With my book coming out next year, I find myself in a new position. Giving advice.
I mean, if you know me, you know I like to give advice. Maybe too often, unbidden, etc. But I honestly love to solve problems. Hello? Mystery writer. We love to puzzle stuff out.
A few weeks ago I was asked to take part in a “Publishing Roundtable.” I didn’t have much idea what would be expected of me, so I gave the issue—publishing, big issue—some thought beforehand. You know, to get my head in the game.
As it turned out, the event was a great, casual conversation, mostly about the published’s range of experience for the benefit of the as-yet-unpublished.
I just remembered the notes I made, though, and thought some of you might be interested in seeing them.
First and foremost: Writing first, publishing later
-Read about the industry, but don’t read too much
-Read relevant blogs and review sites
-Start writing groups
-Look for scholarships and other ways to get in and meet people
-Even if you want to write novels, work on publications in magazines and lit journals: Think of it as building an army of people who will want to help you succeed and take credit for helping you when you do.
-The MFA is not the end
-Learn about query letters, synopses, and rules for submission
-Read the Query Shark archives
-Agents websites—each submission is an individual submission
-Join Query Tracker and research agents
-Read the kind of book you want to write; read as much as possible
-Know where your submissions are; keep a list or an Excel spreadsheet
-Keep any feedback you get
-When the feedback starts to sound familiar, fix that problem
Keep your own counsel
-Don’t talk about your rejections publicly; agents Google you; editors Google you
-Don’t give scathing reviews to other authors if you can help yourself
-Online is forever
-But learn from each step:
-As you write your query, if you can’t find the story, your book might have problems
-In the query stage, if you don’t get page requests, your query needs work
-If you get partial requests but not full requests, the sample pages might need work
-If you get full requests but no yeses, the manuscript might need work
Keep in touch
-Build a writing community whether you’re publishing or not
-Make writing the goal
-Check in with mentors
-Share news, but not too often