I have met a lot of unpublished writers (in fact, I’m one of them) and each one dreams of seeing their book on the shelves of a bookstore. But there’s the problem: it’s not going to happen if all you’re doing is writing stories and dreaming.

So many of the writers I encounter in my critique group, or even in conferences, have never submitted anything for publication. Hearing “Oh, I don’t submit anything, I just write” always makes me sad. I get the fear of rejection. I’ve had plenty of rejection letters from books and from jobs. But you’ll never win the race if you don’t enter.

It’s time to get over “Submissiphobia!”

Instead of moving on to write another manuscript, try these three techniques to get yourself further down the path to submitting!

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Enter a Twitter Pitch Contest

Twitter is, without question, one of the best things I have done for my writing. Not only has it helped me to make connections with the writing community and learn about what agents and editors are looking for (browse the #MSWL hashtag sometime!), but I have also come to really love the writing contests, in particular twitter pitch contests.

On a “Twitter Pitch Day,” writers craft and post 140 character pitches for their work, marked with hashtags for the day. Some well known Twitter pitch tests include:

#PBPitch

#KidPit

#PitMad

#AdPit

#Pit2Pub

...the latter of which is directed to publishers while most of the rest are both agents and some publishers.

If a pitch receives a “heart,” the author is invited to follow that agent or editor’s submission guidelines and send them their work. I have had quite a bit of success with pitch parties. Although ultimately I am still unagented, it has been a wonderful way to get my work out there and get recognition from agents, editors and fellow writers.

Note: While only agents and editors can “like” a tweet during a pitch day, fellow writers are encouraged to reply to them and provide support.

Fitting a pitch for your work into 140 characters can be challenging, but it really helps you to fine-tune just what makes your work memorable. Do a twitter search on the hashtags above to get a feel for what makes a good pitch!  The best part is that it’s very low risk: you can go online and post a few tweets on a given day and if something happens, great, if not, you know you’re certainly not alone!

Write a Picture Book Review

Reviewing a picture book (or two or three) serves many purposes: not only does it let you practice your writing, which is always important, but it also forces you to think critically about what makes a good book.

In order to choose a book to review, you have to first read some, which is honestly one of the most important things you can do to further your craft. You have to know what is out there before you can determine the chance that your book is going to fit on the shelves.

Finally, a good review is the best gift you can give an author.

I’ll have another post soon with advice on how to get started writing reviews, but even a simple few sentences on Amazon is a good place to start. You’ll help others choose what to read and make an author very, very happy!

Draft your Cover Letter
(or query, for the non-PB folks)

Don’t panic, you don’t have to send it yet! Your “real” cover letter will be tweaked to match the agent or editor to whom you’re submitting.

Your cover letter needs to have several things you can do ahead of time:

  • an introduction which presents the main idea of your manuscript;
  • a brief “selling” statement (which might, for example, situate this work in the publisher’s “list,” or compare it to current works which are similar); and
  • an author bio.

There are variants on this format and a huge number of websites you can consult for excellent examples, but in the meantime, you can certainly work on the synopsis part (a variant on your pitch, perhaps), and your author bio. If you’re not published, this part will probably be short, but if you have other connections to the writing world (you’re a librarian, a teacher, a coach, member of SCBWI, participant in a writer’s group, etc.) be sure to sell that. Short and sweet is fine!

Finally, get a critique partner to read your cover letter-- not just a family member!

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In the end, there's something thrillingly optimistic about submitting your manuscript - like playing the lottery. Sure, the chances sometimes feel about the same, but for those precious few moments after you hit “send,” you can dream.

Dream about getting “the call” from an agent or publisher.

And if you do, let me know!

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Guest Post by Melanie Kyer

Based on the coast of Maine in the USA, Melanie is a picture book writer, a poet, a German teacher AND the mother of two young boys. She reviews picture books and talks about writing on her blog Schreibenfreude. You can also follow her on Twitter!