1. Write a really good book.
2. By good, I mean the book you actually want to write, written the way you want to write it. If that means writing War and Peace with talking squirrels, then do it. Just write the thing you are going to believe in the most, because that belief will be the wind in the sails of your words.
3. Expect rejections. Agents and publishers expect to reject you so, in turn, you should expect them to. If publishers published every single book that has been written we would all have to live in the sea because there would be no room because of all the books. We’d have to live on a big ship paid for by Lee Child.
4. Do not get jealous. Okay, this is hard. But do not assume that publishers/agents/readers are stupid. Do not automatically assume that if a book does well it is because they were best mates with the publisher or something. Sometimes, things succeed because they are good and people like them.
5. Look for doors, not walls. Stop blaming the system. Yes, prejudices exist. But if you are a) good enough and b) want it enough and c) stop trying to see walls instead of doors, your chances can be as good as anyone’s.
6. It is entirely self-defeating – though quite easy – to say ‘Oh, I’m not published because my book is above people’s heads’, ‘I’m not published because I didn’t go to Oxbridge’, ‘I’m not published because I write fantasy/sci-fi/about talking squirrels’, ‘I’m too exotic’, ‘I’m not posh/exotically working class enough’, ‘It’s Amazon’s fault’, ‘I’m too ordinary,’ ‘I don’t write middlebrow reading group tat’, ‘I was born with the wrong genitals’, ‘I’m too northern’, ‘I’m not famous/a columnist’, ‘I’m not published because I’m not an alien lizard and everyone who runs the world is an alien lizard’.
7. Ignore the title of this article. Stop thinking about ‘how’ to get published, and start trying to be objective about ‘why’ your book should be.
8. Be persistent and determined and practical. I got 17 rejection letters for my first novel. I used to put them in to two categories -’contains useful information’ and ‘contains paper that is flammable’.
9. Don’t take it personally. Okay, I admit this one is bullshit. If you have written something you care about, if you have put yourself in it, then having people reject or criticise it is personal.
10. Be realistic about what you are aiming for. Being published is great, but it is no wardrobe to Narnia. Your brain chemistry will not be altered for ever. You will still have to work exactly as hard on your next book too (for every new author, an old one falls off the other end of the conveyor belt). Writers are generally not rich. Except the rich ones. But they are all in therapy. And rejection letters don’t disappear, they just evolve into bad reviews. Oh, and remember, if you want a long-term career, with a predictable income, become a publisher. Actually, even better, invent Grand Theft Auto. And only write because you love it, because you have to do it even when it hurts, because you have a story inside you that you would genuinely want to read if it was written by you.
11. Good luck. You could always do with some of that.