I’m practically an expert on this subject because, even though I’ve had a completed manuscript since the late 90s, I remain an unpublished novelist.
I know, it’s an impressive feat, right? I bet you are just dying to know all my tricks so that you, too, can be an Undiscovered Novelist!
Don’t Finish Your Manuscript
- This, of course, is the first and easiest way to remain Undiscovered. If you don’t write it, nobody can read it, and your anonymity will remain intact.
Write a Terrible Novel.
- This is the second-easiest method. If you’ve written a long, droning, boring, pointless, ungrammatical mess of typescript, the chances are good that nobody, but nobody, is going to pay you for the privilege of publishing it.
Really, though, those tips are for amateurs. Anybody can claim to be a novelist and then not carry through by writing an actual, well, novel.
The real challenge for being an Undiscovered Novelist is to actually HAVE a completed manuscript, one that is good, interesting, and entertaining, one that has real character development and depth, and a multi-layered plot that all ties together. A masterpiece, that is, or at least something that is good.
To have all that and still remain unpublished is tricky. It takes a master of evasion. An expert at avoidance. That’s where my distinct talents come into play. Because, naturally, my completed novel is wonderful. Every time I pull it out of mothballs, it makes me laugh, smile, cry, and tingle all the way to my fingertips, it’s so darned entertaining. But, you know, that’s my little secret, which brings me to tip number 1.
Keep it a Secret
- Obviously, the most guaranteed way to remain Undiscovered is simply to never tell anyone that you wrote a novel. You can keep it, tied in a ribbon, tucked under your pillow until the day you die, and nobody will ever know. Then, when your heirs, stifling sobs of grief, come to clean out your house, they will find it and, sitting on the edge of your bed, find themselves entranced and wondering, “Why did he never tell us?” At which point you can become the posthumous John Updike and your heirs can all go on Oprah to talk about what an unappreciated genius you were.
Expect Too Much
- Or, maybe you’d actually like to be published. You think your manuscript is the bee’s knees and that it should be published … but you expect the world to come to you. Maybe you casually mention it to a publishing acquaintance, expecting them to kneel and beg for the privilege of seeing your manuscript. Or, perhaps you send out one or two query letters, fully expecting to be the instant object of a bidding war. At this stage of the publishing process, an unfettered ego is definitely going to help you remain Undiscovered for a long, long time.
- You may have heard that you need to send out query letters to literary agents, manuscripts to publishers, phone calls, emails, follow-ups … The surest way to ensure that you never get anything published is to neglect these. Send out a couple queries, and then, exhausted from your labors, rest up for the next several months. After all, you’ve heard that people in the publishing industry are perpetually busy (bless their hearts), so it’s really just polite to give them plenty of time to respond, right? And why send out another batch of queries until you’re really, really sure that the first set is dead? It’s best to give it several months, maybe a year, just to be safe.
Don’t Follow Up
- Okay, you sent out several queries, but you haven’t heard anything. (Yay!) Naturally, since you know how busy everybody is, you wouldn’t want to nag them, so … that’s it. You just leave well enough alone.
- This is the easiest way to remain Unpublished and Undiscovered. You’ve sent out a slew of queries, samples, even full manuscripts, and you even went to the trouble to follow them up to make sure they had arrived and were being read (that very minute, no doubt), but you still haven’t been inundated by offers. That makes this easy! You simply give up at this point. You tried, right? So, you just … stop.
I should warn you that this last option can come at some cost to your ego. If you do, in fact, know that your manuscript is dripping with pearls of wisdom and contains some of the finest verbiage since John Grisham or Shakespeare first put pen to paper, it may be hard to believe that nobody is knocking down your door, trying to get to it. Why wouldn’t they? At some point, you may start questioning whether it’s the fault of your prose. (Nah, couldn’t be.) Or … maybe it’s your fault for giving them a clear run to your door? You didn’t make sure enough of them knew the book existed? You didn’t tell the right people?
Hmm. See, at this point, when you KNOW your novel is brilliant but it remains unpublished, you’re left with two choices.
- Assume that it’s your fault for not trying hard enough, or
- Accept that it’s Just Not Meant To Be and start polishing your “I Did It!” button because, congratulations! You are still Undiscovered and Unpublished!
And, really, isn’t that what you wanted?
(Your turn, folks. What tips did I miss?)