Welcome! So you've entered the publishing process and now, things look a little scary. You've heard about agents who have tiny hearts, editors who only buy one book a century, bookstores that won't buy anything without the name "Patterson" on the front cover, and cover art with unnecessary cats. So maybe you're a little overwhelmed as you enter the business for the first time.
We know it's hard to do, but relax. Things aren't as difficult as they seem. They're worse than that, but you have talent, you have determination, and you have something nobody would have predicted before--a support group of other authors who, instead of viewing you as the competition, will try to help you through the rough spots.
Here's your orientation check list. Pay careful attention to it, and make sure you don't take the points out of order. Check each one before moving on to the next. And above all, good luck! Because you're gonna need it.
- Don't write a lousy book. Oh yes, we know you've turned very cliche on its ear, punctured every expectation, and written the most original book since the King James Bible. But first of all, no you haven't, and second, it had better be readable, too.
- Show it to people who don't love you already. Your mom thinks everything you do is terrific; she's still bragging about your fingerpainting skills from kindergarten. You think you're going to get objective criticism from your spouse? Who might want to, you know, keep living with you? Find readers who know you, but won't care about dashing your hopes and pointing out the rough spots. Friends don't let friends write bad.
- Don't believe what you've heard about agents. They like reading good books, and will champion good books. If you think agents are mean to you, maybe you have to go back to Step #1.
- Talk to your editor. Don't write 350 pages of something and then have the editor who bought it based on a 50-page proposal tell you that it's not what you'd agreed up. Maybe you don't need to send out 50-page chunks for perusal (the editor probably doesn't have that kind of time anyway), but at least keep in touch.
- You're not perfect. You will receive criticism and edits from your editor (you'll recall "edit" is part of the job title). They're not always right, but they often are. Get over yourself. Sometimes, things need fixing.
- Don't always do the easy thing. Yeah, you can fix problems with one word or one sentence--but is that the best way to do it? Sometimes it is... and sometimes it's not. Be objective in deciding which this is.
- If you have a great premise, remember that sometime soon, you'll be stuck in the middle. And whether there are clowns to the left and you and jokers to the right, you still have to get through it. Plan ahead. That doesn't mean you have to outline every last plot point until you're blue in the pencil. It means you have to have at least an exit strategy. Know where you want to go, and then see if you end up there.
- You don't have to do EVERYTHING your editor says, either. Sometimes, you'll find that you like your original idea just fine, and you don't see the problem. Yes, be open to suggestion. Yes, put in the work when there's a real problem. But if you think the way you wrote it the first time really does work the best, stand up for your work.
- Have a cover suggestion ready. If you don't, you can't really complain when the artist comes up with something, you know, else. When you're asked, don't say, "Oh, I don't know. That's not my area of expertise." Think ahead.
- Help other authors when they need it, if they ask or not. At least offer. This is a good fraternity/sorority. Don't screw it up by being selfish.
All right, you're on your way--now get out there and conquer the publishing world!
By the way: If you REALLY want the final update on the LP-(and singles)-to-Digital Conversion Project, click here. The list is complete, until I add more.