FAQ's I Get From Aspiring Writers
By - January 23, 2014
Q: I’ve always wanted to write a book! Can you tell me what to do?
A: This is traditionally one of the hardest questions I get asked, because there’s not really a quick, easy answer to it, exactly. The first thing would tell you is that usually, when someone comes to me about wanting to be published, my advice is first and foremost, "Write the book first." You can't publish something that isn't written, and you’d be amazed at the number of people who start wanting to write a book but get so wrapped up in the “after” that they forget the most important thing is to write. If you want to write with publication in mind, it’s great to know that, but no matter what your intentions, you have to write it before you can head for that goal. For any kind of fiction to sell, you have to have the completed manuscript prepared no matter whether you choose to self-publish or attempt to go the traditional route.
Q: How do I get my book published?
A: There are several options in publishing, and I’ll post more in-depth about these soon, but in this case, I’m assuming you’re thinking about getting traditionally published (also known as the “white wedding” dream of publishing). My upfront warning is this course is not easy or fast. You have to have a finished book in fiction and memoir to query publishers (keeping in mind the Big Six (Five) take only agented submissions, so if you intend to go that direction, you'll need to first query agents, again, with a finished book. Just something to be aware of when considering your ultimate goal).
Publishing is THE slowest industry on earth. Just be ready for that. Also be ready for a lot of no’s before a yes. Occasionally someone will get a yes on their first query out, but usually, it takes many no’s, some refinements, learning, and resubmitting ad nauseam before you get that coveted request. And after the first request comes more no’s, learning, tweaking, re-subbing, etc.
In other words, if you’d like to be traditionally published, go for it, but the two biggest things to remember are: 1. Write the book first! And 2. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Q: I’ve written my first draft. Am I ready to submit to agents or publishers?
A: Congrats on finishing your first draft, but you still have some work left ahead of you. What happens now is that it’s time to go over it a thousand times yourself, fix and change. Be willing to be brutal with your own work.
Next, give it to some critique partners who aren’t friends and family who’ll blow smoke up your butt. The people who love you mean well, but they just won’t do you a lot of good. You need people to read this thing who both know what the industry is looking for as well as people who will be just that hard on you. Then, you revise some more. Take the comments your readers give and revise based on those that resonate with you. But don’t be stubborn- you have to let go and admit that every word you’ve written won’t be perfect, because it’s only then that you can grow as a writer.
After you’ve revised/half-killed yourself, rinse and repeat that a couple of cycles. I say that because trust me- almost EVERYONE finds out that their first book isn’t gold. I don’t say that to discourage you AT ALL…but the truth there is, I wish someone had told me that in just those terms (and that I’d believed them. Ha!). I’d have developed my thick skin faster, and I would’ve learned quicker. Sometimes the first book can end up revised into gold, but it’s never gold the first go around. Just be aware that in this business, it’s FAR more likely that your second, third, fourth, etc. book will be the magic book that gets the deal (mine was my fourth. I came oh-so-close with three several times, but I just didn’t pull it out.). You have to be prepared to stick novels in drawers (fully aware that one day you can revisit them) and move on if they just aren’t “there” yet. Every single book is a learning experience, though, and if writing is something you really want to pursue, each time, you’ll get better and better. Through perseverance and learning to take constructive criticism in a world where the rules are not necessarily what your rules are when walking into a book store to buy a book are, you’ll grow with every new piece. That might sound counterintuitive, because ultimately, you want to please readers, but the kicker is, there’s no pleasing readers in the pub world if you don’t first sell agents and editors (interchangeable with publishers).