Saturday, August 29, 2009

So You Want To Be Published

      Yeah, me too. I finished my first novel, La Dame D'Or, about eight months ago. I started poking around the internet, trying to find out what to do next. I hope this post saves someone time, someone who is sticking a toe in the water like I was. Am. Because I am still learning.

     There is such an immense amount of information on the web about how to get a literary agent, how to get your book published, how to write query letters, a synopsis, etc. Don't believe me? Google any one of those phrases and you could spend the next month sifting through the information. Much of it is conflicting. There are a thousand ways, it seems, to write a query. What I want to do is share some of my own experience and offer links to some of the sites I have found most helpful.

1. Put yourself out there. Engage in the whirlwind that is social media. Join Twitter and Facebook. Find other writers like yourself. Find agents and editors and follow them. They often offer up priceless advice for free. Twitter hosts any number of chat sessions for writers to come together and talk with each other. I joined one for the first time last Sunday called #writechat. I got so many ideas for organizing, learned about programs I am not using but probably should be, and found interesting people to follow and learn from. Networking is essential. It has also saved me from thinking I am alone, I am crazy, or that I am a terrible writer and should give up because of the never ending form rejections that keep showing up in my inbox. There are others out there. Find them.

2. There are agents and editors (and in some cases, assistants, who we all know do the hard work) who are willing to help us unpublished folks learn the ins and outs of querying, signing with an agent, and publishing. The first one I stumbled onto was Janet Reid. She works for an agency called Fine Print Lit (who I have queried with no success, btw) and her advice is witty and applicable. On the days she doesn't post anything pertinent, it is still hilarious and will give you a good laugh. She also has another blog called Query Shark, where she reviews submitted queries and tears them apart for the greater good. I know my query improves vastly as I learn from the mistakes of others. I have sent two different versions to her but she hasn't chosen to review them yet. Drat. I am hoping this means they are not filled with enough mistakes to be a valid learning tool for others. I hope it doesn't mean it's boring. Here are a few others that I follow, all of which have helped me learn and made me chuckle. The Rejectionist, Editorial Ass, Rants and Ramblings, The Swivet, and Nathan Bransford. These are just a few. You will find many more.

3. Learn how to write a query letter. Use the Query Shark. This is also a helpful site for many things, including writing queries. Let others critique your query. Trust me, I thought my original version was uh-mazing. It wasn't. When I read it now, I laugh out loud at what a pretentious ass I sound like.

4. Do your research on agents and agencies. Know who likes to read what and who is or isn't accepting new clients. We don't want to waste their time and, more importantly, we don't want to waste our time. I joined a site called Writer's Market for a low monthly membership fee. Lots of benefits, such as agent updates, articles, web seminars, web page suggestions, and a way to track your queries. I have also heard good things about Query Tracker.

5. Develop a thick skin, learning to graciously accept criticism is a requirement in any creative field. It's not easy. Instinct pushes us to explain concepts further, to try and get people to see our point of view. Bottom line, though, is that not everyone will want to see it our way. Not everyone will want to read your book, no matter how great it might be. Ask for critiques from people you trust. Listen to what they say. Join a critique group, either online or in your area. These people will one day, hopefully, be your audience. Their opinions are like gold.

6. Last, but I have learned is most important: DON'T GET DISCOURAGED. Most of us will get rejected many, many times. I let myself feel disappointed for ten minutes when I receive a "no" from an agent and then I get back to work. Maybe I won't sell the first book right away. Maybe I'll sell the second, or the third. Even if I don't, I'll still be writing. All I know is that I was born to be a writer, writing is like breathing and I couldn't stop if I wanted to.

     I hope some of these links are helpful to those who have just decided to take that leap of faith and put themselves and their work out there for others to see. Letting people read what you've written is like letting them into your heart and soul and it's intimidating, to say the least. One last link to one of Janet Reid's posts. I read it every time another rejection makes me feel like I am an idiot for even trying. Keep the link in your favorites. You'll probably need it. Be Brave.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jumping in With Both Feet

      Hi out there! I have been writing since  I can remember. I have a bachelor's degree in Film, and even with that, all I wanted to do was write the scripts. At least once I found out I couldn't act. I am pursuing a Master's Degree in Ancient History, but teaching doesn't call my name either. Sometime recently, I have realized that writing is the only thing I can see myself doing. In fact, I can't seem to not do it. There are stories and characters in my head that just won't go away. It was when I could no longer make them be silent that I started to test the waters. I wrote a novel, incorporating my adoration of history and it's characters into a contemporary plot. I wrote a query letter and a synopsis after reading what seemed like millions of websites offering helpful advice on how to do so. No positive responses as of yet. Form rejection city. Three revisions of query letter later, I am thinking about sending out another round. I may ask for some help from you first.

     In the meantime I have written another historically focused novel and a memoir. I have gotten some feedback on the first novel and am revising. Which is not too fun, by the way. I am excited about an idea that has been brewing, this time around my area of specialization, Ancient Rome. I spend pretty much all my free time browsing other blogs by agents, editors, assistants (those are the best!), and other authors like myself or on Twitter trying to keep up with the same people. It's exhausting. Sometimes I feel like I could spend all my time reading about how to write instead of writing. I am working on a balance.

     I decided to start a blog mostly because I am a writer and being able to jot down any little thought that comes into my head appeals to me. I have been doing movie/book/television reviews on my husbands social media blog for some time, which has been enjoyable. Also, I wanted to connect with others like me, maybe just starting to get the hang of the process, just starting to get a whiff of how immense the online writing community is and how priceless their advice can be. I'll try and pass along any tidbits that I pick up along the way and hope you will do the same. One day I hope to have advice to offer myself, once I actually convince someone actually in publishing that my work is worth reading. Till next time.