Wednesday, October 14, 2015

6 How to Get Published by Mary Elizabeth Summer

We're excited to welcome Mary Elizabeth Summer to the blog today. Mary's Trust Me, I'm Trouble released yesterday, and is the sequel to her 2014 debut Trust Me, I'm Lying. Today, she's giving a pep talk to publishing hopefuls.

How to Get Published by Mary Elizabeth Summer

Passing the Torch

So you want to be a published author. Well, I’m living proof that it is absolutely, positively, 100% possible. If I can get a book published, anyone can. In fact, one of the many things I’ve learned from this crazy publishing journey is that if you stick with it, stay hungry, keep striving, you will eventually get published. Guaranteed. Guaranteed. I’m not saying that as a platitude. I mean it literally. You are guaranteed to get a book published if you follow the advice in this post.
You may not get that book you’re working on right now published. You may not get the next three books you work on published. But if you keep writing, keep improving, keep growing savvy in the business end of publishing, you will absolutely get a book published. Thousands of books get released every day. Thousands. The odds are entirely in your favor that if you keep growing and keep trying, you’ll get published.

Notice that I said keep growing AND keep trying. The people I’ve seen fail (and by “fail,” I mean give up) are the ones who either stop growing, continuing to pound the same unproductive pavement into ruts they don’t even know to climb out of, or they stop trying to get an agent, a book deal, or proficient at self-publishing. They lose their focus or their motivation, and then move on to other pursuits.

So let’s dig a little deeper into each of these aspects individually for some specific tips and tricks.


You need to keep growing in your craft and in business acumen both to filter through the masses of writers not quite as far along in their development. To do that, join Twitter. I’m not kidding. Twitter is the most effective, least costly method for networking with other writers and industry professionals (agents, editors, designers, etc.). The reason I have a book published at all is because of Twitter.

What networking with other writers and industry peeps gets you is a direct link to industry knowledge vital to your growth as a writer, and eventually, you’re transition to author. One example of this in the Twitter ‘verse that I found particularly invaluable was the curated list of blog posts on writing craft. All the best of those posts filter through Twitter into your feed, you click on the links, read the content, and within minutes, you’re a more educated writer.

There are other ways to network with writers. You can pay to attend writing conferences and join associations like SCBWI, for example, but those things generally cost money, which can be hard to justify if you’re not currently making money through your writing. I’m not advocating that you avoid those things—if you can afford them, by all means, do them! Especially joining writer associations—but if you want effective and cheap networking, Twitter is a great place to start.

Notice that of all the social media networks, I picked Twitter. Not Facebook, not Instagram, not Tumblr. Those sites have their uses, especially for promoting books that you want to sell. But in terms of growing in craft and publishing savvy, Twitter has the most targeted, useful, and accurate information, all in one place. Here’s an invaluable how-to guide for writers using Twitter to best advantage.

In terms of honing your writing craft, you can also read craft books. I can’t recommend On Writing by Stephen King highly enough. Also, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. But books will only get you so far. Networking with writers (and other industry professionals like agents) is up-to-the-minute information in bite-sized, free chunks.

Caveat: Not every writer’s/industry rep’s advice is gold, but if you know anything at all about writing, you can pretty quickly tell the good advice from the bad. And besides, Google is a writer’s best friend. If you’re unsure if something’s right, Google it. See what other people say.


You also need to keep trying. Publishing is one big rejection fest. You’ve heard it a million times that you will hear a million ‘no’s before you get a ‘yes.’ That is mostly true. Some people get a ‘yes’ right away, and then receive a million ‘no’s before getting a second ‘yes.’ A teeny-tiny percentage of people get all ‘yes’s, but we don’t really associate with those people if we can help it. ;-) The point is, you have to learn to take rejection in stride. Your first idea is not the only idea you will ever have. It’s probably not the best idea you’ll ever have, either. Know when to stick with a project and when to move on.

When to stick with it: when you’re still in love with the characters and story long after you’ve finished writing them—when you still believe in them beyond all reason.

When to shelve it and move on to something else: when you can see the flaws everyone else has pointed out, and you’re only still querying the story because you can’t stomach the idea of having wasted all that precious time.

