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."