Like indie bookstores, regional publishers love good books and deliver to faithful readers. Moreover, they promote authors who spin vivid stories often set in their backyard–in this case Delaware’s beaches. Publisher Nancy Sakaduski of Cat & Mouse Press goes a step further. Every year she sponsors a popular writing competition that has evolved into the Rehoboth Beach Reads series. Each volume features stories by published authors as well as first-time writers.
The award-winning books have received enthusiastic reviews.
The Boardwalk: “I love these stories. Now when I sit on a white bench and people-watch, I’m reminded that there is more to Rehoboth boardwalk than meets the eye.”–Lianne Hansen, National Public Radio personality
Have you thought about a leap into publishing? Nancy shares her top 10 tips to jumpstart your first work.
- Start small. Instead of a 95,000-word novel, begin with a short story, an essay, or an article. There are many more outlets for shorter works, and shorter forms give you more opportunity to try ideas without such a large time commitment.
- Start local. Submit to local newspapers, magazines, publishers, or contests. This year’s Rehoboth Beach Reads (RBR) short story contest received about 130 submissions, and 25 were published. You won’t get those odds on a national level.
- Do your research. Read the publisher’s magazines or books to see what has been published in the past. Don’t submit something that has already been done. Don’t submit a genre the publisher doesn’t use. Look for magazine sections open to freelance writers, publishers actively seeking a particular type of book, or agents looking for a specific genre. Read the publisher’s guidelines carefully and follow them exactly.
- Perfect your writing. Go to conferences, join writers groups, take classes, and have your work critiqued. Then edit, edit, edit. Yes, the publisher can edit your work. If your work is sloppy, it will never get that far. Don’t let typos or formatting mistakes cut your chances. And, even with fiction, check your facts!
- Have a killer title and a killer hook (first sentence or two). There were 21 writers with stories in The Beach House. One of them had an idea for a book of short stories set in beach towns. The title? Sandy Shorts. Who could resist? Publishers are overwhelmed with submissions, so they judge quickly about whether to read on. You have to grab them.
- Be different. The theme of the first RBR contest was “The Beach House.” Many people submitted reminiscences of summer vacations at a beach house, but the stories that really attracted the judges’ attention were the ones with a different slant. Try taking a familiar topic and give it a twist. Use an unusual point of view, an unlikely character, a different time, or an out-of-the-ordinary setting. Have an uncommon background or connection to a hard-to-access place or person? Use it! Find the stories only you can write.
- Write about things people want to read. Publishers are business people. Their business is selling writing. If you want to be a published writer, your goal is to provide sellable writing. (If you don’t care about selling your writing, keep a journal.)
- Make professional contacts. Who you know can make a difference. Look for opportunities to meet agents and publishers. Ask permission to submit—no bathroom ambushes, please!
- Be confident, but don’t be a jerk. Advocate for your writing. Explain why you think it’s a good match for the publisher, why you’re the person to write it, and why readers will love it. But respect the needs and preferences of the publisher.
- Don’t give up! If your work is rejected, review, revise, and resubmit it.
To learn more from Nancy, follow Writing Is a Shore Thing, which features industry news, writing tips, writer events, self-publishing information, and how-to for short stories. Also, you can sign up for the Cat & Mouse newsletter.