Friday, April 08, 2011

No Excuses

Back in the dark ages when I started writing and seeking publication, writers had to rely on low-tech options like the postal service for submissions and rejections (even getting writers guidelines). Research almost certainly meant hoofing it to a library or bookstore or both.

To figure out the ropes on the whole writing/publishing gig, I subscribed to Writer's Digest. I still do, as it keeps up-to-date on trends and is a great resource for both the beginning and established writer.

I also bought a copy of Writer's Market, a giant tome that was the Bible of publishing at the time.

Then I learned about The League of Utah Writers and began attending chapter meetings, entering contests, and attending the annual conferences.

That was pretty much it for resources back then.

Fast forward to the age of Dr. Google and the Internet. No longer do you have to spend money on postage to mail a letter (or an entire manuscript) when you can use e-mail. No longer do you have to dig up resources in a library (although that's still a great place, and sometimes you will need to go there). Just open a browser window and search away.

Back when I started, finding information about how to submit and to who was hard, especially with editor/agent turnover that didn't get updated until next year's Writer's Market. If I accidentally got the wrong name on a letter (say, I used the person who left the job a month ago), it probably wasn't a big deal, because everyone knew that keeping updated was hard.

No longer.

A truth about the current world of publishing:

You have no excuse for not knowing.

Don't know how to write a query? Google it. Plenty of blogs are out there devoted to that very thing. (One of my favorites: Query Shark.)

Don't know how to format a manuscript? What about revision? Self-editing? Research? Submission? Writer's block? And, and, and . . .

Figure it out. Really. The information is out there for the taking, and in today's world, you have absolutely no excuse for not finding it.

So find industry insiders. Read their blogs. Follow them on Twitter. If you want to freelance, subscribe to newsletters like Funds for Writers. (I subscribe to all three: the regular FFW, Small Markets, and TOTAL.) Follow industry trends. Read.

Still don't know something? Look it up.

When people ask me how to get published, I'm at a bit of a loss, because it's a complex question that could take hours to explain. The answer depends on so many factors, and the process is one that took me years to learn and figure out. I try to answer as best I can, but no matter what I say, it won't be a complete answer.

In the end, the best advice I can give people is this:

Go online and learn about it.


Jenny P. said...

Great post.

I'll just add that it's also really helpful when people already in the industry are willing to answer questions and share so generously of their opinions and expertise. The insight I've gained because YOU are willing to share? It's been a huge part of the process for me. (And I'll thank you kindly. :))

Unknown said...

I signed up for all three newsletters. You have that power over me. And this was a very motivating post! Thanks!

Susan Anderson said...

Yep, and be persistent!


Lisa Loo said...

You are a great motivator/how-to writer! I was just about to go sign up for those newsletters until I remembered, "Dang! I don't want to be a writer!"

Signed:just a fan......

Susan Anderson said...

Yep, and be persistent!


Melanie Jacobson said...

I had an acquaintance IM me today for some writing advice. "I'm working on getting an agent," she said. "Cool. What kind of manuscript do you have?" "Oh, it's not done yet. I figure I'll get an agent first before I write the whole thing so I don't waste my time." Sigh. So I had to make a few gentle explanations.

Braden Bell said...

Great post, Anette. I remember those happy hours sitting in the Provo library copying down names and addresses from the Writer's Marketplace (couldn't afford to buy it on the student budget and the newest one couldn't be checked out--had to stay in reference).

There was so much I didn't know to even ask. Wish I had had your blog back then.

Stephanie Black said...

Excellent post, Annette! There's so much information available now. When I get a question from an aspiring author that shows they haven't done much, if any, research on the publishing world, it makes me wonder why they haven't been out there Googling. I'm happy to help people out and am grateful for everyone who's given me advice, but I do think one of the keys to being successful in the industry is the willingness to dive in and find out how things work. There's so much information available with the click of a mouse.

Jessica G. said...

Now if I could just get the courage to take the first step, to write that first query letter...

Why Not? Because I Said So! said...

Excellent!! I also have to say with the internet available, there are no more excuses in any areas of life. The information is there for the taking.

I usually google you first though when inquiring about something having to do with writing.You always give such valuable information. I refer back to your article about "show not tell" quite often.

Krista said...

This is so true! I feel like I'm getting a whole new education since I began researching how to write, submit, get published, edit, etc . And I've just begun (seriously) in the last 4 years, so I've had so much at my fingertips. It surprises me when I hear people ask some of the questions they do when they can just look it up, but then I have to remember how naive I was when I began. Sometimes just telling them, "Go online and learn about it," is eye-opening enough! Oh yeah! The internet.
Thanks for sharing all you do, Annette!

Jolene Perry said...

I started writing "for real" about a year and a half ago. I would be NOWHERE without the internet. My first LDS fiction comes out in August and I've been back and forth with several agents on mainstream fic. I have NO idea how I'd survive without google - it helps me find agents that would want to rep my work. It helped me with synopses, tightening my writing, queries and really, EVERYTHING.

Don said...

This is great advice. I needed to know how to add an hour to my day, and Google returned a fascinating article about how a well-timed thermonuclear detonation could slow the Earth enough to allow me to get everything done.

(Sorry, it's been one of those weeks. Really and truly good advice, however.)


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