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July 30, 2010
Over the weekend, I hope you’ll have time to check out some very helpful and thought-provoking blogs I read this week.
Kick back, relax, and enjoy these gems!
Gems of Wisdom
**Agent Wendy Lawton wrote a series called “Career Killers.” Full of wise advice! One post is on speed writing. Other “career killers” included impatience, playing “around the edges,” sloppiness, and skipping the apprenticeship. If you avoid these mistakes in your career, you’ll be miles ahead of the average writer.
**Are you trying to combine babies with bylines? Try “Writing Between Diapers: Tips for Writer Moms” for some practical tips.
**Is your writing journey out of whack because you have unrealistic expections? See literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s post “Managing Expections.”
**Critique groups are great, but you–the writer–must be your own best–and toughest–editor. See Victoria Strauss on “The Importance of Self-Editing.”
**We’re told to set goals and be specific about what success means to us. Do you have trouble with that? You might find clarity with motivational speaker Craig Harper’s “Goals and Anti-Goals.”
**And finish with Joe Konrath’s pithy statements in “A Writer’s Serenity Prayer.” You may want to print them out and tape them to your computer!
Share a Gem!
What have you read lately–online or off–that you felt was particularly insightful or helpful or thought-provoking? I’d love to have you share a link of your own!
May 14, 2010
Don’t you wish you could be a spy at a publishing house? You could eavesdrop as the “powers that be” make publishing decisions, accepting this manuscript but rejecting another one.
Wouldn’t you love an inside track so you can understand the process behind acquisitions at traditional publishing houses?
Now’s Your Chance
You can do that today! Several publishing houses have given us a glimpse of what goes on during their publication board meetings. I hope you’ll take time to read these “behind the scenes” descriptions.
Here’s what happens at Peachtree Publishers.
And a Little, Brown editor shares her view.
Taking the Fear Out
Sometimes the best thing you can do as a new writer is to educate yourself about the publishing process. So get yourself a cup of coffee or bowl of popcorn, settle back, and devour these articles.
The process may sound complicated–even daunting–the first time you read about it. But knowledge is power–and knowing what goes on behind closed doors at publishing houses can only help you in your quest for a traditional publisher.
May 10, 2010
When I’m frustrated, it’s usually a sign that I’m trying to control something I can’t control. This can be a person or a situation or an event. The process can churn your mind into mush until you can’t think.
On the other hand, making a 180-degree switch and focusing on the things I can control (self-control) is the fastest way out of frustration. This concept certainly applies to your writing life.
Words of Wisdom
Remember the Serenity Prayer? It goes like this: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
How about reducing frustration with your writing life by applying that wisdom to your career? Here are some things to accept that you cannot change:
- How long it takes to get a response from editors and agents
- Editors moving before buying the manuscript they asked to see
- Size of print runs
- Publisher’s budget for your book’s publicity and promotion
Trying to change anything on the above list is a sure-fire route to frustration and wanting to quit.
However, do you have courage to change the things you can? Here are some:
- Giving yourself positive feedback and affirmations
- Reading positive books on the writing life
- Studying writing craft books
- Writing more hours
- Reading more books in the genre where you want to publish
- Attending local, state, regional and national conferences you can afford
- Joining or forming a critique group
Wisdom to Know the Difference
If you’re battling frustration and discouragement with the writing life, chances are good that you’re trying to control something beyond your control. It will make you crazy! The fastest way back to sanity is to concentrate on what you can control about the writing life.
Choose anything from that second list–or share an additional idea in the comments below–and get on with becoming a better writer. In the end, that’s all you can do–and it will be enough.
May 7, 2010
A question from a blog reader asked, “Would you consider using a newly formed publishing company? What questions should a writer ask a new publisher to ensure they are getting appropriate care for their book?”
I’ve had one experience with a newly formed publisher–which I’ll write about below–but first let me mention a blog post on this subject on Writer Beware! The post is two years old, and due to the economy, it is even MORE true today than it was when posted. I hope you’ll read the entire post, but this is the bottom line summary:
“So unless you are absolutely, 100% positive that the publisher is staffed by people with substantial publishing experience–and maybe even then–it’s a good idea to wait until a new publisher has been in business for at least a year, and has published a number of books, before submitting. Not only does this assure you that the publisher can take books all the way through the production process, it lets you evaluate important things like physical and editorial quality, how the books are distributed, and how they are marketed. It also allows time for complaints, if there are any, to accumulate.
Tempting as it may be to join the rush to get in on the ground floor when a new publisher opens its doors, watching and waiting is a much better strategy.”
My Own Experience
My first mystery series fifteen years ago was my only experience with a brand new publisher. The man who started it had great credentials, and we met when speaking on a panel at a writer’s conference. It was professional from beginning to end, although his advance was a lot smaller than I was used to.
The first two books came out on time, but the sales were pretty low. (Thankfully I had had several mysteries published by that time because the “editor” I got knew nothing about mysteries and was an unpublished aspiring writer.) The third mystery ran into one snag after another, but since that happens sometimes, I wasn’t worried. I knew he was working on other books too and accepted the explanations for delays.
One Eye-Opening Day
I had several school visits approaching and needed copies of the third book, so when I had to be in his city for something else, I decided to just stop by the publishing house and pick up the books, as he’d said they were finished and boxed up.
When I finally located the address, I felt surely it must be wrong. It wasn’t in the business area of town–it was a residence. His home. No one answered the door, so I walked around the back and peeked in the window of the basement.
There were stacks of books and piles of papers everywhere. Evidently this was the publishing “house.” Literally! And it turned out that this man was the entire “staff” and he was out of money. Any books sold would be up to me. (This was prior Internet marketing, so I was stuck with the books and no way other than school visits to sell them.)
Needless to say, I wished I had asked a lot more questions early in the process. The books weren’t reviewed and fell through the cracks.
Questions to Ask
If you are still considering submitting to a newly formed company, ask them:
- How many titles are you publishing this year?
- If there are published titles already, buy one or two and read them. (Look for quality of editing, typos, quality of art work, etc.)
- Contact other authors who have published with them. Ask about editing, sales, art work, whether the publisher answers their emails, etc. Thanks to the Internet and Facebook and Twitter, you can find almost anyone online.
- What constitutes your staff? (You may find that the publisher is also the editor, layout designer, promoter, sales rep, publicist, and delivery man.) If these jobs are “hired out,” who does these jobs? Are they qualified?
Google the new company too and check for complaints in blogs and message boards.
I know several writers who have signed with new publishers over the last few years. Every time, it’s been a dismal, frustrating experience–and resulting in so few sales.
If you don’t ask these questions before you query, at least get answers you’re happy with before you sign ANYTHING. As the blog title says, writer beware!