I have certainly thrown a lot of obstacles into my own path as I struggled to become a published author. I’ll use this space to give some advice, confess to some of my mistakes, and hopefully help anyone who cares to read this find a smoother road to success.
First of all, if you’re still in school and you think you want to become a writer, pay attention in your English classes. I didn’t so much, and it cost me years as I had to teach myself some basic grammar, such as participles and subject/verb agreement. You may think it’s boring, or that it’s the editor’s job to fix those mistakes, but you’re wrong. Well, okay, maybe it is boring, but if you’re making those basic errors it’s pretty unlikely an editor will bother to read your submission.
Read outside your field of interest. You want to write horror? Great! But if all you read is horror, you’ll probably end up retelling something you’ve already read. Expand your horizons.
When submitting, always start with the best (i.e. highest paying) publisher who publishes your kind of story, then work down. Be VERY careful with Web publishers. Three of my Halloween stories are up on a Web site that won’t go away and seemingly has no administrator nowadays. No-pay markets are not necessarily good exposure. Trust me on this.
Okay, something I don’t like to admit. My first published book, Darkscapes, originally was a PublishAmerica title. If you don’t understand the implications of that, do some research. You don’t want to go there, or to any of the many other similar outfits. Doing so is a stigma that will follow you for a long, long time.
Be very, very, VERY careful about small, start-up publishers. Shara was originally published by an outfit called 3F Publication. The woman who owned it had good intentions, but no business sense. Within months after publishing my debut novel the publishing house was gone. Republishing a novel that originally appeared and quickly disappeared with a bad small press publisher is no easy feat. If you want to go with a small publisher — and there are reasons to do so — check them out thoroughly. Talk to their authors, asking about advances, timely royalty statements and payments, author discounts, publicity, their return policy, etc. Why go with a small house? Typically you’ll get more creative freedom because they are independent and aren’t trying to mold you into a category.
Network. Go to any and every convention you can get to. You never know who you’ll meet or what could happen.
If you have any questions, but them in the comment section and I’ll answer them as best I can.