FAQ: How did I get published?Flash back to this time of year, 1997. I was frantically preparing what I arrogantly considered the *ninth* draft of the novel that would later be titled In the Forests of the Night. Of course, I was thirteen, and didn't really know what revision meant. I had done a lot of work, but when I look back now, I laugh at my thirteen-year-old self. I had set a goal for myself: I would submit this manuscript to agents by the end of the year.
First, you need to keep in mind that at this point in time, I didn't really have access to internet. I had dial-up 1400 bps AOL, but that wasn't really the internet. Google did not exist. Yahoo search was the big thing, but relatively speaking, there wasn't much on the internet. According to Wikipedia, Amazon was founded in 1995, but I was thirteen. I didn't have a credit card, and if you were alive in that time you would have known one fundamental FACT of LIFE: shopping on the internet was stupid. Your identity and money would get stolen, and then you would be mugged and your house burned down by internet trolls. I mean like trolls under a bridge; I didn't know the word in any other internet-related context yet.
So what did I do? I went to the bookstore. I went to the library. I talked to book-sellers and librarians, and they ordered books they didn't have immediately on hand. I had wonderful parents who bought those books for me, since I had no source of income whatsoever (my family never believed in allowance). Then I read those books cover-to-cover, repeatedly. I made notes. I compared two books when they disagreed, and then looked at a third book for corroboration. That's what you're supposed to do now, you know- it's not that Wikipedia is evil, it's just that you really need to use more than one source.
Looking back, I thank God that I published before the internet was a major part of my life. Research would have been easier... so much easier... dreamy look at my still-daunting library of Time Life books... but getting scammed is also so much easier. These days there are a million ways to be taken advantage of online when you try to publish. A quick tip: if they want money up front to represent you as an agent, or to publish your book, run the other way. There are valid reasons to self-publish, so I'm not putting down people who choose to do that after doing their research and deciding that their audience, their book, their market, is better suited to self-publishing, but there are a thousand presses out there that exist to take advantage of authors who just don't know any better.
That "yes, we will publish you" is so powerful that it's hard to look a gift horse in the mouth, but you need to. Do research. Figure out who else this magical company represents, or publishes. Check online resources like the Absolute Write Water Cooler – there are a million new ways to get taken advantage of online, but there is also a wealth of research material at your fingertips.
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