Originally posted: Friday, 27 April 2007
For a writer, having your work published seems the only legitimate end to creating a book (or article, or poem) that you’re proud of. Lawrence Block, in his fabulous writing guide Writing the Novel; From Plot to Print says: “I suppose the whole idea of communication is so intrinsic a part of what we do that a piece of writing which goes unread by others is like Bishop Berkeley’s tree falling where no ear can hear it. If nobody reads it, it’s as if we hadn’t even written it.”
He prefaces that section by saying that other artistic endeavors – painting, playing music, etcetera – don’t have the same urgency to see the finished product in front of the public, and that artists and musicians expect a long process of learning and honing their skills before any success is sought, but that writers expect to see themselves in print with their very first undertaking.
I think he’s right about that. A writer longs to hear those magical words, “We’d like to offer you a publishing contract!” That said, I wrote several novels and great portions of others before seeing one published. Those novels languish in yellowing envelopes, and I suppose some day I’ll throw them away. But not yet. Even after all these years, I still have an emotional attachment to those unwanted ‘children’.
Unless you’re the ‘next big thing’ you are not going to be seized with glad cries of “We’ve been waiting for someone just like you!” It’s hard work to find a publisher, in most cases (mine, for instance) and you have to prepare for it like you did for exams or your first job. You have to understand the process and do your homework. So what I’m saying is, know that you’re ready before you try to get published, be prepared for rejection, and then go forth and submit! And submit, and submit and submit again. The best predictor of your eventual success is how persistent you are in the face of opposition.
In the following days (and weeks… months maybe?) I’m going to give some information and tips, advice culled from not only my own experiences, but others… things you should do, things you shouldn’t, and things you should bind your hands with tape and stuff a sock in your mouth before you do! I can’t comment on every avenue, and I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll offer whatever expertise I can.
However… a caveat: what follows are just my own thoughts and advice. I am by NO MEANS an expert, and you should consult with someone who knows a lot more than I do before making any final decisions. Also, I didn’t do everything by traditional methods, meaning, I didn’t join RWA, I didn’t go to conferences, I didn’t have an agent for my first book, or, well, I sorta did, but that’s a long story. One of the many things I will be talking about is why no agent at all is better than a BAD agent. (But why a good agent is much MUCH better!) And I will use myself as an example!
Articles to follow in the coming weeks:
My story, or, how did I get here and what do I do now?
What kind of publishing are we talking about?
Do you need an agent?
How to approach a publishing house. Query letters, proposals synopses, etcetera.
How to talk to an editor. And how NOT to talk to an editor.
Feel free to drop me a line with specific questions.