ue to the high volume of emails Shannon receives from people who are interested in how to get published, she is no longer able to answer those emails personally. Please see her answers to some frequently asked questions below. Thanks for your interest in Shannon, and keep writing!
How do I get published?
Getting published is a very tricky process. It doesn't happen overnight, and it takes a lot of research and hard work in addition to having a great idea backed by excellent writing skills. Before anyone ever sits down to write a book there are two things I would advise him or her to do: attend a writers' conference and read books on writing (see my recommendations below). Contrary to popular belief you can't just sit down, write a book, mail it to a publisher and expect to be offered a contract as a result. People who do get published do so by learning the industry, meeting others in the industry and following proper protocol.
Don't begin with writing a book. Start by reading a book or attending a conference. Then prepare a proposal (outline and sample chapters). Once you've done that you can begin submitting to agents in hopes that one will contract with you and submit to publishers on your behalf. For a list of excellent writers' conferences, agents and even publishers you can purchase a copy of Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide. That's how I got started.
How did you get published?
The same way everyone else doeswith hard work. I read books on writing. Then I created a proposal and took it to a writers' conference. In one of the 15 minute private sessions with an editor, I pitched my idea and handed her my proposal. She took it back to her publishing house and offered me a contract a few months later. This all happened when I was still in college. I didn't have any connections. I had no clue about what I was doing. And I was scared out of my mind. With all of my heart I believe that writing is a calling God has on my life, so He opened doors for me that I couldn't have opened on my own. However, that didn't eliminate the hard work and research I had to do in order to be ready for the events He was going to unfold for me. Since getting published, I've learned it's much easier to get your foot in the door if you have an agent.
Do you have an agent? Do I need one?
For my first title, I didn't have an agent. Now I do. She is absolutely wonderful to work with and negotiated contracts for nine books in my first two years of working with her. Since she is doing all of the negotiating, and shopping all of my proposals for me, I get to focus on fun stuff like writing. Having worked with and without an agent, I highly recommend getting an agent before you try to get published. Not only will publishers be more willing to look at your work, but you will have someone who believes in your work just as much as you do. If you don't make money, your agent doesn't make money. So an agent's vote of confidence is a huge thing to have in the publishing world. And just in case you are wondering, I don't give out the contact info for my agent. I love her too much to have her swamped with hundreds of emails from aspiring writers. Read Sally Stuart's writing guide, she'll point you in the right direction.
What skills does a professional writer need?
In addition to needing a strong command of language, and the creativity to approach old concepts from a new angle, professional writers need to have thick skin. Rejection is a huge part of the business. And it doesn't stop once you land your first contractif anything it hurts worse. Very few authors get a contract for everything they want to write. And none of us get through the editing process unscathed. If you want to succeed as a writer you must be willing to work and rework your material until it is just right, and you must be willing to let some ideas die so that you can move on to more profitable ones. No doesn't always mean no in the publishing worldbut you need to learn the balance of when to take a project somewhere else and when to bury it in your desk drawer. You can take classes to become better at writing. But only persistence and thick skin can make you a better writer.
What does a typical work day/week look like for you?
When I am under contract for a project, I typically work seven to nine hour days. During breaks when I am not under contract and I am coming up with new proposals I usually only work four to five hour days. That helps me still stay in the groove of writing, while still enjoying the breather between projects. Sometimes I work a four day week, other times I work a six day week. It depends on how much writing I have to do in a short period of time. In 2006 I wrote four new titles, and completed the revised edition of my first book. I was also traveling for speaking or signing events/interviews an average of one week out of every month. During that time my typical work week was a six day week with seven to eight hour days. In the beginning of 2007 I wasn't under contract, so I worked four hour days with four day weeks. Working for me isn't always writing. Sometimes it's preparing to speak, doing media interviews, replying to emails, etc...But I try to make it a point to write a little every day. On days I am not working, I try to at least make the time to write in my journal so that I keep myself fresh. My advice to all aspiring writers is to write a little bit everyday. Try to have a set time and place to write. And make sure you spend at least four days a week working on the project you are seeking to have published.
Can you look at my manuscript for me?
Unfortunately I am not able to look at anyone else's manuscripts. However, Sally Stuart's book (see below) does have some great critique services you can contact to look over your work for you.
Can you recommend any books or courses for an aspiring writer?
Yes! In terms of writing courses, I highly recommend the Jerry B. Jenkins' Christian Writers' Guild mentoring program. Currently I work as a mentor with the teen course, but they also have a very strong adult program as well. You can find out more about the program by clicking here.
In terms of books, here are four that really helped me when I first got started:
The Christian Writers' Market Guide by Sally Stuart (a new edition is released each year)
Just Write! By Susan Titus Osborn
The Complete Guide to Christian Writing and Speaking by Susan Titus Osborn
A Complete Guide to Writing for Publication by Susan Titus Osborn
Good luck, and keep writing!