How To Not Get Published

The following observations come from working with authors who do get published, and authors who do not get published.  These have nothing to do with talent, luck, money, or good looks.

1 ~  The simplest How To Not Get Published is to never complete a product you can market for publication. One example of this is Better Idea Syndrome. This is how it works: You latch onto a great idea for a novel and write one hundred pages in a flurry of enthusiasm. Then you think of a better idea for a novel, so you put aside unfinished novel #1 and write one hundred pages of your better idea. Then you get an even better idea for a novel, so you set unfinished novel #2 on top of unfinished novel #1, and write one hundred pages of your even better idea. Every time you get a new—and, of course, better—idea, put aside your work in progress. Doing this insures you will never complete a novel, hence you’ll never have a completed novel to submit to a publisher.

2 ~  If you are not plagued by the Better Idea Demon from #1, another way to Not Get Published is to spend all of your writing hours blogging about your journey to publication, or some other subject that is not writing your novel. A close cousin to this is to spend all of your available writing time building your author platform via Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Google+, and so on, which is also not writing your novel. You may write about your novel in progress, and about yourself as an aspiring novelist, but you don’t actually write the actual novel.

3 ~ Next, eschew the value of good grammar and technical skills.  No one is a perfect typist.  A passive construction never killed anybody. Running Spell Check is so tedious. And seriously, does anyone really and truly get deeply bothered by a few terribly necessary adverbs? In fact, ignore craft altogether. You’ve been writing since you were five years old and you read all the time. It’s the story that matters, right? So write away but don’t let typos, misspelled words, pronoun confusion, or sentence structure slow you down. When your manuscript is returned with comments about clean copy, be sure to respond with, “That’s the editor’s job.”

4 ~ Another handy way to Not Get Published is to embrace the following mantra: “It’s just fiction.” This is a professional disclaimer that allows you to make mistakes. A great way to do this one is to write a crime novel but ignore laws, legal procedures, and how real police conduct real police work. Readers just want the bad guys to get caught. Coincidences, mind-reading, superpowers, implausibilities, characters acting out of character, and violating the civil rights of anyone who gets in the way of the cop character–and your plot–are fine in “it’s just fiction” land.  If a beta reader or editor mentions mistakes or suggests fact checking, they’re obviously too uptight.  You serve up justice. You’re just not that picky about the ingredients.

5 ~ The final way How To Not Get Published is to never submit. Submitting to the wrong market also works, but never letting your manuscript see the light of day is a 100% surefire way to remain unpublished. Save your manuscript to a flash drive and hang it around your neck. Let it live there, and you have the least risky, emotionally secure, ego-saving way How to Not Get Published.

Now, if you are one of those driven people who insists on completing a manuscript, polishing it and having it critiqued, sending it out to agents or editors, and putting blogging and promoting secondary to finishing your work in progress, then you have greatly harmed your chances to Not Get Published. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If you are really stubborn about it, you might even go here and take the Sacred Writing Time pledge.



Tomorrow’s topic: Sunday is a day of rest. See you Monday for How To Stay in POV.

12 thoughts on “How To Not Get Published

  1. I am plagued by the Better Idea Demon. But I’m kicking it to the curb! Too much time has passed.
    I have another demon to offer up for sacrifice: the Learning Curve. There can be so much to learn and absorb that one (okay, me) stays on the track and never gets off, risking rejection or red ink. Overwhelm -ia sets in, and the burden becomes too heavy to get out from under it.
    It’s cousin is Perfectionism.


    1. Pamela, that’s a good point about the Learning Curve. One (okay, me, too) can convince herself for a very long time that study and research has to happen before one is ready to submit–and there’s an endless supply of stuff to study and learn.
      There’s a special place in Hades for Perfectionists, don’t you think?


  2. I have to plead guilty in some part to the “Better Idea” syndrome in the last 2-3 years. After spending nearly ten years working on the first and second novels in my historical series, I’ve gotten restless to explore some other ideas. So now I have one polished, ready-to-go book, three completed first drafts of other historical books where I began to bog down during the revisions, and one WIP which is a real departure, but one which I plan on seeing through this time. Completing and then polishing a novel is such a long slog that the temptation to find greener pastures is always there. Sometimes I envy folks in other fields, where a created work may take days or weeks to complete rather than months or even years.

    And fact-checking always scares me. I do my best, but with the historical novels in particular, I find that I am chronically insecure–one of the things, in fact, that led me to decide on a contemporary setting that I am very familiar with for my current WIP.

    Thanks as always, Ramona, for your words of wisdom. I’m so grateful to have you as my editor–you keep me honest and on my toes!


    1. Nancy, knowing you, your work, and your work ethic, I have confidence your fact-checking was done as thoroughly and honorably as possible. I think being a little paranoid is a good thing in this regard, unless it stops you from writing about a period you love.
      With your list of completed manuscripts, at various stages, I don’t think the Better Idea Demon kept you down for long. But I also understand your comment about envying people who hit “Finish” faster than once a year. That’s one of the perks of writing short stories! I don’t know who invented the word “slog” but I have a feeling it was a novelist.


  3. I’m afraid I broke all of your rules and got published, but I totally agree with your thoughts about social media. While marketing is essential, it’s too easy to spend all of one’s time on blogs, emails, Facebook, etc. I’m having to dial back my blogging efforts so I can actually write my second book. Thanks for your great ideas and wonderful sense of humor!
    Sally Carpenter


    1. Sally, I think we’ve all broken some of these rules–or maybe all of them–but you had to stop breaking them at some point–unless what you had published was an unfinished novel you never submitted out! Now that would be a pretty cool trick!
      Thanks for stopping by.


  4. Good blog post, Ramona. I’m not writing nearly as much as I used to, and that makes me sad. I wish I could say it’s because I spend time writing blog posts, but I don’t have a blog. Or Twittering. I do it, but it’s a strain. I do like Facebook, and occasionally I actually have something of value to say on it. I could get hooked on it if I let myself. My nemesis is Photoshop. I love doing covers. And lately I’ve been formatting my books for paper, which has been time consuming and challenging. We do seem to get caught up in the peripherals. I’m going to do better. Tomorrow.


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