true. The great thing about writing a book is that you are in charge of your own universe. The worst thing about writing a book is that you have to figure out how to create a universe in which people feel compelled to spend time.

If you’re still here, I should probably apologize to you before we begin.  The truth is, if the title of this post lured you in, you’ve just been sold a pig in a poke. Even worse, it’s a greased pig. A really wild one. The minute you untie the wrapper, it’ll start running ninety-to-nothing. Good luck getting a good look, much less a good grip.

Such is the nature of the question, “How do I get a book published?” It’s a complicated, slippery issue. Anyone who tells you they know the secret and will share it with you — for a small fee, of course — is trying to sell you a pig in a poke, too.

Let me be completely honest, because that is the measure of friendship — true friends don’t sugarcoat things. The truth is, there is no magic secret to getting published.

In reality, thousands of books are published each year. Any one of those books, in any given year, could be yours. If your book is well written, well edited, and it’s “in the market” (meaning that the general topic isn’t considered “out of vogue” in the industry at the moment), it could find a publishing home. How quickly that may happen, and what sort of money may be involved is the million-dollar question. Publishing is often very unforgiving, demanding, hard on the ego, painfully slow moving, and utterly discouraging. Rejection is the norm, and that can be a downright dream crusher.

All that said, each author’s path to publication is different. Some people labor for years upon years, through rejection after rejection, and revision after revision before finding landing that elusive first publishing deal. The Help was rejected sixty times, for instance. Eventually, Kathryn Sockett was so embarrassed to still be doggedly clinging to her dream, she’d quit admitting to friends and family that she was once again revising and submitting.

I think we can say at this point that it all worked out okay for Kathryn. Sometimes you have to prune a rose bush for years before it blooms, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be an award-winner when it does.

Mixed race student on the phone

There are those authors who have Cinderella publication stories. I’ve met them. Many of them are delightful. Will you be one of those? Nobody knows. Plan for the process to be extremely demanding, and if it isn’t, so much the better!

On the flip side, (to stay with the gardening theme a little longer) some people find themselves gifted with magic beans… or seeds… whatever. Out of the blue, they write a book on Day 1, bump into a fairy godmother (or a top literary agent) on Day 2, auction the book between publishing houses on Day 3, cash a huge advance check on Day 4, and sell the movie rights on Day 5. It happens. Assuming you have taken all the basic steps in researching the market, learning the craft, working with reliable critique partners or a good private-pay editor (please check the qualifications and references very carefully before you give anyone your hard-earned money), this could happen to you.

The point is, you don’t know. It’s best to plan for the long haul — the brutal, demanding, sometimes discouraging journey, and then be pleasantly surprised if it happens faster than that.

Actually, it’s best to write because you really, truly love your story and you must share it with someone, anyone who will listen. It’s best to let the measure of success be, first, finishing the manuscript and, second, telling the very best story you can.

Once you’re past that point, be sure you know the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing or independent publishing. Independent publishing or self-publishing means that you pay your own expenses, you reap your own rewards, you take your own financial risk in putting your book out there, and you are in charge of your own quality-control. With the advent of E-publishing, people are making this work. It seems to work best in popular genre fiction, such as romance, etc. There are many good how-to books out there on maximizing self-publishing success, but do be aware that only a small portion of self-published books really rake in the big bucks. If it is your plan to publish your own books, go forth and prosper, but do your homework first.

If your plan is to traditionally publish, which means that the publisher stands the expense of producing, stocking, and advertising the book, then pays you a royalty for each book sold, then there are also some important things to know. I started to write a lo-o-ong post about it, and then writer-friend Amy Hatvany shared a link to a post by Jane Friedman.  Jane has already covered everything, and I mean E-V-E-R-Y-thing, so I’m cheating in today’s porch chat. If you’re looking to publish or know someone who is, please take the time to read Jane’s post from end to end. It’s worth the effort.


Be joyful as you write. No matter what’s happening in your publishing journey at the moment, the story itself is a gift.

So that’s all for today’s conversation.  Stick around for a little sweet tea, and read through last week’s chats, if you’ve got the time.  You know we love having you here and we’re sad when you leave.

If there’s a story in your head and it’s just waiting for words and a page, by all means go for it.  Get it all on paper, then worry about the rest.

If there’s is a secret to publishing, it can be summed up in five little words.

The story must come first.


Blessings and happy writing, my friends!


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Selected among BOOKLIST'S Top 10 of 2012 and Top 10 of 2013, Lisa Wingate weaves Southern settings with elements of women's fiction, history, and mystery to create stories that Publisher's Weekly calls "Masterful" and Library Journal refers to as "Lyrical and beautiful." She is a seven-time Carol Award nominee, and a two-time Carol Award winner. She once dreamed of making the Olympics and winning the National Finals Rodeo, but was thwarted by an inability to do a back flip on the balance beam and parents who wouldn't finance a rodeo career, so she took her first-grade teacher's advice and became a writer instead ;)

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  1. Shellie says

    I’m going to go read the article as soon as I can, Lisa. I get this question so often and I really want to learn to do a better job answering it! :)

  2. Lisa Wingate says

    Happy Monday, Belles! Love all of you and am so thankful that each of you navigated the publishing process to bring us some fantastic books!

  3. says

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  5. says

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