Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes
1. Don’t just start sending out your manuscript once you’re done with it. You need to research the publishing industry right down to the period. There are scams out there, and people will take advantage of you. You need to know what an agent is, what traditional publishing is, independent publishing, and self-publishing. You need to know all the nuances of these before you start submitting. Know your query letters, book synopses, and book proposals. There is a girl in my dance class falling in the trap of hysterically searching for a company because she desperately wants people to read her work. She knows nothing about publishing and claims a company already called her. I don’t know if she’s lying or not, but I fear if she isn’t, she’s landing herself in a nasty trap, especially because she has only just written this book. I did my best to arm her with information, but the publishing bug is tempting, especially for a young teen.
2. As a newbie writer, don’t expect your first manuscript to be the one you’ll start subbing. You’re still developing your craft, and both your writing and storytelling skills are likely going to improve from book to book–as in very noticeable improvements. It’s rare for the first book to be it, but it does happen. When Stars Die is my fourth book, and it took me about 1,000,000 words later to have my writing of publishable quality. Now you’re going to keep improving even after, but the point is is that you want to bring everything to publishable standards. The only way you’re going to know this is through beta readers, possibly having experts look at it through webinars and book conferences, or getting a freelance editor. You’ll also develop a gut instinct as a writer that will signal to you when something is still severely wrong.
3. Don’t expect to make bank. Most authors are mid-listers in the traditional field, and they’re increasingly drowning because the current model is no longer designed to help them but those that are potential bestsellers. Your advance will not be that great compared to the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into it, but keep trying. You can also go the independent house route, where your money is based of royalties alone, or self-publishing, where you’ll have to spend money to make money.
4. Expect rejection. Rejection slips can average about 50-100 before you get an acceptance. I know someone who received 500 rejection slips, and it wasn’t that her book wasn’t good because it was. They just didn’t think it was marketable. I know another who received 100 before finally getting an agent. So don’t get discouraged on the 10th rejection because, on average, it will happen. I got lucky and got an acceptance on my first try to the only publisher I sent my manuscript to (it was on a total whim). But my short stories are a different story.
5. Last, write for yourself first, then edit for your readers. The story comes from you and so when drafting, let it flow from only you and no one else. Then once you get revising, you have to start doing it with readers in mind because who will be reading it? Readers of course. They’re why publishing even exists. When you do your final read through, you’ve got to do it from a reader’s perspective: is this sentence too long winded, is this character melodramatic, are there any noticeable plot holes that would confuse readers on a quick read through?
There is a lot more advice that I’d give, but I don’t like to do really long posts, so I think this is a good enough list.