Monday, October 15, 2007

Yes, you can write your own book and get it published

I was cruising the net a couple weeks ago, always alert for writer's tips to pass on. I ran across a site that had a list of tips that were at first pretty good (keep trying, shop for a good agent, etc.)

But then the list suddenly said that you should never send in a query letter that a professional writer hasn't written or edited for you. Huh?

Warming to the theme--the author of this list went on to say that the only authors who succeed are ones who have professional writers, editors, and book doctors help them! Double huh??

This list went so far as to suggest that an author who didn't hire a professional writer/editor was doomed to failure, and that's the way the business worked.

Triple huh???

That's when I realized, of course, that this "tips" list linked to the site of a book doctor. Ok, it was a sales pitch.

But jeeeeeezzzz. This site purported to "help" authors with good advice--I can imagine an aspiring author with a pile of rejections thinking--oh, maybe that's why I'm not published--I didn't spend thousands on a book doctor or ghost writer!



Hundreds of authors every day send in their query letters and partials and full manuscripts, and get picked. I write for several publishers and am on private email loops for their authors. Brand new and excited authors log in all the time, happy to be there, having sold their books via query letters (that they wrote themselves), or conference meetings, or through an agent.

It happens all the time.

This does not mean I have anything against ghost writers. I have a friend who ghosts and does well with it. Ghost writers are often used for auto-bios ("as told to") books by celebrities or government leaders who have a story to tell but know they can't put sentences together. Ghost writers can fix a manuscript that has come in to a publisher in shoddy condition but it's too late to cancel the book (the ghost writer's fee comes out of the author's royalties; and note, this is not a common occurrence). They can also work on screenplays that need to be rewritten and the original author wasn't contracted to work on the rewrites.

But for the most part, most authors, even the big, big name authors, write their own stuff (a few notable exceptions aside).

I got published by doing the following: Writing a book. Writing a query letter and polishing the heck out of it. Sending out query letters to agents and editors. Sending out partials and full mss when requested. Piling up rejections. Writing second book.

Repeating procedure until one of those mss. got bought. I did this for three years.

I got an agent via a query letter, then sending in a partial, then sending in a requested full. I made my first sale to a publisher who had requested my full manuscript via snail mail. That was in 2002.

I now have, or will have next month, twenty published books in the marketplace. I wrote every word of every dang one of them myself. My editors might have suggested changes on some of them, but I decided whether those changes helped or hurt the book, and made them myself.

I didn't hire anyone to help me (trust me, I got the tendonitis on my own).

Writing is just damn hard work. Many aspiring authors don't want to face that. They want instant success, instant riches, instant fame.

Well, guess what. I guarantee that every author out there you consider successful (bestselling or award winning or whatever), worked their little fannies off to get where they did.

I might seem easy on the outside because you weren't there for the months and months and years and years of stealing moments to finish a scene or polish a chapter, the anguish when it wasn't right, the heartbreak of rejections.

Getting published is the most delayed gratification you'll ever experience.

Your book is a gift you give the world, a piece of yourself. You want it to be the best piece of yourself you can give. Don't rush it.

You just have to keep on going, and believing. You'll get there!


Gillian Layne said...

This blog is an excellent way to start the week!

Everything excellent in life takes work. The bliss of writing is that the journey, sitting down and just writing every day, is just as satisfying as the destination.

Jennifer Ashley said...

Thanks Gillian.

Yes, I agree, the journey of writing the book is as important as seeing it in print. Maybe more so.

You are sharing a deep part of yourself when you write, and your readers can sense it. It's kind of like someone making home-baked cookies for you--their time and trouble makes it more special than if they just grabbed something the store.

I tend to compare writing to cooking a lot. But it's kind of the same. :-)

Much Cheaper Than Therapy said...

I totally agree with you Jennifer. I also published the old-fashioned way with nary a book doctor in sight. A critique group? Yes. I always suggest a new author get involved in one. The knowledge gained through other writers is an invaluable tool in this shrinking business.
Kim Watters

Lily Rose Moon said...

Hi Jennifer!

Great blog, and I like the comments about the writing process being as important as being published. You're in trouble if being published is all you're in it for...