How I Got Published (12 Tips from a Bestselling Author)

Edited by Julia Rios

February 2018

1.

First I wrote a book. Don’t skip this step. It’s a fact that most people who want to publish a book have never even written an entire one.

My book was about my childhood. In other words: tragic, but also leavened by moments of humor.


2.

I made sure to research agents before I queried them. They all said no.


3.

So I wrote another book. This one was also about my childhood, but I added infidelity, an apocalypse, and a happy ending so that there could be something for every reader. I was looking attract a broad audience.


4.

I was too stung by rejection to query this second novel. I could have tried self-publishing, but it was easier just to give up on humanity.


5.

If you have read either of my first two books you would know that my parents were human. You would know that they abandoned me. They made me and later were repulsed by me. After I had cooled to the touch, they left me in the jungle to be raised by orangutans.


6.

You should read my books. They are available at better bookstores and all the best libraries.


7.

Self-care is really important. For me, that meant returning to the volcano where my parents used ancient magic to conjure me from lava. I jumped into the smoking crater and allowed myself to dissolve into liquid rock. I flowed through the jungle and then set a village on fire. This is the village where I was captured as a girl and burned at the stake for witchcraft. Afterwards, I arrived in time for dinner at a different, better village. This village worships me as a goddess. I find it really healing to spend time among my followers. This whole excursion reminded me that my work didn’t have to connect with everybody, I just had to find the right audience.


8.

But what if the right audience doesn’t exist? Should you force your writing to conform to the prevailing standards of the dominant culture on your planet? Or should you alter your planet so that the dominant life form is receptive to your work? I picked the path that I thought was easiest, though now that I’m a best-selling author, I’m not so sure anymore.


9.

I used black magic to conjure a new race of beings out of ash and salt. They frightened me. I abandoned them. My work-in-progress is about how I am like my parents even though I hardly knew them.

Most of these new people that I made perished. They crumbled, they dissolved in the rain. But the ones who had a little bit of dirt in them were hardy and flexible. They were highly intelligent and resourceful. They devised rituals that allowed them to procreate among each other. They fashioned themselves into hominids and passed as humans. They absorbed human culture and improved on it. They had a broader, more inclusive view of what art was.

They were resistant to disease and climate change. As environmental pressures caused the human race to die out, the rock people thrived.


10.

I didn’t create you but I created your ancestors. I hope you are wise enough not to hold it against me. I hope you are smart enough not to worship me.


11.

The hardest thing about publishing is trying to figure out a way to tell an empathetic, hyper-intelligent race of mineral-based beings a story they hadn’t heard before. I can’t. I can only tell you things you already know.

For instance: you are doomed to repeat some, but not all, of the mistakes of whoever brought you into being.

Or: you are greater than the magic and rock you were made from.

Or: you may have been abandoned, but you still did a pretty good job of figuring things out for yourselves.

When my first book finally came out, it was a hit, despite its many shortcomings. I’m hardly in the position of giving anyone in my audience advice, yet still I persist. This is a haughtiness that curses many best-selling authors.


12.

My work in progress is a short story collection. Every story is about how I learned to become an adult. It was an easy book to start writing, but I’m having a hard time finishing it. I might not be able to. I hope I can.

© 2018 Dominica Phetteplace

About the author

Dominica Phetteplace

Dominica Phetteplace is a math tutor who writes literary and science fiction. Her work has appeared in Analog, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld and F&SF. She has won a Pushcart Prize, a Rona Jaffe Award, a Barbara Deming Award and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, I-Park, and Marble House Project.

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