I know that readers of Mysterious Matters like my occasional "Top 10" lists (I'm reminded of the old Book of List series by Irving Wallace et al., quite big in the 80s, if memory serves. They were fun). Today I feel inspired to offer Agatho's Top 10 Tips for the Unpublished (a/k/a Top 10 Tips for Aspiring Mystery Writers).
10. Take yourself seriously, but not too seriously. It's one thing to be devoted to honing your craft and getting published, quite another to set yourself up as the World's Greatest Mystery Novelist.
9. Have something in your life besides your writing. It's really tough to make a living at this game. Enjoy it as a hobby, but do other things besides write and network. If all you do is eat, drink, and breathe your manuscript, you'll drive yourself (and everyone around you) crazy.
8. Go easy on the BSP. BSP standards for blatant self-promotion, the type of promotion that one often sees at work on the Internet. There's a fine line between getting your work out there and making a pest of yourself. I've seen many a writer cross this line. In the early days of the Internet, it worked. Now I think it just turns a lot of people off.
7. Keep learning. Learn from your agent, your editor, other writers, best selling authors...anyone who has something to teach you. Be wary of anyone who professes to know it all. None of us do. And be especially wary of anyone who wants to charge you.
6. Understand basic economics. You'll be a lot happier as a writer, with much more realistic expectations, if you understand how a business works and how business owners have to protect their bottom line. It's also important for you to understand the product you are selling - a book that has literally tens of thousands of competitors. (For those who know a little economics, established writers are working in a "monopolistically competitive" market, while new writers are working in a "perfectly competitive" market.)
5. Be patient. This whole process takes a long time, much longer than it should. That's just the way it is, and I don't see it changing any time soon. if you have other things in your life (see #9 above), you should be able to focus on other things while you wait.
4. Talk to librarians. Your local librarians have an excellent sense of the local market, of who's reading what and why. Ask them about your book, about its potential. If they're less than enthusiastic, take a giant deep breath, go home, and analyze what you're doing wrong.
3. Understand what happens when you go the self-publishing route. Many frustrated writers are turning to self-publishing (often in electronic formats), a few of them (but still a tiny percentage) to great success. Know that your work will not be reviewed by the most respected review magazines and will have no bookstore presence. The industry as a whole just looks askance at self-publishing as an outlet for the Deluded. (Whether this is a fair judgment, or pure snobbery, is a topic I've vowed never to get into.) Never, ever query an agent or editor by talking about your self-publishing activities.
2. Treat your editor and agent as the professionals they are. Everyone who works in this industry has one common goal: to publish wildly successful books. Throwing accusations at your editor, publicist, or anyone that your book isn't being "supported" properly won't endear you to anyone and may cause your book to get even less support, because (as human beings) we respond in kind to those who treat us well.
1. Don't do it for the money. Do it because you love it. Whether you're published by one of the big publishing houses or a smaller independent press, the likelihood of you becoming wealthy from your writing is quite small indeed. And I think we see what has happened to a number of writers who do it for the money, who keep series going when the characters, plots, and general authorial involvement in the process have long since passed their expiration dates. If you do it for pleasure - and accept the pains that come with it - you'll meet some great some people along the way and have some fun. You'll meet plenty of jerks, too; but hey, the same thing would happen if you went to a grocery store.