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One of the first things I noticed after getting my first publishing contract was the staggering disbelief of most people.

How did you manage it?

I thought it was impossible to get published these days?

Yes, I could have replied, I just sat down one day and wrote a book, and, hey presto! Unfortunately not. And anyone who tells you can do it in 3 easy steps is lying.*

So, the title of this article is possibly misleading, but the steps are easy to grasp even if the application may prove more difficult.

Here they are:

Well, this one certainly sounds easy but it took me best part of three years to grasp a sound enough knowledge of my craft so that I could actually communicate properly enough on paper the stories in my head. READ, READ & READ. How to write books. Go on a course (run by a novelist you admire). And read lots of other people's novels. Understand how they did it - how they made you (as a reader) love or hate their story, their characters, their dramatic tension.

The advantage of having a vivid imagination that is that you should be able to kid yourself that your book is going to be published, that what you write is good enough and that you are not going to give up until you 'get there'. Frankly, if you can't believe in your book, no one else is going to.**

You might have written the greatest book in the world but if your synopsis is lousy, your query letter and presentation amateurish you're already stacking the odds unnecessarily against yourself. You've got a slush pile to climb. Equip your book with the best possible gear to get it up there and under the editor's nose. This is a professional business. Give them no reason, I repeat no reason, to ignore your book queries and not request or read samples of the important stuff - your actual writing.

* Unless you are already famous
** Except possibly your mother

(c) K Allan, 2004. May not be reproduced without permission of the author.