Friday, January 7


In her book, FROM PEN TO PRINT, Ellen M. Kozak wrote; "Any occupation has a down side, and writing is no exception. It requires the direct application of the seat of your pants to a chair in front of your typewriter or word processor, whether you want to be there or not....It is work without immediate satisfaction. If writing is not to become a chore more dismal than dishwashing, not only must you want to write, you must need to write and you must love to write. If you're just in it for the glamour, try the stage, or politics."
What does this mean? Writing is work. You say you're up to the task, you like a good challenge? You've sharpened your pencils and stacked your legal pads neatly in front of you. But what about all those horror stories you've heard about writing a book? Is there any way to avoid problems? Can you really write a book and get it published? The first thing you need to do is write this down. Ready?


Did you get that? Good, because those six words are the most important words a writer will ever hear. Commit them to memory. You can't write if you don't read. Once you've done your reading, you need to do your writing. Now that you've mastered the most basic rule of writing, let's go through a few of the most common challenges facing writers today as well as a few solutions to those challenges.


Can you avoid rejection? No. Every writer gets rejected at one time or another. Since you can't avoid rejection, it might help to look at a few of the reasons why it happens.

1). You haven't found an appropriate market. Are you sending your children's book to a publisher known for its How-To books? It would be better to see which publishers, or agents are the most comfortable with buying or representing your type of manuscript.

2). You haven't kept up with what publishers are buying. When THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER was hot, publishers were buying all the submarine books they could get their hands on. Then the trend was courtroom drama or books about bridges, or wife-beating celebrities suspected of murder. Ask yourself what's current, what's hot. Check BOOKS IN PRINT to see how your book is the same, but unique. More on this later.

3) You manuscript needs improving. Try to find an honest critic, someone you respect, who will give you an honest, unsentimental evaluation of your work. This probably won't be your mother, unless she can promise more constructive criticism than praise.

What if you discover your work has all three of these problems? Ask yourself a couple of questions. Do I know who will be buying my book? Have I REALLY taken the time to read other books in my genre? Juvenile, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, contemporary fiction, historical romance, nonfiction, biography, how-to?
How does my book match up with what I've been reading? Take note of publishers who are selling these books. Sometimes you can find the names of agents or editors who handle your type of book by reading the author acknowledgments in the beginning of books you admire.
Another trick is to find some people to read your book. Elementary, junior high, high school and community college teachers may be interested in using your manuscript for a class project. I took my juvenile book to my son's former third grade teacher. She was excited about using it as a class project, and asked me to lecture on writing. I stuck around after the lecture and heard the teacher READ a chapter from my story.
What a shock! The most amazing thing I learned from that half hour session in a third grade classroom was that THIRD GRADERS were actually going to read my book. I admit I'd never thought about what it would sound like to third graders, my potential audience.
I also took the time to ask the teacher for a list of her favorite books, the ones she picked to read to her class. Then I went out and read books from that list. I learned a lot about what kids enjoy reading, and the rhythm of what they like to read. Just reading your manuscript out loud can tell you a lot about your story. Try it!
DON'T TAKE REJECTION PERSONALLY! Learn from the rejections you're getting. Categorize your rejection slips. Pre-printed, highly impersonal post cards go on top. Then photocopied letters on 3/4 size paper. Then the form letter printed on an actual full sheet of paper, then a full sheet with actual typing. If there's a signature in INK, that's a bonus. Next, a letter typed, signed in ink, with your name and the name of your book on it . . . You get the idea.
If they offer comments, take them to heart. You know you're on the right track if they tell you why they're rejecting you. Do they all say the same thing? You could stubbornly conclude, "they don't know what they're missing," by rejecting your work. The reality is, they know EXACTLY what they're missing! Remember, they're not rejecting you personally, only what you sent them. Above all else, fix the problem and send your manuscript back out there.


Writers have many resources available to help them get published. One of my favorites is to adopt a librarian. Librarians love to help library patrons. It is more than just their job. I've adopted several librarians and it works quite well. Just follow a few simple rules. Be courteous. Smile. Ask one question at a time. Be specific and patient. If they say they have to get back to you later, believe them. Let them get back to you.
Approach them when they're not busy. With my children's book, I asked a children's librarian what books they get the most requests for. Ask them what they like and what they recommend to patrons. Believe me. It works.
The library is also a great place to find books about writing. You'll find Writer's Digest Books like, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN'S BOOK AND GET IT PUBLISHED, HANDBOOK OF NOVEL WRITING or James Michener's WRITER'S HANDBOOK. There are magazines about writing, WRITER'S DIGEST, WRITER, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. From these you'll learn what publishers are buying, and you can see their projections for the next season.
Other resource books include The LITERARY MARKETPLACE (LMP), WRITER'S MARKET and publisher's catalogs. You can send for catalogs directly from the publisher and that way you'll see sizes, shapes, colors and content of books that publishers have already bought. Ask to be put on mailing lists. Check out book reviews on upcoming books like those found in The NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW.
Of course, there is the Internet. With this resource, the world can be at your fingertips. Many of the books and magazines I’ve mentioned can be found on the Internet, along with lots more..


So, what's the bottom line? Is it possible to avoid all the perils of publishing? The answer to that is no. You can learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. Decide right now if you want to be a politician or writer. STOP TALKING and START WRITING. Rewrite. Learn the craft of writing by writing. Writing takes WORK. Study your markets. Get your manuscripts in the mail and keep them there. That's how you sell what you write.
Getting a book published is like a marathon, not a short sprint. Learn by doing. Listen to your own voice. Trust yourself. And never forget: READ, READ, READ. And WRITE, WRITE, WRITE.

No comments: