Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don't . . . and Michael Palin

A happy historic inauguration day to all!

Am proud of myself for writing 2400 words today, even with inauguration watching, lunch out, and finishing up reading a book.

The book I finished was Michael Palin's Diaries, The Python Years. I picked it up at first because I'm a big Python fan, but I highly recommend it to anyone who's ever wanted to be (or already is) a professional writer (novels, plays, television, or movies).

It's an interesting inside story of a writer's life, and I found amusing parallels in it to my own writing life (excepting the whole being rich and famous, hosting SNL, and hanging out with rock stars thing). I'm always amazed how much in common all writers have, whether they're making millions of dollars or happy when they sell 20K books, whether they're writing Pulitzer Prize winning literary fiction or scifi romance.

The second half of this post is a list I put together for a recent workshop. I was inspired by a book of Victorian etiquette entitled: "Don't"

Here are my "Don'ts" for writers:

Don’t—Expect a writing career to happen overnight. Writing a quality novel takes time, selling it takes time, having it published and released takes time.

Don’t—Email a proposal or book to an agent or editor without being very sure they take email submissions! (Most epublishers, of course, take email submissions.)

Don’t—Send a romance or mystery novel to an agent who doesn’t represent romance or mystery novels or an editor who doesn’t acquire them. Do your research first.

Don’t—Send in a sloppy submission. Make sure you proofread your ms. carefully, use uniform margins (1 inch or 1.25 inch are standard), use a readable font (Courier or Times Roman are best), and only print one side of the page.

Don’t—Ask everyone on the Internet to spam email the publisher or agent with pleas to buy your novel. That’s a good guarantee no one will read your book.

Don’t—Wait by the mailbox (or email box) after you’ve submitted your book. Immerse yourself in another project. Agents and editors will take anywhere from one to twelve months to get back to you. No, there is no way around this; publishers/agents are overworked and understaffed. Do something constructive during that time, like write another book.

Don’t—Expect to make millions of dollars on your first book. It could happen! But in genre fiction, it’s unusual to be offered a huge contract right away. Most genre novelists start out on the low end of the scale. However, once you get started, the sky’s the limit!

Don’t—Assume you have to start small (e.g., small press or epress) before you break into large press. Anyone can break into large press. Publishing with small press first is just one way in.

Don’t—Assume you have to publish with a large press. If small press or epublishers make you happiest, stay with them.

Don’t—Give up! Writing is a profession in which the persistent succeed. It’s difficult, it’s discouraging, it’s easy to find excuses to stop. Talent is good, but persistence moves you to your goals.

1 comment:

Dog Day Dave said...

How frustrating is this publishing malarky?!
I've always been a writer, always been told to be a writer, so I do; I write copy and proposals and creative marketing campaigns, and I'm used to getting through to the decision makers straight away - because what I write (and design) makes then money - but publishers? where do you start? Ok so they're busy but if I can fit a couple of hundred pages on top of the 50 hour weeks I have to say oh boo hoo publisher people: I'm just scared stiff that I'll throw all these pearls, complete with market research, campaign and PR proposals in front of a post grad work experience bod who wont understand a word and so bin it before it reaches anyone.
Who was it said "Never take no from someone who cant say yes"
All I want to know is who can say yes? Is the whole industry paranoid or is that me? mmm...