|Art by Jon Stich|
When I first started writing, I had a million questions about the business of publishing and the world of writing but not very many people to ask. I remember basically just winging it until I became bold enough to ask for help from some of my literary idols as well as colleagues who were further along in the game than I was.
Over the years, through much trial and error and tears, I’ve amassed a bit of experience that I’d love to share with anyone who needs it. Today, I’m taking the time to answer some questions I’ve been asked about writing/publishing and post them here. If, as a writer or publishing professional, you’ve had contrasting experiences or altogether different answers to any of these questions, please feel free to share them here.
Question 1: How do you discipline yourself to actually write when you have a non-writing full-time job?
Answer: The best way I found while working corporate was to give myself a strict deadline then share that deadline and the writing goal with someone else - another writer or a loved one or even social media connections - to keep me accountable.
I also limited my other pleasures so I could have the singular bliss of actually finishing my writing project. I wrote during my lunch breaks (no lunch with co-workers), deleted TV from my after-work routine, and only allowed myself to go out one night a week. All those pockets of time before, between, and after work do eventually add up to a finished project.
Another way to find your discipline is to strictly schedule your writing time using a scheduler like this one - http://bit.ly/1UlaJOt - and use this along with the Twitter hashtag #1k1hr which puts you in front of your computer with other writers racing to get (at least) 1,000 words written in one hour.
Question 2: How do you find an agent?
Answer: Finding an agent, especially a good one, can be a bit like getting your hands on the Holy Grail. I found my first agent by searching online for agents who represented my genre and simply cold querying them. That worked for me then – over ten years ago – and still yields success for some. Other methods that have worked for authors include:
· Search for the agent who reps successful authors in your genre then query those agents.
· Talk to an author whose career you envy/love and ask who their agent is.
· Attend writing conferences and sign up for pitch sessions with participating agents.
· On Twitter, take part in agent pitching contests like #PitMad, #QueryKombat, #PitchSlam, and others. Check out Carissa Taylor’s blog for the current schedule of Twitter pitches: http://bit.ly/1WAQYsi
There are many other ways to find an agent, including sheer luck. But whichever road you choose, before you go there, make sure your book is complete and as perfect as you can possibly make it.
Question 3: How to get published and the pros and cons of self-publishing.
Answer: To be traditionally published, it’s best to get an agent so they can make sure your book is truly ready for submission, to help guide your career, and to negotiate the best publishing deal for you. If you want to bypass the agent though, see the above answer about agents and substitute “publisher” for “agent.”
Self-publishing is even more of a viable option for authors these days. Some, like me, choose to both traditionally publish and self-publish. The Pros: Complete control over your book’s cover/interior matter/price, all the profits come to you, and you write exactly what you want to write. Cons: You do all the work to get the book ready and out into the world, your distribution is limited (no chance for it being in airports, bookstores in other countries, etc.), and you do all the marketing work (although most publishers these days already put the bulk of marketing efforts on the author).
Question 4: How to find your tribe or community of writers and support within the community when you don't have the funds for an MFA or workshops.
Answer: Although I’ve been through an MFA, I can’t say I have a writing community that’s extended from that experience. Instead, I’ve found community by joining writing Meetup.com groups, approaching other writers online and in person, joining membership organizations like my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, and attending other writers’ book events so I can meet them and chat them up. Once these connections are established, I make sure to keep in contact. It can be a bit like trying to make friends in school, but the rewards are well worth it.
Do you have any different answers for these writers? Are there any questions of yours you want to add? Post below!