Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Are You Ready? Only Those That Are Have A Chance For Success

I try to bring this up as often as I can, but this last weekend really provied me with the motivation to bring this up in terms of publishing, and certainly, the search for editors and agents. Let me give you the context of this first.

I am working with two groups now, outside of publishing, that are in some dire economic situations. In both cases, a potential collapse is indeed in the cards. So, both groups are attempting some big changes in the hopes to keep things alive. Essentially, they are thowing a "Hail Mary Pass" (for those of you into football) and keeping their fingers crossed. But here is the problem with both groups. Completing the pass is one thing. Remaining standing after the ball is caught is the bigger issue. In both cases, although the initial plans are accurate and the intentions are good, the question remains if each of these groups have the resources to really be successful in the long run. Honestly, it could mean that all involved are spinning their wheels for nothing. These people might be fixing something that is already broken. Essentially, they are keeping these groups "alive" on life support only.

Now what does this have to do with publishing? The answer is simple.
  • Just because you have a manuscript that is finished...
  • Just because there is a professional hearing pitches at a conference...
  • Just because you have the chance to pitch...
  • and, Just because you might get a request for more material.

DOES NOT mean you are ready to move on.

Writing professionally is more than simply having a book. This is hard work. Writing professionally now means there is more to a project than simply the fun you had creating those characters and writing. You've seen the list before: marketing, revision letters, deadlines, proposals, conferences, publicity... I hate to break this to you, but now, the writing will have to share your time.

Do you even have the time to do all of this. For many of you out there, the writing you do has to be shared with jobs, family life, social commitments, health and yes, even pets. Do you have the 100% support of all of these other activites? Are you willing to give up some of these things to accomplish what you want to do? Essentially, you are now picking up a second job. No, forget the essentially - You Are!

But there is also a mental game here that you have to be ready for. You are now a public figure and that means that instead of simply sitting behind your computer and writing, you now have to get out there and talk to people. Booksignings, public appearances, interactive internet presence, conference talks and workshops, and even the simple being accessible to people at conferences is a requirement now.

Are you also ready for the mental demands to produce a project out of the blue? Your editor calls and asks you to do a project for her? You have a month to do it. Get to work! This means making adjustments and yes, potentially working on two projects at the same time. Your editor is doing all she can to keep your name out there. That means you have to produce.

I won't even get into all of the issues with bad reviews or sales, but it will be a factor.

As much as I find projects out there that have potential, too often I also find writers attached to those projects that mentally don't have what it takes to get the story done. These writers will end up failing, but in the end, will not blame their lack of readiness, but all of the outside factors.

"You know, I could have written well, but, my agent just didn't sell my work." - They fail to mention there was only one project.

"You know, my first book was really good, but my editor didn't want to wait three years between projects." Hmmm, I wonder why?

I am stressing this one again. If you are coming to Orlando and have an appointment, make sure you are really ready! Please! I don't care if you are Golden Heart or RITA finalist. I don't care if you are PRO or PAN. If you aren't ready to make this a career, then you are not ready to pitch!



  1. Scott,

    I discovered your blog and just love it for your down to earth common sense, non-flash approach to the business of writing & publishing. I'm not in the market for an agent but if I were, you'd be #1 on my list. I've been reading and today just had to comment and say THANKS for this great post. It is the kind of thing we writers can't hear enough. You rock!! I hope you speak to a lot of very well-prepared writers at the upcoming conference!!

    Karen Gowen

  2. Glad I could help out Karen!


  3. Go Mr. Grey Haus! One of the few that actually tells the truth about the industry. As always, one look at the bestseller list in the NYBR tells it all, absolutely dominated by a handful of senior rainmakers, some like Patterson or Roberts who often have multiple books on the list simultaneously. I remained fascinated by the way in which James Patterson has worked the system to his advantage. An interview with him currently online confirms that he maintains a stable of nine, nine! junior and largely unknown writers to whom he simply hands out outlines of stories. They do the actual writing, he buffs it up, and sends it out with his name in big block letters, and junior unknown's name in tiny type. Perfect for airports!
    Leave it to a man to figure out how to beat the food bank payment plan of traditional publishing.At least one of his male jrs has gone on to his own excellent career, knocking out the JP-style airport thrillers one after another.
    I love this whole story. I admire his determination to make a living as a writer, a real living! He is definitely The Man in my book.Yeah!It is worth reading any available material about JP in order to realize how carefully he planned his life as a self-supporting writer. It was always a business to him, and he made it work. Most instructive for all of us.

  4. Anon,

    The only thing I need to say is my name is not Mr. Grey Haus!!!!

  5. Dude, love your always-up-front savvy information. Agree so whole-heartedly. It's amazing to me how too many writers want to do nothing more than hole up in their writing huts until time for discovery, coming out for that 10 minute pitch as though the world had been waiting. Loved this post and also A Date With An Editor or Agent - 10 Steps To Make You Look Beautiful. Hope you find some gems in the Orlando pitches! You have a fan reader here :)

    @DebraMarrs (on Twitter)

  6. Hell yes I'm ready for this! I want it all! I want my book published and I want to do ALL of the marketing and publicity work that goes with it! I want to make writing books my business!

    Can you tell I'm excited?

    PS. Hi Karen! :)

  7. Scott,

    This post needs to be handed out to every aspiring writer before they can submit. Your commentary about being emotionally prepared for success is vital for writers to understand.

    I thought I was ready four years ago when I started submitting (and I most likely could have felt my way around and done okay), but I was by no means as prepared for the business as I am now.

    There is so much to learn along the way about the industry, ourselves as writers and our abilities outside of writing.

    Completing a manuscript is microscopic in terms of the big picture.

    Thanks for the valuable and gentle reminder.


  8. You better believe I'm ready. I want the revisions, marketing, publicity, appearances, conferences, everything. I like deadlines. I have no other job. I have a family, but they are behind me 100%. I have pets that are behind me 100%. I even have a blog. I am waiting to start using it to tell people where I am going to be next week. Right now all I use it for is to talk about writing and how much I enjoy it. I have five completed manuscripts. I am waiting on someone to say yes, so I can go. I have three others in the works. All I need is the yes!

  9. Anon,
    While I admire your enthusiasm, I personally am not someone who would cheer on a writer that doesn't do a lot of the work on his or her own. I want to know I am reading the words the author personally came up with. Sure, it is great with a staff to produce so much, but I still, I see this is as a form of creativity and art. Although there is a business side of things, the writing has to still take the forefront.

    As for the comment about "how to beat the food bank payment plan of traditional publishing" I really don't see that to be an issue. He isn't beating the industry, he isn't going around the system, and, I for one, am not someone who supports that approach.

    Just my thoughts. No more on this issue.