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Read. Then read some more, then read a lot more. I am always astonished by the number of people who tell me that they want to write, but that they don't read! I always recommend that emerging writers plot and plan their books. It is a tremendous help. You can do it on scraps of paper, file cards, or with the Outlining function that comes as part of most word processors. There are even specific writer's outlining programs.
I've finished my book. What do I do now?
Have you sent a copy to yourself for copyright purposes? If not, then do it now. Print up your manuscript, put it and a disk in a padded envelope and post it to yourself, recorded delivery. Don't open it.
How do I sell my book?
Research your market. Find out which publisher is producing books like yours - there is no point in sending your romance novel to a science fiction publisher, or your children's book to a house which does not publish children's books. You would be surprised to find that many people still make this basic mistake. Then submit your book.
But I need an agent - don't I?
No. I sold my first fifty titles without an agent. It is sometimes as difficult to get an agent that it is to get a publisher. Eventually however, I would recommend that you look for an agent.
I've got this great idea for a book. Let me tell you, and you can write it and...
If you have a great idea, then write it yourself. Most writers have more ideas than they will every use.
Will you read my manuscript?
Sorry, I'm not allowed to do that. Also, you don't need me to comment on it. The book should be the best one you can write, you must have absolute confidence in it.