Building A Profile As A Novelist, by Kelly Inglis
Almost anyone who has aspired to become a published novelist has heard the news – breaking into the industry is hard. Really hard. It’s very difficult to get an agent without writing credits to your name and it’s even harder to get published (in order to build said writing credits) without an agent. It’s one of those perpetual vicious circles. So what does a hard-working writer have to do to get their name out there to those in the publishing industry and start building their profile as an author?
In this day and age where the competition to be published is fierce, many publishing houses won’t accept unsolicited, unagented submissions. At all. Ever. This means that you need to find a reputable agent who focuses on your particular genre, who will sell your work to suitable publishers (see http://austlitagentsassoc.wordpress.com/members for a list of reputable agents). However, many agents aren’t able to accept new submissions either because they are up to their eyeballs in a long list of clients whose books they are actively trying to sell. They too, are often unwilling to accept new clients without a publishing history or, at the very least, a list of substantive writing credits. Essentially, if someone else thought your work was good enough to publish in the past, an agent (and the publishers they sell to) will be more inclined to take a look at your work. It’s less of a risk to them if the author has proven the quality of their work previously.
So again, we face this conundrum of how to acquire that elusive agent without that publishing history, and how to get the publication or writing credits without the elusive agent.
There are a multitude of writing competitions available both domestically and world over for you to enter. Some are free, while others require a small submission fee for each piece of work submitted. Some competitions provide a critique of your story, which helps tremendously in strengthening and refining your work. There are competitions for poetry, short stories, flash fiction and screenplays over a huge range of genres. Some competitions have a set topic, while others limit only the word count of your work. Whatever your area is, there are countless competitions for you to enter.
Some competitions offer prizes of cash, book packs or magazine subscriptions for the place winners. More importantly, if your work gets long listed, that is something to put in your writing credits. If you get shortlisted, that’s even better for your résumé. However, if your work places in a competition of any reasonable size, that achievement looks impressive on your list of writing credits. If your prize-winning story is also published, you automatically gain a publication credit. Additionally, some competitions choose to publish anthologies of the top-ranking stories from the competition, either digitally or in print. Having your work published in this manner will boost your profile as an author.
The added bonus to all of this is that many writing competitions use agents, editors or publishing house representatives to carry out the judging. If an agent has judged a competition where you’ve been shortlisted or have placed, if you approach them to represent you as an agent at a later date, they’ve already seen some of your work and judged it to be of good quality, so they are far more likely to seriously consider representing you and your work.
Not only does entering competitions help you to improve your craft, but it also adds to your writing credits. Having a story win a place in a writing competition can be the equivalent of jamming your foot in that ever-elusive agent’s door and be the launch pad for your writing career.
Writing Novels in Australia