I love communicating with other authors, aspiring or established. Along with artists and Lhasa apsos they are my favorite people. But I recently received an email from a would-be author, of the kind that makes me say, “Oh, fudge,” and then go eat about a pound of said substance. The email was from a distant relative’s acquaintance who heard I’d had a few books traditionally published and wanted me to tell him how he could get his book traditionally published, too. I wish I knew!
Well, actually I do know. Do a mountain of work and research to make sure your book is well-written, compelling and has an audience, and then do a lot more hard work and research to find agents or publishers who are looking for that type of book, and then do even more hard work and research to learn how to properly sell it to them. And don’t expect it to happen by next Tuesday. If it happens at all.
I learned all this the hard way, and it entails far more than I could cram into one e-mail. Besides, I’m not necessarily worthy! Just having books published doesn’t make me anyone’s career expert or a fairy godmother even if I do like magic wands and pixie dust. And I’m still learning, meself.
But luckily for him, me and everyone else, in the past three or four years many first-rate agents, writers, and publishers on the blogosphere and social media sites have created a cyber-university wherein anyone can earn a virtual doctorate in Book Authorology by absorbing all the amazing FREE advice and insights a humanoid brain can hold, plus so much more it will slop right out onto your Live to Write t-shirt! I cannot post loudly enough about what a valuable development this is for every aspiring writer. I surely wish it had been there ten years ago when I was beginning my own adventures with books. Its vastness, however, can be daunting.
To get started, I told the emailer, mine the gemmy topics listed in the sidebar of top blog dog Nathan Bransford. Go deep. Then there are the perennially fresh and useful insights of agent Rachelle Gardner. I also subscribe to blogs like those of Victoria Mixon, Guide to Literary Agents and the crazy-useful Querytracker which puts powerful search-and-record tools at your callused fingertips. The esteemed pros at literary agencies such as Dystel and Goderich, including my own incredible agent, Jim McCarthy, also often take turns sharing their wisdom. All of these sites include favorite industry links that you may combine exponentially to create your own How to Succeed in Publishing and Subsume the Universe Manual.
What makes all of this even more helpful is the opportunity to get personal. Most
sites have comment sections and/or community forums filled with posts from other intelligent folks. Also, search for and follow members of the huge writing community on Twitter and then interact in real time for true Jedi enlightenment. So many people are already doing this that I can’t believe everyone doesn’t know about the depth of the Web-Lit explosion, but the emails I receive – and I’m not even an agent or editor — from unaware beginners tell me they either have no clue or have failed to take full advantage. (Another came in while I was writing this!)
I knew that this wasn’t what the nice and understandably hopeful e-mailer wanted to hear. What he – perhaps unconsciously — wanted me to say was, “Sure, even though I don’t know chickpeas about you or your book, let me set you right up!” It makes me feel bad that I haven’t the power to get anyone else’s book published, and that in turns makes me eat more fudge. And sooner or later I’ll end up on a reality show for obese writers called Pride and Fudge-udice, or The Biggest Wordsmith.
So that I may avoid such a fate, I encouraged this potentially best-selling author to delve into all the wonderful things mentioned above, and then come back with specific questions I still might not be able to answer. I haven’t heard back, so either he is unhappy OR he has become one with the online writing world and is even now empowering his own path to publication. I do hope he chose the latter.