erica m. chapman

ya writer

10 Things I’ve Learned About Publishing So Far

posted by on Jan 7, 2014 | 12 comments

Hi Everyone!!

I hope you’re all having a good week so far and you’re staying warm!

So, I’ve been writing for a while now and I’ve learned a bit about publishing from being a writer/editor/agent intern. I’ve seen a lot of different sides to this crazy industry and I’m going to share the top 10 things I’ve learned with you ;o) You may already know them, but thought I’d share anyway!

1. Subjectivity is real. It’s not just what an agent/editor says to reject your work. Folks, I’ve seen this in action, both as a writer and an editor. Tastes differ. Sometimes I’ll read something then read it again and think… this isn’t as good as I thought. An agent/editor is going to read your story several times before it gets published, they need to love it.

2. Patience is a virtue. I’ve seen writers shoot themselves in the foot so often I wonder why they can’t just wait. I know it’s hard. Believe me. But what’s the rush? Take your time and get an agent and editor who loves your work. To do this does take time and it will seem like light years for them to get back to you. It’s okay. That’s not about you. Most likely, that’s about them and their time and what they have prioritized in front of your work, more often than not, their own clients’ work.

3. Helping your fellow writers is a great thing for your soul, but it takes a lot of time too. I try to help writers as much as I can. I know what it’s like to be in the query trenches. I try to get involved in contests like Brenda Drake’s pitch madness and pitch wars, and I was recently a judge for the Georgia Romance Writers Conference: The Maggie Awards For Excellence for the unpublished YA category. I love helping writers and I encourage everyone to do it, but it does take extra time. If you commit to contests and judging, be aware of the time commitment. I make sure I balance it and make sure I have the time before saying yes. Please feel free to ask me questions, and I’ll do my best to answer.

4. Agents are business associates. Publishing is a business, so your correspondence with agents should be professional, confident and straight-forward. If they have a policy on “nudging” follow it, don’t be afraid to follow their guidelines, in fact, if they have guidelines, follow them. If they ask you to attach the first 25k to the email, or some other strange thing, then do it. That’s what they want. I’ve read about writers waiting for months and months to nudge because they are afraid to bother agents. I hate seeing this. If they have a posted policy, that’s what they expect. You are only doing yourself a disservice by not following it. On the same hand. Wait until that posted time to nudge. Don’t follow-up a week after you query.

5. Queries/Pitches are still hard to write. Yep. No matter how many times I try to write one it isn’t easy on the first try. And don’t get me started on Synopses. Hoo Boy. Those are a practice in will power. I envy those who can write them easily, I am not one. I can edit queries and pitches with the best, but writing them on the first try is still a struggle. I will say it has gotten easier each time I do, so hopefully one day they will be like second nature to me. It has made it easier now that I know what the structure looks like: Intriguing tag line. What’s the issue? Obstacles? What does the MC stand to lose if goal isn’t met. Also, add in the voice. At least that’s what works for me.

6. Someone somewhere is probably writing a book about the same subject you are. It’s okay. It happens. There are only so many stories to be told. Ideas are limited. There are roughly 7 billion people on earth, chances of you being the ONLY one to think of your idea is… unlikely. However, you are the only YOU. Your voice is what makes your book special, so therefore don’t get discouraged when you hear someone else have the same cool idea. Make your story uniquely YOU.

7. Read, read, read. It’s so important, you guys. When I hear of writers only writing it makes me sad. One can not write in a genre they have not read in. I mean… they can, but I doubt it would be as good as a writer who read in that genre. I know it’s hard to make time, but as writers we have to know what’s out there. I read in binges usually, 3-5 books at a time, then I revise or write, then I do it all over again. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it. Trust me. You’ll be a better writer.

8. Learn social media and learn it well. Don’t spam. I’m amazed to still see this being done. Don’t follow others JUST to get them to follow back. It’s a conversation. And don’t be offended if others don’t follow you back. I doubt it’s personal. Sometimes I just haven’t gone through my list to follow others. It takes time. If you talk to me often though, chances are I’ll follow you. If you write a blog post, try to share it sparingly. Let others pass along the info for you. I try to link blog posts twice and call it good. My beloved friends on twitter typically RT me, which I’m so grateful for. In the same sense, I RT them and other info I think writers will find interesting and of course, cute animals, cause HELLO, cute animals. I wrote a blog post on the basics of social media, you can find it here, if you want to read it. We were all new once too. I just recently looked at my first few tweets and they were pretty generic. We all have to start somewhere, but take your time to get to know people on a real level, not just try to get them to follow you. Reach out and speak to other writers/authors. Chances are they’ll talk back ;o)

9. Readers don’t really care where you publish your book. Think about it. Before you were a writer, did you even know the names of most of the imprints? I think I knew Penguin and HarperCollins and that’s about it. Readers want to read a GREAT BOOK. That’s it. So if you want to self-publish, go with a smaller pub, Big 5, whatever, it’s cool. Readers probably won’t know the difference and in the end, that’s who we’re writing books for ;o)

10. The writing community is the best. I’ve seen writers over the years volunteer their time, money, expertise; they mentor other writers, send emails to their fans, let their fans into their little worlds by sharing more than we thought we wanted to know about a series, they answer questions. They RT your blog posts, ask how you’re doing, console you when you’re sad, lift you up when you are excited, empathize with you and hold your hand. I could not think of a better group to be a part of. Thank you to all of you!

So. What do you think? Got anything to add?

Have a wonderful rest of the week and KEEP WARM and BE SAFE!

Rock on,

erica

12 Comments

  1. Well said.
    The writing community is pretty awesome. It continually amazes me.

  2. Fantastic post! Interning in publishing has definitely opened my eyes to how subjective it is, and I don’t think writing synopses ever gets easier! But the writing community is absolutely fantastic and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

  3. Excellent post! (And I agree, synopses are EVIL!)

  4. You forgot the part about friends will tempt you to participate/judge in contests when you are too busy to breathe and how to resist said friends. Ha! Wonderful list and thank you for helping other writers and me!

    • HAHAHAHA! I’m happy to help my friends ;o) Thank YOU <33

  5. Love this. Straight forward. No nonsense. Hits all the right points. Re: #10: It’s so important to try to pay it forward in honest, not completely self-serving ways. It’s difficult to find one’s own niche. I’m still swimming around. But social media, I suppose, does expand the possibilities.

    • Thanks so much! It seems too, for sure. Social media has worked better than anything I’ve found ;o)

  6. Very relatable and TRUE! I have found the same things affecting my life. I tend to take on too much and get overwhelmed by the commitment, but then still dig in, determined to complete everything I committed to. Until I want to be committed. LOL!

    The Pitch Wars contest was indeed a LOT of work! It was my first year this year participating as a mentor and I wanted to write feedback for everyone, which ended up being a massive undertaking! I still want to get around to reading the books of the other two on my team. When I return to that mythical land of When I Have Time.

    And you are so right about subjectivity and the difficulty of pitch-writing. I have improved a lot while helping others clarify their pitch materials, but I need to write a blurb to send along with my next novel to my agent (she said go ahead and include it since it helps with thinking about how to sub it), and . . . it’s still intimidating, darn it. :/

    • Yes, Julie! I so agree too. Pitch Wars is a lot of fun but it’s a a lot of work too! I love helping other writers though ;o) Writing any type of blurb/synopsis is so intimidating! But that’s what keeps it honest, right? Thanks for stopping by!!

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