Where to go after starting in on your first couple of books

by Justen Wright
(Chandler TX, USA)

Question: I have started roughly fourteen books since I was twelve years old and i have never went to publishers or proofreaders to look at my work because I never have more than two or three chapters, I am ready to take a shot at going to people but I don't want my work stolen or lost. What should I do?

Answer: Finish one book.

Seriously, there is no point going to a publisher or editor until you have a complete manuscript. Lots of people can start novels. Not many can finish them. No publisher is interested in an unfinished novel because ... you might never finish it. So it's not worth an investment of their time.

So pick one of your half-finished stories, or a new one, and finish it. If you get stuck, perhaps do some outlining until the path seems clear.

As for your concern that your work will be stolen...

Don't give it a thought. If a publisher likes your manuscript, they will want the next one, and the one after that. So they're not going to rip you off. (Just follow the golden rule: do not give a publisher any money. They pay you if they want to publish your work.)

If the publisher does not like your manuscript, they are hardly about to steal it.

Unpublished manuscripts are like lottery tickets. Most of them aren't worth a dime. Because of this, it's never worthwhile stealing someone's manuscript. People steal things they know can be quickly turned into cash. Books don't work that way. Publishing a book by a new writer is a risk to the publisher that they will probably lose money on. No one really knows which books will be profitable until after they have been published (publishers just take educated guesses).

Again, even if a publisher strongly believes your book will be profitable, they don't want to sabotage their chances of getting your next book by stealing from you. Not to mention the damage that would do to their reputation.

As for losing your work...

Publishers may be slow to get back to you, but they seldom lose manuscripts. Besides, many publishers accept electronic copies now, so you can't lose your manuscript. (Never send your only hard copy.)

Just check the submissions guidelines for the publisher you are interested in (these will be on their website). They tell you how they want writers to submit work and they are different for each publisher. Follow these guidelines to the letter and be prepared to get a lot of rejections before you get a sale.

Best of luck.

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