I'm told there was a day when talent alone got your book published. Apparently that day was long before I was born. Today you must possess the big three. As any of you who have been trying to get your work published for any amount of time know, getting all three elements can be like finding an endangered species. So is reaching for a literary career as unrealistic as reaching for the presidency of the United States now? No, but you do have to work harder at it and want it really bad.
So what are you to do?
Timing: Know your genre. Meaning read it, check the bestseller list frequently, visit the bookstore (or web site) often. Come to know what kind of books are selling in the genre you write. Now here's the tricky part. If you've written something that is selling like mad you may run into a lot of agents and publishers who don't want to buy it because they've already purchased or sold books similar to it. On the other hand, if you write something completely different you might here that's it too ahead of it's time and they may be unsure the concept will sell. This comes down to a matter of choosing your agent and publisher carefully. A big house may not be buying say vampire stories at the moment because they are flouding the market. But a smaller house might read yours and pick it up because it's kind are selling like hot cakes. The right agent will be willing to search for the right publisher, which will help your timing.
Talent: This can be worked on by simply writing every day. Of course it helps if you can attend writers retreats or college classes. If you don't have the funds then recruit someone to help you read your work and look for errors, inconsistencies, or confusing parts. Join or start a writers group, they can be a huge help. Expect to edit your own work. Get good at it. View your work with the critical eye of a literary agent. It will surprise you how differently you see it in this light, and how many more errors you'll catch.
Luck: This can be as elusive as love if you don't know how to track it down and capture it. There is a way you can increase your good fortune though. It's simple and complicated all at the same time. Network! How if you can't afford to go to conferences or retreats? You're probably staring at the answer right now, your computer. Meet people through sites for writers, readers, agents, and publishers. Meet people through your blog, through Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace. Seek those in the industry out.
What to do if you've tried all this and still not managed to get your book published? There is always self publishing. But be sure that's something you've researched completely and have decided you're ready for. For tips on self publishing check out this post on one of the great blogs I follow: http://kenatchity.blogspot.com/2009/06/further-observations-on-self-publishing.html And as always, best of luck!