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Bestselling author R.J. Pineiro's tips to get published

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Old 12-07-2009, 02:20 PM
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Icon3 Bestselling author R.J. Pineiro's tips to get published


Dear Writer's Beat Community,

I'd like to start a thread by sharing with you some of the FAQs I typically get from readers who are aspiring to become published authors. Keep in mind that although online services such as Amazon's DTP make the publishing effort (getting your book or story released to the public) easier, you should know that the entire burden of the traditional publishing process (the agency screening as well as the publisher’s editing, copyediting, and pre-production process) used to convert the average manuscript into a “real book,” as well as the book promotion process, now falls squarely on your shoulders. After twenty years writing fiction and 14 published novels, I made the call to take my newest thriller, MELTDOWN, directly to Amazon's DTP while sticking to the rigorous editing & copyediting process required to get a manuscript ready for publication. Whether you choose to go the ebook route or the traditional (and, yes, much more painful) path to publication, I hope you find the FAQs below a useful starting point for further discussion (which I welcome). The answers below are limited to encourage questions, so if you have further questions/comments, please post them here and I'll be happy to expand and provide further insight based on my experience.
Cheers,

--R.J. Pineiro

FAQs

I am working on a novel. What steps should I take to get it ready for submission to an agent or publishing house?
Make sure to finish the novel first. If you don’t have any formal fiction writing training, then you might chose to do what I did, and use self-help books on the elements of plotting and character development. Be sure to write about what you know as both agents and publishers always look for non-fiction hooks to sell/promote your work of fiction. After you get it as clean as you possibly can, I recommend that you contract the services of a copyeditor. You should be able to find such services advertised in the back of trade magazines like Writer's Digest and Publisher's Weekly. I used a copyeditor to check my first three novels. After that my "writing muscles" were strong enough to do it all on my own. The copyeditor was my first line of defense before making an official submission to an agent or publishing house. You should receive an editorial letter along with a copyedited manuscript. Follow the copyeditor's advice closely. I did, and as a reward I got four agencies wanting to represent me.
Should I get an agent?
If you intend to sell book-length fiction to a major publishing house, the answer is absolutely yes (and, of course, the answer is no if you choose to go straight to an ebook). Most publishing houses will not consider submissions sent directly by a writer. They use literary agencies to "screen" the submissions to avoid wasting their own time. If you are writing non-fiction or magazine articles, you might be able to get away without an agent, just beware that you will have to be savvy enough to negotiate contracts.
How do I find an agent?
There are many publications, including Writer's Market, that have a section listing most literary agencies in the United States. Make sure that the agencies you select do represent your genre. Also, read the guidelines and rules of each agency you intend to make a submission to. Finding the right agent will be the most critical step in your fiction-writing career. The right agency will get you hooked up with the right publishing house.
What are agency reading fees?
These are the fees that some agencies like to charge to unpublished writers to read their work before deciding to represent their work. I refused to pay these fees and did not consider any agencies that charged them. A reputable agency will make its money from the commission it will charge after selling your work to a publishing house.
How long does it take you to write a novel?
Somewhere between six and eight months, depending on the amount of research involved. That includes about three drafts of the story and a final polishing pass. After this the manuscript is ready for the expert hand of a professional editor, who typically makes me revise the story at least once more before it is ready for the copyeditor, who is a third set of eyes who really dives into every possible detail you can imagine about the story. A good copyeditor will help you clean up all of the annoying typos, minor story or character errors, etc. If you choose to go the eBook route, this is a step I don't recommend you skip if you wish to have a professional-level book published.
How do you go about writing a novel?
Authors vary on the approach. Some dictate the novel into an electronic gadget while hiking through the woods. Others create very detailed outlines before writing a single page. I start with a very neat idea, something that hopefully hasn't been done before. Once I have come up with the basic premise, I begin to work on the characters. I usually do a brief outline (a few pages) and also backgrounds on all main characters. I always know how the story will start and how it will end. However, I not always know how it will flow in between. Most of the time the story almost "writes itself" once the action gets rolling.
How much research do you do on a novel?
It depends. If the topic is related to what I know, like computers, martial arts, firearms, or flying, the research is minimal because I have done (and continue to do) those things, so it's almost second nature to write about them. The same applies to the locales, since I have visited just about every place where my novels are set. The challenge comes when I want to write about a topic that I'm not familiar with. First thing I do is download everything I can. That usually gives me a reasonable head start. I then complement that knowledge with recently-published books on the subject, as well as interview with experts on the subject. And I even ask them to proofread relevant sections of the manuscript for technical accuracy. For example, during the Writing of ULTIMATUM, I interviewed Navy pilots who fought in the Gulf War. For CONSPIRACY.COM I spent time with FBI agents. For those with a computer backdrop, like CYBERTERROR and SPYWARE, research is minimum as this is what I do for a living (I'm a computer engineer).

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The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to RJPineiro For This Useful Post:
Benign (12-15-2009), CTK (12-09-2009), flavorthefaith (01-01-2010), Regallo (12-15-2009)
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Old 12-08-2009, 03:52 AM
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How often should a writer update their website, RJ?

Only it says on yours that your next book will be published in 2005.
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Old 12-08-2009, 06:13 AM
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Ouch...

I checked some of your books on Amazon, R. J., and they did seem interesting enough. And thanks for the tips, I'll certainly keep them in mind.
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Old 12-09-2009, 08:23 AM
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I have a question seeing as you live 150 miles away in Austin. What are some good publishers or agents in the area. Because its a real crap shoot looking for them online and not trying to get swindled or into something that is defunct.
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Old 12-14-2009, 06:24 PM
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Authors should update their websites on a regular basis. I recently (finally) updated mine after a nearly three-year pause (too busy writing and just forgot).
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Old 12-14-2009, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by CTK View Post
I have a question seeing as you live 150 miles away in Austin. What are some good publishers or agents in the area. Because its a real crap shoot looking for them online and not trying to get swindled or into something that is defunct.
I don't know any publishers or agents in this area. My best suggestion to you is to browse through the publishers and agents section in Writer's Market, which will provide a list of reputable firms. Have you completed a novel? If so, then focus your search in WM with those agents that best specialize in your genre, and always follow their submission guideles carefully. Another way to get to know agents and even publishers is at writers conferences. Good luck.
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Old 12-15-2009, 01:29 AM
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Hi RJPineiro, Thanks so much for the tips. Although I have not completed an entire novel as of yet (I'm just getting into writing), I have found your tips to be both helpful and inspiring!

Please please post more tips and guides, I may have to buy and read one or more of your novels too!
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Old 12-15-2009, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by RJPineiro View Post
Authors should update their websites on a regular basis. I recently (finally) updated mine after a nearly three-year pause (too busy writing and just forgot).
If you need a good web designer who specialises in writers' sites... let me know. I give discount to WB members.
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Old 12-15-2009, 06:34 AM
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Originally Posted by CTK View Post
I have a question seeing as you live 150 miles away in Austin. What are some good publishers or agents in the area. Because its a real crap shoot looking for them online and not trying to get swindled or into something that is defunct.
Geography is no longer an issue. Why restrict yourself to agents/publishers on your doorstep when the right guy for you might be in NY, and just as accessible?

It's easy to avoid getting swindled if you do your research.
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