Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is an award winning writer, newspaper reporter, TV news producer, playwright and essayist. He writes supernatural suspense and is currently at work on another such book, much to his mother’s chagrin (“Why can’t you write a nice romance?”). In addition to writing he enjoys teaching classes for beginning writers at conferences and local writers’ groups. He has been a joke writer for Joan Rivers and his comedy material has been performed on The Tonight Show. Currently in his fifth decade of service, he is considerably younger than most people his age. Visit his website: Twitter: and Facebook:

How NOT To Get Published

The ABCs of Writing

Welcome back. Are you all comfy? Got your favorite beverage and a big bag of Cheetos at hand? Good, because today we’re going to revisit your school days. The only difference is, I don’t have a three foot tall beehive hairdo and smell like chalk dust, and you won’t have to stand in the corner.

That being said, let’s take a look at some common (and uncommon) terms that have to do with writing and publishing.


Agent. Something every writer thinks they need. An agent represents a writer (generally novelists, screenwriters and major non-fiction writers) and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers and film producers. An agent negotiates the contract and acts as your liaison through the publishing process. If you are writing fillers and short stories, skip this listing.

Author. What you become after you have written something and had it published. (Writer and author are not interchangeable. You have to have written something before you can be an author. Think about that one).


Backlist. This is all of an author’s books from previous publishing seasons that are still in print. A backlist is a good thing. A long backlist is a really good thing.

Book Packager. A company that takes on the process of putting together a book (including writing, researching, editing, designing, illustrating, and sometimes printing) for a publisher. In short, a book packager does everything except market, sell and distribute the book.


Characters. Without these your novel is nothing but scenery.

Check. The thing you want to swap your submission for.

Competition. That’s the other people who are trying to get the same writing gigs you are (except for the folks who don’t pay attention to market research, formatting and all that kind of professional stuff. They’re not much competition).

Cover Letter. A brief introductory letter normally sent to an editor or publisher with a submission. Best kept to no more than one page


Deus ex machina. Latin for "god out of the machine." A plot device which allows an impossible problem to be solved with the unexpected intervention of some new character, ability, or object. Usually a sign of sloppy plotting and writing.

Dialogue. A vital writing tool unless you are writing about a community of mimes. Solid, natural dialogue enhances a story and moves it along. Unnatural, stale dialogue makes the reader wish you were writing about a community of mimes.

Dang It. What you say when you realize you either misspelled an editor’s name or used the wrong editor’s name. (There are variations of this term that are also used, but this is a Christian magazine)


E-book (electronic book) – Books published in an electronic format that can be downloaded to computers or handheld devices.

Editor. An editor reviews written text and identifies errors related to the use of language including grammatical mistakes, misspellings, incorrect punctuation, and poorly structured sentences. Editors are also a writer’s advocate through the sales and marketing process at a publishing house. An editor can be your best friend or your worst nightmare. It’s your choice.

Electronic Rights. The right to publish a work in various digital formats.

Exposition. The initial setup of a story where the setting is established, characters are introduced, and some kind of conflict is initiated.


Fiction. Deals with imaginary events created by the author.

Filler. Short items (often a page or less) used to fill space between more important articles in the layout of a magazine, newspaper, newsletter, etc. They are called filler because they are used to “fill out” the volume. Fillers include jokes, recipes, trivia and short anecdotes.

Format. Guidelines for the way a manuscript is presented including margins, line spacing, text justification, font usage and project length. Novels, stage plays, radio scripts and other types of manuscripts use different formats. Proper formatting is vital if a writer is to be taken seriously.

Freelance Writer. A writer who works for a company, publisher or individual on a contract basis. The greatest job in the world. Originally the term was used by Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe to describe a "medieval mercenary warrior" or "free-lance" (meaning the lance is not sworn to any particular lord's services so he was free to serve any nobleman who could afford his services).


Galley. In magazines a galley is the final page showing how the article will look. A book galley (also known as galley proofs or page proofs) is the text used for proofreading before the final page assembly. While galleys are used essentially used for proofreading and copyediting purposes, they can also be used for promotional and review purposes (at the endorsement stage, for example).

Genre. A genre is any category of literature (romance, westerns, science fiction, etc.)

Ghostwriter. A writer who comes back from the grave to work on a writing project. *

Guidelines. A document put together by a publisher that specifies their requirements for accepting material from writers. (In other words, those things which, if you aren’t reading them and abiding by them, are a big reason you may be passed over for writing assignments).


Hook. A word or catchphrase captures the essence of your book. If you don’t have a hook, don’t bother pitching the book (hey … that kinda rhymes).

Okey boys and girls, we made it through the beginning of the “H” section, so I guess that’s a dead giveaway as to what’s coming next month. So if I didn’t cover your favorite letter, don’t worry. It’s coming.

Until next time, keep those keyboards clattering and those queries going out.

* [OK, I lied about that one. A ghostwriter is a professional writer who writes on an assigned topic under someone else's name. Many big name celebrities and industry leaders have ghostwriters to write or co-write their books (you didn’t think William Shatner actually wrote the Tekwar series by himself, did you? That was science fiction author Ron Goulart’s job) as do other people who have good ideas but don’t know how to put them on paper. Publishing houses and book packagers often use ghostwriters to write various projects (The old Doc Savage novels and many of the Goosebumps books for example).]


Soemthing Stirs