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event was a great, casual conversation, mostly about the published’s range of experience for the benefit of the as-yet-unpublished.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

Keep up

-Read about the industry, but don’t read too much

-Writing first

-Read relevant blogs and review sites


Keep company

-Join associations

-Start writing groups

-Attend conferences

-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.


Keep learning

-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


Keep track

-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

-Be professional


Keep trying

-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

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Carsten says:

    I just want to pop an idea in your head; talking to 7th/8th grade students. They’re not exactly as refined as mystery writer groups and professional authors, but if you’ve never talked to 700 squirmy 12 and 13-year-olds, it’s quite an experience. Plus, it’d make me look good. Unless you’re lousy, in which case it won’t make me look good. But since you’d be awesome (cuz, y’know, you are) it’d be great.

    Just something to tuck away in quadrant 74C of your mental database. Keep on truckin’

  • admin says:

    I’d love to talk to your students sometime. The book isn’t really for them, but I could use the practice getting and keeping people’s attention.

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