Blogger: Rachel Kent
Before an author is published or before they’ve spent time as members in writing groups or at conferences, there are some hopes and assumptions that might be made about publishing. I’ve come up with a list of some of the “newbie” assumptions I’ve experienced–both in my own inexperience and through interactions with writers. Here’s a brief list of assumptions I’ve seen writers make:
1) All agents represent the same types of books.
Most agents have preferences and we list them on our websites. Be sure to look at an agency website before sending your query.
2) My book is so good I don’t need to follow the rules.
Refusing to follow submission guidelines because you think your book is so amazing is a quick way to get rejected. Your book might be that good, but working with someone who can’t follow the rules isn’t appealing to agents. How can we promote you to publishing houses knowing that you might be difficult for them to work with? [All of you in our blog community are lovely and I know you would all do very well working with publishers!]
3) The book market hasn’t changed since I wrote this book ten years ago.
This is something that surprised me about the publishing industry. Everything moves so slowly, but buying trends can change seemingly over night. Trends do seem to come and go, much like they do in fashion, so that book you wrote so long ago might be relevant again some day, but the market has likely changed drastically in the past few years. And your book is going to need updating one way or the other.
4) I am a good writer, so I will be published someday.
This is a tough one. I do believe that God puts the desire to write into us, but it might not be his will for all of us to be published. Our writing could be for our own benefit or for the benefit of someone close to us. I know he is using the publishing world to teach each of us life lessons and to build our faith regardless of if we end up published or not.
5) The publishing industry moves quickly.
Not! It is so very slow. Every once-in-a-while something will go fast and it shocks us all. 🙂 Just hang in there and feel free to slow your pace down a bit, too. However, if you are on a deadline I don’t suggest slowing down. Always do your best to meet deadlines because that helps to keep things plodding along at that steady, albeit slow, pace.
6) I will be able to support my family with writing income after I get a book published.
This is unlikely. I sure hope your book does so well, but very few books really take off like this. And even if you are a multi-published writer the money comes in unpredictable clumps a few times throughout the year. Writing is not a good job for a steady, predictable income.
What else have you learned about these assumptions at this point in your writing careeer? Do you have anything you would add to this list?
Nice list! I’d add this, as a misplaced assumption – “Once I get my Big Break, everything will be different.”
Not really. You’ll just be you, with a contract, fame, and money. It can give you room to sharpen the good parts of your character, or trap you on indulgence of the bad. If you want to change, if you want to be the best part of yourself, money just makes it harder…so change now.
Nice one! And also a good reminder to us all regardless of if we’ve had that big break or not. We are God’s children and should find our self worth in that!
Let me tweak #2: The idea behind my book is so good and so unique that a publisher will do whatever it takes to get it into print. I don’t need to get critiques, fix my verbs, organize my paragraphs and edit, edit, edit. This from someone who knows that I’m in the midst of edit-edit-edit of my own book; I am relieved–I was afraid he would ask me to edit-edit-edit his.
Oh, good. Now you’ll have time to edit-edit-edit mine? Yes?
For you, Andrew, it would be an honor.
Wow, I’m speechless. The honour would be mine, Shirlee.
Just…Wow. I’m glad you aren’t in that awkward place!
Good addition to the list!
A little twist on your tweak: A pre-published author who blogs (and who struggles with the basics of writing, to put it nicely) challenged me, “Why do I need to edit my blog posts? After all, it’s JUST a blog.”
I suggested to this person that a blog is not JUST a blog. It’s a form of publication, and agents and editors have been known to visit the blog of a pre-published author to check out his or her ability to write, edit, and publish consistently.
When you fail to edit any writing you do (including comments you leave on the Books & Such blog), you send the message that you don’t really care about the quality of your own writing. And if you don’t care, why should an agent or editor care about hiring you?
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I only need one draft.
My idea is original.
Non-writers won’t suggest I write their story.
I won’t need a few standard “polite no-thank you” responses because everyone will keep their lame advice to themselves.
Nobody can intimidate me, I’m a hockey mom.
Every writer can spell.
Everyone who sees me writing notes during the sermon thinks I’m ultra spiritual.
I can do this!
I can’t do this!
Agents love droll, ironic statements in queries.
