about bulletins books Maureen Johnson dot com blog f.a.q. contact community
suite scarlett
girl at sea
13 little blue envelopes
the bermudez triangle
the key to the golden firebird
vacations from hell
let it snow

Thursday, May 25, 2006

How NOT to Get Published

A few days ago, I read a post on the blog of the wonderful Justine Larbalestier (of Magic or Madness fame—also wifely partner of Scott Westerfeld, of Midnighters, Specials, So Yesterday . . . they are a power couple).

Anyway, Justine’s post was all about the various con artists who try to lure in people who want to get published, and how genuinely confusing it all is. It can even be overwhelming if you live in New York and talk to people in publishing every single day.

I read the post, nodded, and thought, “That’s terrible. I hate these people.”

Then later that night, I got a call from my father. He had been talking to a family friend. She had found one of these sites that ask you to submit a piece of writing (specifically, a poem), and then send you a letter saying you’ve been accepted into an anthology, and all you need to do is send X dollars, and a leather-bound book will be sent to you immediately.

They wanted to ask my advice. Was this real? Was this a big honor?

I said not to do it. I hated letting them down, but the sad truth is, those things are scams.

A lot of the notes I get (when they aren’t about my washing or my appearance in Rent) are about publishing, asking me for advice. So, I’m going to give some, because the last thing I want is for anyone reading this blog to get drawn in by these charlatans. That will not do.

This will be a two-parter—like “What Not to Wear.”

First, how not to get published. This is the part where I tell you all the bad stuff, the pitfalls, the things to avoid. The good stuff comes later.

Here’s the big first point. I understand the desire to get published. The fact that I am is a sign of that. But writing is always more important than getting published. Getting published isn’t a goal unto itself—it’s something that comes out of writing. If you’re only writing because you want to see your name in print, this isn’t really the field for you. If you’re writing because you love to write, have to write . . . then you’re on the right track.

Second, it takes a long time to learn how to write, to really get your stride going, and to find your voice. That means practice. Long before I was published, I wrote six to ten hours every day. I went to school for another two to three years after college to study the craft. I did it for the same reason that pianists sit and play for hours and hours, and athletes go to the gym or the field—you have to work up your skill and endurance. Do you like Harry Potter? J.K. Rowling spent seven years getting her ideas right before she published the first book. So, when it comes to the question of getting published—I’d suggest that many of you wait. Don’t stop writing. (If you’re meant to do it, you won’t stop anyway.) Keep going. Get through high school. Get through college. Think about it then.

I know that advice might be irritating to some. I know there are writers who get published at 15 or 17 or 19. But it’s pretty rare. And when it does happen, you end up getting saddled with everything else that comes with being published, both good and bad. I hate to bring up Kaavya Viswanathan, but her story is a good one to look at. There’s a lot of pressure, and it can really be too much, too soon.

Plus, when you’re a senior in college, or a cool 25 year-old, you may realize—much to your horror—that that story about the ex-boyfriend you never think about now will always be out there in the world. You accidentally kept the beast alive!

Better to write. Just write. Keep working. The time will come. You’ll have a better time just being in school, being with your friends. You may thank yourself later on.

Okay, I’ve given my two cents on that. You’re really ready?

So you’ve got a book, or a story, or some poems. (And I know many of you do.) You start looking online. If you enter anything about writing or publishing, you probably get about two million hits. Where do you start?

First, to sell a book, you need an agent. Authors don’t (with the rare, rare exception) approach editors.

Why not?

The reason is: editors are extremely busy people. Their desks are piled high with books that are going to print soon. They have to get those books in order, deal with the covers and the marketing and the sales and all of the other ten million things that are involved in publishing a book. They also want to get new books.

Editors tend to specialize in one type of book. They might work in the non-fiction, history division, they might work in YA, they might work in romance. There’s a certain kind of book they know and they publish. Writers out in the world won’t know what these editors specialize in.

But say you did. Say you knew that Editor Suzy published YA. She still doesn’t have time to read every single YA manuscript in the world. She would literally be buried in paper. Most editors have assistants, and those assistants make sure that editors aren’t buried in paper. They will set the manuscript aside.

