ARE YOU READY TO WORK? THE BUSINESS OF WRITING AND BOOK EDITING
March 7, 2015
If you haven’t already, pre-order my book editing client Christian Picciolini’s memoir, “Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead.” It is the profound [true] tale of a neo-Nazi skinhead in the late 80s in Chicago who jumps into the white power movement at 14 and gets out at twenty-two. After the depression, he found out he’d been duped, and who he really was. In 2010 he co-founded “Life After Hate,” a non-profit that helps youth disentangle from gangs and teaches non-violence, love, anti-racism, anti-bullying, acceptance and tolerance of all people, regardless of race, religion, sexual preferences, etc. He is dedicated to basic human goodness. The book comes out April 28, 2015. Pre-order now. Check out his personal website HERE. The foreword to the book is by Joan Jett, the famous rock musician.
In other news, I will be at the Tri-Valley Writers Conference in Pleasanton, Calif, on Saturday, April 18. If you’re interested in attending the conference, click HERE. Come out for a full day of agent and editor panels, the perspective from New York City publishers, and meeting new, aspiring and established writers and authors who you can form lifetime connections with. Come out and enjoy the fun! It’s looking like I will also be attending the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City July 31st-August 2nd. I went last year and had a great time.
Furthermore, I have finally begun to recover from the San Francisco Writers Conference 2015 (SFWC), which was Feb 12-16, a couple of weeks ago now. I met TONS of writers, authors, agents, editors, publishers, etc. As usual I enjoyed the panels and talks and meeting new potential clients and co-writers and feeling “a part of.” As a lone, solitary writer, I find it sometimes very satisfying to come out into the fray with other people who are more or less on the same literary page as I am and to discuss craft and commerce in a friendly atmosphere. Most of the year we are all “in the cave” so to speak, and it is always nice to walk out into the sunshine and realize we aren’t completely alone. At least not in spirit.
I don’t really have an agenda on this blog post other than to say, if you’re a writer who takes his or her craft seriously, then take the necessary steps to make sure you do what needs to be done in order to make it to the next logical level in your writing career. Too vague? What I mean is this: If you are a newer writer who feels they want to succeed in this industry, then take a couple of concrete suggestions:
Write every single day. (Even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Literally. It’s about forming the habit. It’s like smoking, only healthy for you.)
Read a lot. (King says a writer must read a lot and write a lot. For real.)
Go to writers’ conferences. (Google “writers conferences.” If you’re in a major city, there are some around you throughout the year; trust me. But they’re so expensive, you say. Deal with it. These are so worth the cost. You meet tons of industry professionals.)
Use beta readers for your book and make sure it has gone through multiple (like 4/5 at least) rounds/drafts before even considering a developmental book editor. Do not have two people read it and then start submitting it to an agent. Trust me.
When you HAVE had 5/6 beta readers critique it and you’ve gone through that process, and then you hire a freelance book editor to edit/revise it, and then you finally feel it is “ready,” then hire a copy editor and/or a proofreader. And THEN, at last, after that phase, then you can start working on the query and synopsis (for fiction). (For nonfiction the project doesn’t have to be completed yet and you use a proposal.)
Take your time when writing your query letter. Like your book, have others critique it and/or hire an editor to review it and make suggestions for how to improve it. Check Chuck Sambuchino’s website and the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS book (now in its 24th edition, for 2015) to see how to properly write a query letter. Think 3 paragraphs: a) About the book (word count, genre, title, hook sentence); b) mini-synopsis of the book; c) about the author (works published, platform, degrees, etc). Keep it one page or less. Make sure you research the said agent and get the name right and use a hook sentence that refers to one of their clients’ books. Impress them, and show that you did your homework.
***So anyway, the above are just examples of little, simple things you can do to increase your chances of landing an agent and proceeding onto the next rung of your writing career. Try to have patience (nothing in this industry happens overnight) and regard for others along the same path. Try to gain self-esteem as a writer by creating your strongest work, using beta readers, hiring an editor, and only sending to agents when you are 100% sure you’ve gotten your project as far as you possibly can on your own. When you reach that stage, that’s the sign that yes, you need an agent and that, most likely, you are actually prepared for one.
Remember, in 2015 the book market is overflowing with wannabe “writers” who have gotten it into their heads—due in part to the proliferation, since the 1970s, of MFA programs and the rise in popularity of writing in this country—that they want, need and “deserve” to have their books sold at major book stores across the globe. They want a rock-star agent with massive NYC contacts who will not only sell their book to Penguin-Random for a six-figure, 3-book deal, but will also sell the foreign rights, the film rights, and the audio rights, and that, before the burgeoning author knows it, they’ll be the next J.K. Rowling, making a billion dollars a year. Well, unfortunately, 99.9% of those “writers” are in for a real reality-check. This is no walk in the literary park. Writing and the business of selling your writing is NOT an easy task, and it is not for the faint of heart or for those who are lazy or give up easily.
Writing and the industry it has become are giant, tall hurdles that prevent the majority from ever getting in. Is it impossible? Hell no. But it does require time, work, money, energy, and patience. If you have those to spare (plus a day job), then please contact me for book editing. Because I love nothing more than to help a writer “make it,” whatever that may mean to you.