Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's About Manners, My Dear. You Know, Professionalism

Morning All,

I've probably touched on this before, but I'm doing it again (for the sake of anyone who doesn't know it) and for those who do to give their two cents. Yes, I'm welcoming everyone to add advice, suggestions or comments to this to help one another :-)

If you're trying to get published (or that's your ultimate goal) remember your manners and professionalism. It's not that hard:

1. Agents/publishers are interested in what sells and what works. It's not to offend you, it's the way the business is. Despite what anybody might wish/want publishing is a business.

2. Just because there's not necessarily new ideas out there (just new twists on an idea) doesn't mean you're allowed to plagiarize another writer's work (i.e. take their characters, exact same situations, et cetera and write your own story and try to publish it). You have to come up with your own. This means knowing the rules, copyrights, and what flies and what doesn't. (this means your Harry Potter or Twilight or Interview With A Vampire fanfictions are not options for publication, sorry, the copyrights are still valid and you'll have lawyers writing you letters telling you to cease and desist). If you can write a fanfiction you can come up with your own stories, trust me. Imagination is a great foundation and muscle in writing. Exercise it.

3. Professionalism doesn't mean you put down other writers, agents, publishers, readers, genres, magazines, you name it (especially in your query letters). Professionalism means you treat other people with the professional respect this industry demands. Putting down others doesn't mean you look better. Several agents have covered this very point. Or for that matter, do your best not to say "Never before has there ever been a book about..." because chances are there's 5 out there on the same subject. Talk about why yours is different and unique.

Those 3 rules seem to be the biggest pet peeves I've seen on some agent blogs. They're not trying to discourage, they're trying to give you pointers to help you get published.

What does this all mean for us writers? It means do your research. Read up on the publishing business (even if you don't know everything, the more you do know will help you understand how things work better).

The rejection slips you get aren't about the agents losing out, it's about whether or not they think they can represent you. Just because Agent A said no, doesn't mean Agent B will. Or Agents C-Z. To translate: have options. If one says "no", keep going.

Check out what each agent is willing to represent. Most agents out there have websites. These websites have "Submission Guidelines". Before you query, check them out so that you're doing things exactly the way that works for them. Part of this is based on their work load, or what they're most interested in. Some agents prefer e-mail queries--for them that's easier--others prefer mailed-in queries--that works best for them. Some agents want only Sci-Fi or Thrillers, others are open to almost anything. Some don't accept poetry, or YA novels, others welcome those YA novels with open arms. Translation: Know the agents you're querying, that is, know their preferences.

Some might think that agents are being too picky. My view is that agents know what they can sell. They know what they like best, and what they are most willing to take on. Ultimately, it is their descision. Why alienate them by complaining about the preferences rather than saying "Okay, I want an agent who will work their hardest for me. If Agent C doesn't like Thrillers, then I'll check out Agent F."?

The book business is huge. It has it's influxes and declines. There are a lot of options out there for writers. Everything from workshops to contests to a huge number of agents out there.

There's too many options for writers to get whiny about preferences. Too many options for us writers to sit there going "Oh this is so hard." Think about it: we write novels that are anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 words in length (roughly 200 to 400 pages in printed form). That's isn't always easy. We writers aren't writing/publishing because it's easy, we're doing it out of love of the craft--which is important. If you don't love what you do, then eventually someone will see that, and your work won't be the best you could do.

So, what's a little pride swallowing for the sake of that the 90,000 word count novel you have all prepped, polished and ready to query? In the long run, your characters, story, and craft will thank you for believing in it enough to check out who will best represent and best work with it. And in the end, you'll be happy you played it straight because others around you will appreciate your efforts...even if it takes a few rejection slips and rewrites to get there.

Best of luck! Feel free to "weigh-in".

Have A Working Well Wednesday!


Bane of Anubis said...

Yes, definitely need to learn to swallow the pride super quickly.

bethanyintexas said...


Thanks for dropping by! No room for pride when querying.