Enter the agents.

Agents are like those people who know everything about sports, or a certain TV show. They know the players, their specialties, their quirks. They know which editors are publishing which books. They will know that Editor Suzy LOVES books with a little romance, but doesn’t want to hear about your vampire. Editor Grace, who works at the same company, is gasping for a vampire. She’s got a long list of vampire books. The agent will know to send the romance to Suzy, the vampire to Grace.

The agent keeps the editor from getting too crazy. The agent also helps the writer deal with the other business that goes along with publishing. The agent is the writer’s business persona, protecting and representing the writer when it comes time for contracts and negotiations.

If the agent sells your book, they generally take 15% of the profit. This is more than worth it. It was the agent who made sure the writer got the money in the first place, and it is the agent who will go on protecting and supporting the writer.

I have a fantastic agent. When I have questions about my contracts, I ask her. She reads my statements and makes sure I am paid and protected. She also loves my books, and keeps an eye out for me. And I can keep writing.

So, you are asking, how do I get an agent?

Since we’re doing the NOT part—here’s how NOT to get one.

A critical piece of information to bear in mind when you look at those sites: any agency that asks for money up front is not an agency.

Anyone that offers a quick-fix, a sure deal, a new method of getting to editors . . . these people are lying to you. Money up front is a 100% sign that an agent is a fake. Real agents only take a percentage from something they sell. So, if you see a site in which an “agent” says that for $200, he or she will send your book around or give you some kind of publishing package—stay away. Stay far, far away.

Okay. What about the anthologies?

If a site says, “You have been selected to be in our special anthology. All you need to do is send $50 . . .” Sure, they’ll send you a book, and your piece of work will be in it. But they’ll have published it on demand. It’s not like bookstores and libraries buy those anthologies. Those companies exist solely to make money off of you, and they don’t carry the slightest bit of weight in the world of publishing. The really sad part is—your work will never really see the light of day. You’ve probably got the only copy with your words in it. There are lots of real magazines and publications that would like to consider your work. Go to the bookstore or library and have a look, write down some names. Submit to those.

The good news is, for as many of these scam artist sites, there are people in publishing writing their own blogs and commentaries. Real agents, editors, and publishers hate these scam artists. Why? Because they love books and writers. They won’t tolerate crooks on their patch. These people want to help and get the word out.

Here are some sites to look at:

In her blog today, Miss Snark talks about 20 fake agencies. Miss Snark is a real agent who disguises her identity. Her blog is popular with many people in publishing.

Predators and Editors offers this page of warning signs to help you spot scams. Have a look.

Writers Beware offers get more tips, stories, and advice.

In part two, I’ll talk about the good stuff. For now, in the words of Mad-Eye Moody, “Constant vigilance!”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

a fellow Harry Potter fan I assume. wonderful keep writing and I'll keep reading. I admire that you can create a world out of your words and someone who doesn't have the talent but reads almost anyone who does I bow .

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, for poets out there: my friend Katie attempted to publish her poems for her senior project, and her paper was on poetry scams. She was given a book called The Poet's Market, which listed legitimate magazines and anathologies to submit poems to. A new edition is published every year, and you can find one in the business section of any major bookstore. Thought you all might want to know!

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I learned so much from these tips. I'm glad I came across this site when I did

12:38 AM  
Blogger mirckeyfi said...

thank you very good
mirc indir
mırc indir
mirc inndir
mirc yükle
türkçe mircmirc download
kameralı mirc
kaçak scriptkelebekkelebek indirkelebek script indir
indirLida Dai Dai Hua Jiao Nang Seo Yarışması
cinsel sohbetcinsel chatcanlı sohbetcanlı chatchat sexcet sexcetsexcanlı sexçet sexchat sohbetsohbet sitesichat sitesifilm indir
divx film indir
divx indir
film izledizi izlemp4 film indirilahiilahi sohbetilahi chatislami sohbetislami chatilahilerilahi dinleilahi sohbetilahilimewire indirlimewirelimewire yükletürkçe limewiretürkçe limewire indirhello very good nice galery I congratulate

9:58 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home