Start at the Beginning
It's not very profound to tell people to start at the beginning--yet you'd be surprised how often people want to jump over several parts of the writing world process and start some place in the middle.
I thought about this simple fact when I received another phone call from a writer with a 65–page manuscript on the Lord's Prayer. I have not seen this manuscript. From an inspired feeling, this writer sat down and created a manuscript focused on a particular topic. Now she was trying to figure out how to get it published. You have to admire her diligence and discipline to have completed something--and I did--yet I also tried to gently point out her need to understand the publishing world and the intense competition (and expense) to get the book properly launched and into the marketplace.
First I explained the majority of these types of books are produced as gift books. The majority of these gift books originate from packagers. [I've written about packagers before and if you don't understand this term--use the search tool in the right-hand column of these entries.] It's less likely an editor will seriously consider a single gift book than a series of gift books from a packager. The writer needs to get publishing experience writing for the packager. Many writers don't understand the need to show the editor publishing credentials--magazine and newspaper credits are a great place to start. Yet even to write for the magazines, you have to learn to write a query letter and pitch ideas that interest the editor. There is a learning curve for everyone who enters the realm of publishing.
Where are you on this curve and are you willing to learn the ropes? Some people are and some people aren't. For this writer with the Lord's Prayer manuscript, I recommended that she get Christian Writer's Market Guide by Sally E. Stuart. Now she may rush out and order this book. Will she read and study this book and follow the seasoned advice about learning the market which is woven in-between pages and pages of names and addresses for various markets? Some people will and some people will not.
One of the best ways to short-circuit the learning curve in publishing is to attend a large writer's conference. There are some terrific conferences around the country, I list several of them and will be speaking at a several of them over the next few months. Notice I said "large" conference and there was a reason. As a first-timer, it's easy to be overwhelmed, yet you also have the possibility to increase your learning from the experience.
My own journey in the publishing world has been years in the making. I've made my fair share of mistakes along the way (and still make them). I wrote for the newspaper in high school then majored in journalism while in college. I wrote in college yet little of my material was published beyond the college newspaper (one of the top ten daily college newspapers in the country). Then for ten years, I left the commercial writing world and spent time in academic writing and linguistics. Those years provided some valuable lessons when I returned to the writing community and started at the beginning--writing for magazines not even attempting to write a book. Your journey will be different from mine.
Whatever you are trying to write today, take a moment and see if you are starting in the right place. It may save you a lot of rejection and get you moving in the right direction.