Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office, CA
In a series of my blog posts, we discussed career killers–those missteps that spell the “kiss of death” to a writer’s career. Several of you commented, asking what can be done to save a flagging career, regardless of whether you had committed any of my career no-nos.
Before we can talk about jumpstarting your career (or your hoped-for career), we need to assess the situation. What are some of the indications of stalled aspirations or failing career?
You may be still trying to get published and feeling as if you can’t even get the engine to turn over. Today we’ll talk about some strategies to jumpstart that dream.
Or maybe you’re already published. Remember when you sold your first book? You knew your worries were over. You’d successfully navigated the obstacles to getting an agent. You’d sent a successful query followed by a partial manuscript. You received a request for the full manuscript and then– be still, my heart– received an offer for representation. You’d worked so long and hard to get an agent it almost felt like icing on the cake when your agent sold your book. Or maybe she sold two. Or three. Your career was on its way. Nothing could stop you. No way but up. Thunk! Somewhere between the promise of the first sale and the realities of the publishing industry, your career seriously stalled. What to do? Hang on, we’ll tackle these issues on Tuesday and Wednesday.
And finally, you may have experienced some nice steady success early on but, for one reason or another, you took a hiatus from writing. You’re raring to come back but no one even remembers your name. The publishing world moved on and you’re yesterday’s news. Is there a way to make a successful comeback? Let’s explore that on Thursday. But for now. . .
How do you jumpstart your dream? Let’s say you’ve been writing for a while. You’ve got what you believe is a great idea, you’ve written the manuscript, you’ve learned to write a query and a proposal but you can’t seem to get the attention of either an agent or editor.
Let me ask you the following questions:
- Have you had your work– query, proposal and manuscript– evaluated by a competent critique group or critique partner? The best critique partner would recognize good writing, would know your category or genre and would have a feel for the market. That kind of honest analysis will save you much wasted time and frustration. How do you find such a person? If you are in online writing groups you should soon be able to spot the wisest, most connected members. Figure out how you can strike up a reciprocal relationship. If you are not as experienced, perhaps you can offer something else of value in exchange– say, graphic design or marketing help.
- Are you querying the right people? Just looking up agents in listings is not the way to find an agent. I would guess that 75% of the queries I receive are not appropriate for me. Had the writer read our website he could have saved both of us the time. The best way to find an agent is through referral, through meeting that agent at a conference or by studying the website and reading some of the books that agent represents. By targeting your query carefully, you’ll raise your chance of success exponentially.
- Have you tried to be strategic? For instance, these days we often hear of laid-off editors deciding to become agents. A new agent is often building a list from scratch and may be more open to a beginning writer who shows great promise.
- Are you networking? With Facebook, Twitter, online groups and writing conferences it’s easier than ever to become known in writing circles. Read agent blogs and comment on them. Get to know other writers. When agents or editors come to like you first, it’s natural that they are more open to considering your work.
If you answered yes to all of the questions above, if you’ve sent out numerous queries or manuscripts and still haven’t had a nibble, maybe your book is the wrong book. I’ve heard editors talk about writers who come to conference after conference, clutching the same beloved dog-eared manuscript. It’s become almost an icon to them. It’s time to put that manuscript in a drawer and start something new. Most writers, me included, will tell you that the first book written was not the first book sold. In my case, I sold my second book first. My editor then asked if I had something else and I sent that first manuscript and got a two-book offer. But it was the second book that caught her eye.
The key to jumpstarting your dream of a writing career is to be proactive. Do everything in your power to be strategic, to have the best book, to choose the right editor or agent, to be connected and to be prepared to change course if need be.
It’s your turn: If you’re not yet published, what has been been your biggest frustration? (Yes, venting allowed.) If you are already on your way, what advice would you give to those who long to jumpstart their writing dreams?