I have naturally red hair. (Truth? I HAD naturally red hair.)
And …I’ll love every word I write.
Well, there’s only one draft for ME, that’s for sure…make mine Molsen.
Wow! What a list! Thank you.
And I do not have naturally red hair. Some people call my daughter a strawberry blonde though…so maybe I can live vicariously. 🙂
* “It’s all about the writing” (aka Good writing never goes out of style) – Does no one else remember the 1960s?
* “Trust your editor, he know what he’s doing.” – Which is why, I suppose, members of the 82 and 101st Airborne, have suddenly found their history rewritten, and are going into the fray with .45 revolvers instead of the M1911 .45 automatic, and why the assault gliders of their glider infantry regiments have had their wings covered in…NYLON? And why Britain’s incomparable Lancaster bomber is now clad in steel, rather than aluminum. (Both examples from multi-published historians.)
* “You don’t need qualifications, you’re an expert by your experiences.” – As long as you’re also a twentysomething celebrity with a storebought smile and chiseled abs, yes.
* “You don’t need a publisher…CreateSpace is here to help!” – More true than I would have thought, as long as one is willing to learn how to effectively create a platform that generates sales by oneself…but wait, aren’t publishers expecting that now..?
* “Write your heart!” – No, Scripture says that my heart will lead me astray. I’d rather write my faith, with a mind informed by God, thank you.
* “Make sure your story can carry a sequel.” – Like the follow-on to ‘Lord Of The Flies’, in which those wacky boys developed the concepts for ‘Lost’ and ‘Survivor’?
* “Sex sells!” – Yes, and that’s called prostitution.
Wait! There’s MORE, if you order within the next fifteen minutes…
“Gramur and speling doesn’t matter none in the memoire you writes.” – Just have the ghost you’ve assigned call me, old boy, and we’ll do lunch.
“…and neither does punctuation and capitalization rules aren’t important either you see rachel and rachelle and wendy and mary and janet and michelle they are for the traditionalists and not for we the creative.” – as we wait for the return of e e cummings wait hes really dead now what
* “Don’t worry about being vague in your query…agent have seen it all, and they UNDERSTAND that you can’t tell quality writing from a fragment.” – And they understand when to say “PASS!”
* “CBA is ready for some fresh, innovative ways of looking at Jesus as a revolutionary leader…bringing power to the people!” – And please don’t let the door hit you in your bell-bottomed butt on your way out.
* “ABA is ready for boldly spiritual novels that will call their readers from sin!” – just have St. Peter frisk ’em at the gate for hidden copies of “50 Shades”
Wow! Great ones! And thank you for taking the time to come up with such a detailed list.
Andrew you are crazy … love your humor
Kristen Joy Wilks
Ah yes, 14 years ago when I first took that little test for a distance writing course, I simultaneously feared that I wouldn’t pass and also thought that I was a good enough writer that I could accomplish my goals before my children were born. Amazing how far the pendulum swings. Slowly, oh so slowly I have improved my craft.
But you ARE improving and you haven’t given up. God loves persistence! 🙂 (Luke 18:1-8, and James 1:2-4)
That after years of writing non-fiction, articles, etc., writing fiction couldn’t be so difficult. Right. 🙂
And when I think I’m finished editing, I’m actually finished editing. Right. Let’s go around that merry-go-round another 30 times+. 🙂
This made me laugh….the mistakes are never-ending, your sentences can always be stronger, the story can always be tighter….it is an never-ending process. But the good news is that after reading your book like 50 times +, if you still like it, you know you wrote something worthwhile! (Or at least, that is how I see it!)
Thanks so much for this list. For anybody wanting to succeed in a solitary creative endeavor (like writing) it’s so important to look at it with a realistic, though not pessimistic, view. Thanks for providing that today.
You’re welcome! Thanks for the nice comment. 🙂
Great list of dangerous assumptions, Rachel. In a way, they remind me of the obstacles on American Ninja Warrior – a show my husband likes to watch on television. It’s all about training, conditioning, adjusting, approaching from the right angle. Like those contestants, I just can’t stop when it comes to writing. Have to press on again and again.
True! There’s a lot of training and learning for each writer to do before reaching the “finish line.”