Shelving a project doesn’t mean you’ve thrown it out the window. You will likely go back and bogart a character or a scene or a subplot from that story later on in your career. None of it is wasted. Just keep on keeping on. You are not your project. ‘No’ to your project is not ‘no’ to you. Write something new. Stretch your creative potential. Keep trying.

As for querying, try smarter not harder. The more you know about how the publishing machine operates, the more likely you are to succeed in it. Go to, Query Shark, and just plain Google “how to write a query.” Follow the advice that makes sense for you, ignore the rest. Search lists of agents in Twitter. Start watching those lists. Make your own Twitter list of agents you think you’d like to query and read the feed religiously. Weed out the agents that won’t work for you. Start researching the agents that will. Read their submission guidelines, and follow them to the letter!!! You can always find their guidelines on their websites or on

Now, probably you know all that already. What you may not be aware of are the multitude of query contests, online pitch events, and agent wishlists (#MSWL). I myself got my agent through a query contest, which I found out about (you guessed it!) from Twitter. There is always more than one way into a castle. Keep trying new things, see what sticks. You would have spent that time doing something anyway. You might as well be working toward your dream.

Want to know the biggest secret I know about this writing gig? Here it is: You’re all already authors. You just don’t know it yet. And I, for one, can’t wait to read your books!

About the Book

The sequel to TRUST ME, I’M LYING

Staying out of trouble isn’t possible for Julep Dupree. She has managed not to get kicked out of her private school, even though everyone knows she’s responsible for taking down a human-trafficking mob boss—and getting St. Agatha’s golden-boy Tyler killed in the process. Running cons holds her guilty conscience at bay, but unfortunately, someone wants Julep to pay for her mistakes . . . with her life.

Against her better judgment, Julep takes a shady case that requires her to infiltrate a secretive organization that her long-gone mother and the enigmatic blue fairy may be connected to. Her best friend, Sam, isn’t around to stop her, and Dani, her one true confidante, happens to be a nineteen-year-old mob enforcer whose moral compass is as questionable as Julep’s. But there’s not much time to worry about right and wrong—or to save your falling heart—when there’s a contract on your head.

Murders, heists, secrets and lies, hit men and hidden identities . . . If Julep doesn’t watch her back, it’s her funeral. No lie.

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

About the Author

Mary Elizabeth Summer contributes to the delinquency of minors by writing books about unruly teenagers with criminal leanings. She has a BA in creative writing from Wells College, and her philosophy on life is “you can never go wrong with sriracha sauce.” She lives in Portland Oregon with her wife, their daughter, their scaredy-dog lab/pitbull mix, and their evil overlor—er, cat. Mary Elizabeth is represented by the incomparable Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency. And she’s the author of the Trust Me series: TRUST ME, I’M LYING; DOWN TO THE LIAR; and TRUST ME, I’M TROUBLE.


  1. Wow, what an awesome article! Thanks, Mary Elizabeth. This is exactly what I needed to hear this morning. In fact, I’m planning to read this every morning, until the message sinks in :-). Will follow the suggestion about Twitter. Even though the feeds get overwhelming at times, I'll keep at it.

    1. Hi, Ravina! Thanks so much for commenting! I'm so glad my post was helpful for you. As for Twitter, are you using Hootsuite or TweetDeck by chance? If not, try one or the other of these apps. You can use them to separate your feed into lists, which can be really helpful in cutting down on that overwhelmed feeling. If you're already using Hootsuite or TweetDeck and are still feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone! Focus on the groups that interest you the most. For me, that shifted over time as I developed in my career. If you like, feel free to email me with any questions, and I'll do my best to help!

    2. Thanks. I use Hootsuite but the key is, like you said "Focus on the groups that interest you the most." I'll do that and clean out my old lists. Oh, and major congrats on your sequel!

  2. Great advice, and so true. Thanks for the run-down, Mary Elizabeth! I actually REALLY like Twitter. Once you sort your followers into groups ("lists"--which I set to private!) it's easy to click on a group of writers or editors or whatever, and tweet responses for that free schmoozing and cyber-shoulder-rubbing. :)

    1. Exactly! I was just going to reply to Ravina and tell her about Hootsuite or TweetDeck. Glad my post was helpful!


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