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  • Writer's pictureChristie A. Cruise, PhD

Five Tips for Getting Your Book Published

Having poured my heart into Thick Black Lines, I understand the burning question: How did I secure a publisher for this labor of love? Let me take you through my journey, from self-publishing my first book to finding a traditional publisher.


My debut book, It Don’t Hurt Now, was published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Self-publishing offers certain advantages:


  • Control: You’re the captain of your ship. You decide on every aspect, from cover design to formatting.

  • Speed: Self-publishing allows for quicker release times compared to traditional publishing.

  • Independence: No gatekeepers—your work sees the light of day without waiting for acceptance letters.


Despite the benefits of self-publishing, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It has its challenges.


  • Workload: Managing the entire process—editing, cover design, formatting—can be overwhelming.

  • Marketing: You wear the marketing hat too. Building an audience and promoting your book falls squarely on your shoulders.


I yearned for a traditional publisher for Thick Black Lines. And guess what? I found one with Finishing Line Press! As an author who successfully navigated this process, I’d like to share five valuable tips for publishing your book. Here’s how I navigated those choppy waters:


1. Do Your Due Diligence

Before you start submitting your manuscript, invest time in research. Explore different presses and publishers to identify those specializing in your writing genre. Here’s what I recommend:


  • Create a List: Compile a list of presses and publishers that have previously published works like yours. Look for books in the same genre and with a comparable style. This step ensures that you’re targeting the right audience and saves you and the press valuable time.


2. Enter Writing Contests

Writing contests can be a fantastic gateway to publication. Many presses host annual contests specifically for full-length books and chapbooks. Follow these steps:


  • Check Contest Offerings: Visit the websites of the presses on your list. Look for information about writing contests, submission guidelines, deadlines, and evaluation criteria.

  • Submit Your Work: Submit your manuscript to relevant contests. Even if you don’t win, participating can lead to unexpected opportunities. For instance, my book “Thick Black Lines” wasn’t the Finishing Line Press chapbook contest winner, but it still found a home.



3. Subscribe and Read Literary Publications

Stay informed by subscribing to literary journals and magazines. Here’s why this matters:


  • Contests: In addition to checking press websites, subscribe to literary publications like Poets & Writers. They often feature sections dedicated to Grants & Awards. These sections provide valuable information about upcoming opportunities.

    • For example, Poets & Writers provides information about state, national, and international prizes in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and translation. They only list prizes of $1000 or more, prizes of $500 or more that charge no entry fee, and prestigious nonmonetary awards. Additionally, information about writing seminars, fellowships, retreats, conferences, and residencies. Each edition has a submission calendar to make it easy for you to keep track of deadlines.

4. Submit Individual Poems for Publication

When researching potential publishers for my chapbook, Thick Black Lines, I discovered an interesting requirement: some presses demanded that a portion (usually 20% to 30%) of the content had already been published in literary magazines and journals. Here’s why this matters:


  • Audience Building: Having individual poems published introduces your work to readers and helps you build an audience. If people already appreciate your writing, they’re more likely to be interested in your book.

  • Marketing Advantage: Publishers appreciate authors who come with a ready-made following. If you’ve cultivated a community of poetry enthusiasts, it can significantly boost your book’s marketing efforts.



5. Don’t Give Up

Rejections are part of the writer’s journey. I received countless rejection letters—for individual poems and my chapbook. It was disheartening, and I questioned my abilities. But remember:

  • Subjectivity: The publishing process is subjective. It depends on the tastes and preferences of contest judges, editors, and the specific literary magazine or journal. Rejections don’t define your creativity; they merely indicate that you haven’t found the right fit yet.

  • Persevere: Keep submitting. Each rejection is a step closer to acceptance. Learn from the process, adapt, and keep refining your craft.


Most of my knowledge came from trial and error. Here’s what I recommend:


  • Stay Informed: Subscribe to newsletters from various literary magazines. Stay updated on submission deadlines, contests, and trends.

  • Social Media Engagement: Follow presses, publishers, and fellow writers on social media. Engage in conversations, share your work, and learn from others.

  • Start a Blog: Create a platform where you can showcase your writing. Share insights, poems, and thoughts. A blog helps you connect with readers and fellow writers.


If writing (poetry in my case) is your passion, immerse yourself in it:


  • Daily Dose of Poetry: Read or listen to poetry every day. Sign up for daily poems from sources like the Academy of American Poets, The Slowdown, or Rattle.

  • Attend Open Mics: Participate in open mic events. Share your work, receive feedback, and connect with the poetry community.

  • Support Fellow Poets: Engage with other poets online. Celebrate their successes, learn from their experiences, and build a network.


Networking is essential in the publishing world. Attend conferences, workshops, and literary events:


  • Connect with Industry Professionals: These gatherings allow you to meet editors, agents, and other authors. You’ll gain insights, make connections, and potentially find a publisher interested in your work.


Remember, persistence and genuine love for your craft will carry you forward. Rejections are part of the process but they don’t define your worth as a writer. Keep writing, keep submitting, and believe in the power of your words.

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