I think your last point on making a living off of writing is a great one, Rachel. I’m still a relatively young writer, but I’ve put in a lot of time and research by this point and the rose colored glasses are gone. I know writing for publication is a slog, and not the relatively easy and glamorous undertaking some folks take it to be. But the myth of making an easy living off of writing persists and I hear it most often from those who either haven’t started to write or who have a single first draft sitting in a drawer somewhere.
In conversations with people who still believe the myth, I try to remember that they’re beginning their journey. They’ll either learn fast or give up quickly!
That all you need is a self-edit before submission. I have no clue how that is done, I have had several tell me to try it on my own but there’s NO way!
Recently had to self publish since no one wanted to take a chance on an unpublished author like me. The book did relatively well (almost one-hundred 4-5 star reviews on Amazon). Now that I had a well received book, I started a sequel and queried a well known agent. I told her that she must have large amounts of hard charging testosterone if the monstrous size of her jaw was any indication and I asked her to look at my manuscript. Her response was sort of blunt. One thing about agents like her: they’re moody.
I would add one:
7) My publisher will promote my book hard, and I won’t need to do a thing – except cash the checks.
Oh my goodness, everything communicated in this blog and comments is apt and uncomfortably true. It’s nice, though, that our writing skills improve and the craft is honed as we slowly become better and more efficient at what we do. If we stay the course, if we persist even without a cheerleading section cheering us on, we can expect and know that in time some doors will begin to open. Through much determined persistence and God’s blessed enabling, our message will begin to take on wings ‘Like Pegasus giving rise to the sky.’ P.S. I love everyone’s lists and humor. Keep writing ’em.
Thank you, Norma!
Janet Ann Collins
Since God called me to write any agent or publisher who rejects what I write is defying God. Shame on them!
Janet…you are hilarious. That is going to be my new attitude!
Janet Ann Collins
Heres another false assumption for Christian writers: Because God called me to write (1) I will become rich and famous and (2) what flows from my pen or through my word processing is inspired and doesn’t need to be critiqued or edited. I’ve been guilty of the first assumption but I got over it. Sometimes Christian writers give me sometime to read but because they believe its inspired they aren’t open to any suggestions. However, I’m pretty sure their writing isn’t 100% inspired due to the number of spelling and grammar errors. Surely God knows how to spell and He knows good grammar.
Janet Ann Collins
Linda, you had me LOLing ( I think that’s now a word) at that comment.
As a yet-to-be-published-writer, I really appreciate this post. A few reactions. Are some people really as bold as #2? I can’t imagine ever saying that to a possible agent or publisher! Thank you for #4. I hope to be published one day, but this is such a beautifully put reminder to listen for and trust God’s direction. I would add, maybe as an extension of #5, that the entire process is slow before you even submit. I finished my manuscript pretty quickly, but then took quite a bit of time working with an editor. I expected to be ready to submit to agents after that (she is a professional, after all) but then I joined ACFW and was introduced to the critique environment. I am now paired with a wonderful group of women who are supporting me to polish my m-script to be the best it can be. I can’t imagine sending it off any earlier and am now in no huge hurry. It’s about doing it right, not first.
There is so much sense in all that Rachel. As Rachelle said somewhere, “Publishing is still a business”. I do find it very strange that some would presume a right to be published. I must add to that another reality check: the world won’t miss us if we never get published and it will soon forget us once we do. That is life. I honestly feel God has inspired me as I plodded along my path, but its sobering to realize that He may only have meant it all for my edification. It is as sobering that He can call on so many others to do what we think we are uniquely able to do – He even went on without Moses when He had to. I am also sobered by the thought that we tend to deflect what God is saying to us, by only hearing instead of internalizing His message and then telling others to do it. God forbid that I stay there. Let the revolution start with me. I was reflecting in our home-cell last night how often preachers vent their personal frustrations about evangelism, on their congregations, without actually doing it themselves. Actually a lot of religious activity is just packaged epithets and morals that a preacher feels compelled to bring as part of his job, but what we need is a revolution of hearts, a deeper, life-changing challenge – and we/I need it, not “they” need it.
getting published isn’t the be-all, end-all of the writing life. I’m not happier, skinnier, or more at peace after publication. While it’s exciting to see my name on a book, satisfaction must come from serving God.