Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writers are a strange breed

Writers are a strange breed of people sometimes to those outside of the industry. Although it's an area of creativity, there are also a lot of protocols that are followed on a traditional publishing path. Oh course there are always people who forge new paths, like our own YAtopian's Leigh and Wendy who are leading the way in publication success through writers' communities.

But there are some standard things, like both Leigh and Wendy have agents. A writer's time needs to be focused on the creation of prose, not the ins and outs of contracts. There are people out there who think agents are out there to get a slice of the writer's success. What they don't realise is that more often than not the agent is integral to the author's success. That's why writers stalk agents on twitter, dream of getting a chance to talk to them at conferences and occasionally do crazy things like turn up at the agent's office (which is a BIG no no).

Lay people also talk to me about self publishing. Someone asked me why would I want to share the profits with a publisher. Well, why would I want to struggle to get distribution, be solely responsible for my marketing and have to hire a professional editor (or run the risk of there being holes in my manuscript). Yes there are a few people that have made successes of themselves by self publishing. But even they will often jump at the change to sign with a traditional publisher.

There are friends, family and acquaintances who know I write and I get asked why I'm not published yet. The general public often don't grasp just how long it can take to write and revise a story to start off with (especially when your a working mum like me), let alone how long the road can be to finding the right agent and the right publisher.

Networking is so important nowadays in the publishing industry - I think that's because it's populated by a lot of social butterflies in part. I often get comments about how much time I spend on Twitter, Facebook and inkpop. I know it's discouraged to spend too much time on there pre-publication, but I also believe it's important to build a strong platform and a following if you can. I write best away from the house, or late at night when everyone else is asleep, so the time I spend on there isn't time I would otherwise be spending writing anyway (well that's the theory of it). Then there's conferences. So many connections can be made there and it can become like a second family. Often my online second family are also called my imaginary friends from those who just don't get social networking.

So to outsiders we can have our quirks, or seem misguided, but a writer with passion who has researched the industry well knows the right path and follows it to reach their dream.

So aspiring and published writers - what's the biggest learning curve you've had in your journey so far?


  1. Patience. That was the hardest thing for me to develop. Now I have it in heaps. The book industry is in no rush and from contract to book on shelves can be a long time! It makes it clear to me why this is such a difficult industry to break into.

  2. Determination! I've learned that with a lot of hard work and determination, I can get through the Writer's Block or finish that manuscript.

    And I agree with Steven. Patience is something every writer needs.

    ...and the good dose of coffee every once in a while.

  3. Figuring out who to take advice from. This is a huge difficulty because, as a newcomer, I have to rely almost entirely on other people's experience to guide me. Problem is, not everyone who offers advice offers good advice. I've gone through four query letters, each one based on a different format from a different source. One said to talk about platform and credentials, another said screw that just give me the summary. One said make it brief as possible, another said four decent-sized paragraphs. One said put the genre/wordcount at the top, another said at the bottom, a third said omit the wordcount entirely. I tried it all different ways, I still get bare nibbles, and because I can only query each agent once I've wasted time and effort on queries that not only didn't open doors, but explicitly closed them. And I still don't know if I'm doing it right this time.

    I keep at it, but I can well understand why so many authors choose to cut the Gordian Knot.

    Lupines and Lunatics

  4. I agree with Steven: patience. It's unbelievable how long everything takes from conception to shelf. People ask all the time why I have to wait a year to have it published. It's hard to explain. It just takes time. Bigger publishers take even longer because they have a constant stream of books they're preparing to roll-out. The waiting is enough to drive a writer mad. I've been so impatient at times that I couldn't focus on writing, and that's just not good. Now I've adjusted to the idea of long waits, so it feels normal, but at first...yikes, lol. :)