Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just say no

by Joe Moore

731 I was a guest at a recent writer’s event. I got to discuss my new book, THE 731 LEGACY (co-written with Lynn Sholes). Afterwards I took part in a meet-and-greet with the audience. Among the questions, someone asked me: What was the most important advice I could give a new writer? My answer was to realize that you can just say no.

I explained that publishing is a manufacturing industry. But unlike most other industries, publishers don’t manufacture anything. Instead, they have an endless tsunami of writers constantly beating down their doors with pre-manufactured product. Yes, they have to know what the customer is looking for. And yes, they need to edit, package and market it in a professional and appealing manner. But publishers will never run out of product because there will always be writers wanting to be published.

New writers want to be published in the worst way. Unfortunately, their journey to publication can turn over time from excitement and enthusiasm to desperation and fear. You write a book, send out queries, start getting rejections. But you don’t give up. You revise your query, send it out again, and get more rejections. So what happens? You become desperate. You think that maybe you’ll never get published or never find an agent. Never see your precious work on the shelves of Borders or B&N.

Out of fear, you become so desperate that you are ready to take the first offer that comes along. Because when it does and you don’t, you may never get another shot.

Then the call or letter finally comes and someone is willing to issue a contract. What do you do? You jump at it without a moment’s hesitation. You just want to be published. And you finally got an offer. You go for it.

Now, stop and consider this. Did you marry the first person that asked you out? Did you buy the first car you saw for sale? Or the first house?

When that offer to publish finally comes along, ask yourself: Is this publisher perfectly matched to my writing? Will this publisher put in place the appropriate marketing and distribution to get my book to the correct audience? Do they have the expertise? Do they understand the genre? Will I get the quality and personalized service I need? And most important, do they have the ability to help me grow my career as a writer?

Remember that desperation is not a reason to say yes. It’s a reason to stop and realize that you can say no. Because getting married is blissful, but getting a divorce is not. Always remember that you can just say no.

What is the most important advice you can give a new writer?


Mark Terry said...

New writers want to be published in the worst way.

And often are.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Excellent advice, Joe. And it goes for agents, too, not just publishers. I spent 3 years with the wrong agent because I was so enamored of her NY status I didn't question whether or not she was right for me and my work.

When asked the advice question, my usual answer is develop patience, because you're going to need a lot of it.

Mark Combes said...

To continue your analogy Joe, you might kiss the first girl you go out with in high school, but that doesn't mean you should marry her. Know when the relationship has run it's course and move on. This might be better advice for published authors than first time authors but I think you and Mark #1 have it spot on. A bad publisher can do you more harm than not being published at all. Seems hard to believe when you've shopped that manuscript for months - nay years - but if you get with a publisher that doesn't get you out there and your numbers stink, you've created a barrier that will be very difficult to overcome. Not impossible, but a barrier nonetheless....Take it from a guy who knows....

Joe Moore said...

Mark, truer words were never spoken.

Sue Ann, I think it's even more critical with choosing an agent. Agents are the closest business partner a writer can have. As the Templar knight said in the Indiana Jones movie, "Choose wisely."

Lynn Sholes said...

Love your response Mark T. "And often are." Perfect.

Jess Lourey said...

Good response, Mark. I think, however, as only published authors have so far responded, that the responses may be a little disingenuous. We have the luxury of telling new writers not to be desperate, but I was that desperate new writer not long ago (May Day got rejected by over 400 agents before I found one who signed me on, didn't work, and we parted ways after six months, and then I found another one who worked for two books, and then we parted ways), and I think I'll always remember what that was like.

So, the other side of the coin--as long as the agent is legit, as long as the publisher is legit (and you can tell because they won't ask for any money from you and they'll show you who else they've published) and you've tried many other routes already, take what you can get. Stick your foot in the door and work up from there.

Felicia Donovan said...

Best advice?
1. Believe in your project and be willing to let it go.
2. Keep writing.
3. Understand that publishing is first, and foremost, a business.
4. Keep writing.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

My advice?

You have to believe in yourself and your project for a long, long time until it becomes real to anyone else. So you need to hang on, and hang tough, or you won't make it.

G.M. Malliet said...

I would advise them to go to law school instead, but I know the real writers won't listen.