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The Secret Publishing Handshake

29 Apr 2008

I questioned the benefits–or lack thereof–of PAN earlier this month and Jennifer Dunne commented:

Actually, your comment of “shouldn’t RWA be doing this for ALL their members” directly explains why you don’t get anything out of PAN.

PAN used to have its own newsletter, geared explicitly to published authors, their concerns, and their needs. The unpublished felt that it was filled with secret publishing handshake information unfairly being kept from them, so the newsletter was “folded into” the regular RWR. But the first time one of the published authors used the same tone as had been in PANdora’s Box, and was jumped all over by unpubbed who thought she was ungrateful and a bad person, pretty much killed that idea.

Similarly, there used to be a PAN retreat, at the National conference, where speakers were chosen to explicitly address the concerns of published authors. Unpublished authors once again protested that secret information was being kept from them.

Even the PAN-only sessions at RWA conferences had to be removed, because someone protested that restricting them was discriminatory, and the industry professionals who were willing to talk honestly about some topics to published authors were not willing to talk about those same topics to unpublished authors.

[Emphasis mine.]

So, folks, after being privy to the PAN loops for two weeks, I’m here to share the secret publishing handshake:

  1. Write the story.
  2. Edit the story to within an inch of its life.
  3. Submit to publisher.
  4. Publisher accepts.
  5. Toss confetti. (Actually, I toss confetti when I cash my royalty cheques.)


  1. Write the story.
  2. Edit the story to within an inch of its life.
  3. Submit to agent.
  4. Agent accepts.
  5. Agent submits to publisher.
  6. Publisher accepts.
  7. Toss confetti.

Seriously, folks. Okay, there are a few other things, like finding a publisher that’s accepting stories like yours and following their submission guidelines (e.g. don’t send the entire manuscript if they only ask for three chapters), but unless the parental units are rich enough to start a publishing company to publish your book, this is generally how it works.

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