Sunday, December 16, 2007

ANOTHER WRITER'S WISDOM . . . ON PUBLISHING YOUR FIRST BOOK . . .

While blog hopping several weeks ago, I ran across a gem of a piece entitled "Things I've Learned Since My First Book Got Published." The writer, Cherie Priest, posted a list of 20 things she'd learned in the process of publishing her first book.

Even though my own debut novel is still several months away from hitting the shelves, I can already relate to most of the items on Ms. Priest's list. The following are the ones in particular that made me nod, smile, laugh and had me shouting "Oh so true!"

Priest: "Everyone will think you are rich: Obviously, if you got a book published, someone must have given you fat sacks of cash dollars American . . ."

(My comment: Not only will people assume such, some will be so bold or rude as to ASK about the amount of your advance. Please, if nothing else, do understand, that those six figure book deals you sometimes read or hear about are the EXCEPTIONS, not the rule. Most folks who score a publishing deal are not getting paid mega-bucks. So, if that's the only reason you're trying to write, I'd advise you to look for a more lucrative hustle.)

Priest: "No one will believe you did it by writing a book that was worth publishing. Aspiring writers will be sure you had a secret short cut and you are a raging bitch for holding out on all those other poor folks who are just as worthy as you . . ."

My comment: Why is it some folks want to believe all you need is to secure the right "hook-up" or association with the right person and/or persons and the rest will take care of itself? Maybe there are some folks who actually do brown-nose or bull-s&!t their way into book deals. But I'm inclined to think the majority took the same route I did-- you know, the one that starts with sitting one's butt down in a chair somewhere and writing until there's a finished product? And if you think that part is hard, there's really no need of discussing what comes next.

Priest: "You now have the inside track to publishing. Everyone you've ever known--even in passing--who has ever written a book now thinks it's your God-given duty to put them in touch with your agent/editor/publisher. This will get awkward."

My comment: Ain't that the truth! Again, it appears to be the ole "hook me up" phenomenon at play here. Folks you hardly know and whose work you've never even read want you to "hook them up" with your agent or the editor at your publishing house. Really, this is not the same as making a recommendation for a foot doctor, a plumber or a hair stylist.

When it comes to finding an agent, I really think it's best to do YOUR OWN research as opposed to asking me for mine (smile). Find out the names and the contact info for the agents who represent what you've written. Find out if they're currently taking on new clients. Write them a query letter describing your work, telling them about your background and possibly why you want them to represent you.

Okay, I don't mind you asking me how I got my agent, or even about our working relationship. If I like you and trust that you won't abuse the info (see the next item on the list) I may even give you her name (smile) but PLEASE DON'T ask me for her contact information. It's not my job to hook you up.

Priest: "People will use your name to lie. At least twice, other writers with whom I was peripherally acquainted approached my (now former) agent and told him that I'd recommended them."

My comment: Nothing shocks me any more. In this age of win at all costs, folks seem willing to say or do anything if they think it will get them ahead. This is one of the main reasons I avoid giving out detailed information about my agent and other literary contacts. I have yet to give the name of my agent on this blog, but any savvy Googler can easily find it. But for the record, I honestly haven't been with my agent long enough to feel comfortable recommending folks to her.

Besides, recommendations don't always work out. I got MY FIRST AGENT via a totally unsolicted recommendation from a well-intentioned associate. If I told you who that agent was and who else she represented, you'd probably be incredibly impressed. But even though she eagerly signed me, she, as it turns out, was SO NOT the right agent for me.

As I indicated, these were some of my favorites from Cherie Priest's 20 item list. If you'd like to read the others see: "Things I've Learned Since My First Book Got Published."

5 comments:

Emanuel Carpenter said...

Oh my God! People like about recommendations? That's horrible and incredibly stupid. Don't they know the agent will ask the author if the recommendation is legit?

Regarding the hook up thing, I actually have an article coming out on Blogging in Black later in 2008 about that.

Everyone assumes you're rich? Well that really depends. If they see you driving the same car to go the same job sitting in a cubicle next to them, they probably won't assume you're rich. In fact, a lot of authors make themselves look stupid when they brag to co-workers and friends about their books and look as if they haven't made any progress in their lives.

As for me, I think it's pretty exciting to appear on the local radio station, to have my face in the newspapers, and to have booksignings in stores. What really does it for me is getting a great book review because I care more about writing quality work than making money or getting fame. Still, that semi-celebrity status is addictive.

BTW, you surely won't miss CLE today. Blizzard conditions!

Keith said...

I'm hoping to publish something soon, anything. I've submitted several articles to publications over the last year and nothing has come of it. I wish I had the problems Cherie Priest has because that would at least mean that I've been published!

Anonymous said...

Meant to say "lie" not "like." Fat fingers.

-Emanuel

Lori said...

Hey Emanuel,
Bragging about your books is one thing, bragging about how much money you've made from your books is something totally different (smile). Just because you've published 2,3 or even 4 books doesn't always mean there will be noticeable changes (economic or otherwise) in the way you lead your life.

Personally, I think the whole notion that writing leads to riches and fame is what is helping to send the whole industry fast into the toliet. But that's just me. Everyone writes for different reasons.

I haven't done the booksigning thing yet, (looking forward to it) but I have had my picture in the paper (several times) as well as in a couple of magazines, I've signed autographs, received my first fan letter, been of the radio & TV (not for my writing, but to help promote a film fest I helped organize) but to tell you the truth, none of that (okay, except for the fan mail) really rings my bell (smile).

Knowing that my work has entertained some folks and my own personal satisfaction with a job well done, are the perks I enjoy the most.

Lori said...

Keith,
Keep trying. One of the reasons I read your blog on the regular is because you really do have a gift for humor. As well as you write, I have little doubt your day is coming. Perhaps you need to think outside of the box and cast your line (your writing) out further than you have been.