If you look up “dish the tea” or “spill the tea” in the Urban Dictionary you’ll find it means spilling a juicy bit of knowledge. In this case, tea (or T) stands for truth. I’d like to quickly spill the truth on ten easy ways to fail in your quest to get published.
Spilling the Tea #1— Too Many Directions— A writer who comes to us with too many options, too many genres, too many categories of nonfiction possibilities is a writer who is not likely to find representation or be published. We are looking for the author who has honed his direction and knows exactly where he belongs and what he is called to write.
Spilling the Tea #2— Grandiose Expectations— Every agent can tell tales of bigger-than-life statements we’ve received in our queries. “You’ll be able to retire on the commissions from my book,” or ” I am the only one who can do justice to this subject.” We know how hard it is to manage regular expectations. Confidence is good as long as it’s balanced with a dose of reality.
Spilling the Tea #3— A Book that is too General— “My book is about living.” Um, any specific part of living? A book that is too general is simply not interesting. The writer needs to find an interesting aspect of the topic that has not been well covered. A fascinating new piece of the subject is what makes a good book.
Spilling the Tea #4— A Book that is too Specific— It sounds as if that’s exactly what I was asking for above— specificity, but it’s that happy medium. If the book is too specific or written to a unique demographic, it probably doesn’t have a big enough audience to make it interesting to a publisher.
Spilling the Tea #5— Lots of Talk, No Follow-through— These are the writers who pitch one idea after another and never really get around to writing a book.
Spilling the Tea #6— Refusing to be Edited— This can be a career ender. Receiving edits is one of the hardest day in the life of an author. (I know. I have some of my own here that I need to work on.) But creating a book is really a team effort and edits are a big part of that. It’s true, sometimes the edits are unfair or practically strip the voice out of a work. If your agent agrees, she’ll go to bat for you, but we have to be prepared to lose some of our little darlings.
Spilling the Tea #7— Refusing Advice— This is a hard one. If a writer consistently refuses the advice of professionals, it is a sign that writer will probably do better going it alone.
Spilling the Tea #8— Writing a Book Outside your Wheelhouse— Agents and publishers are looking for authors who will write their subject, the subject they’ve spent their lives honing. These days no one seems to be looking for a generalist. Even with fiction, publishers love a writer who stays in the same era or region of the country for book after book.
Spilling the Tea #9— Assuming that all it Takes is Great Writing— How I wish this were true! Great writing is important indeed, but a writer needs to offer a connection with his potential readers. (Ofttimes characterized by that ugly word, platform.)
Spilling the Tea #10— Not Reading Enough— This is a deal breaker. A writer must be well read in his genre or subject matter. If not, it shows, especially when you complete the competition section of your proposal. But even more, we learn far more from reading good books than any number of classes or books on the craft of writing. Read. Read. Read.
Okay. Your turn. Do you have some tea to dish about getting published?
I’ve got a book for everyone,
and it’s an easy sell,
’bout how life’s answers will all come
from a bright-found seashell.
It’s like that Seagull, Jonathan,
and channels War and Peace,
and it’s set in every foreign land
across the Seven Seas,
If I may now say so,
my prose is more than nice,
and you really need not go
and offer me advice.
I know, dear agent, you’ll be smitten
when I’ve time to get it written.
#11 — Not paying attention to the people, places, and things around you. If you don’t know why a lion twitches its tail, how can you convey a realistic scenario of a lion attack to readers?
Kathy, your comment inspired me.
NEVER a good idea.
Oh, look, the lion twitched his tail!
My friend, that is the way
he wants to let his joy prevail,
and that he wants to play.
That rattlesnake, now, do you hear?
His message isn’t phony;
it’s his wish that you come near,
because he’s getting lonely.
And that hyena’s lowered head,
and shoulders with raised hair…
he just wants to be hand-fed
to show him that you care.
And at a NASCAR race you’ll a party start
when you shout, “To h*** with Dale Earnhardt!”
If you’re not a NASCAR devotee, saying anything bad about the late and loved #3 means a quick trip to the hospital, with a likely toe-tag at the end of the visit.
Kristen Joy Wilks
These are great! And I’ve learned a lot about #8 and figuring out exactly what my wheelhouse is of late. You wouldn’t think that it would take 20 years and 23 manuscripts to figure out what you are good at … even so, it is wonderful to finally start to have a clue about where my gifting is, ha!