Friday, July 26, 2013

Make Your Own Opportunities - Editors, Agents and Readers Won't Just Come To You

I was at a conference and there was a small start-up self-publisher there talking to the writers. I heard him make the comment that his company would certainly be able to get this writer's stories out there and available to a wide variety of readers. He went on and on about all the benefits of getting into all of those distribution networks and yes, the reader's eyes started to gleam as she was thinking of how successful she would be and how her dreams of being a published author were about to come true. Well, the bet, however, is that only half of those dreams would come true. She would be published, but the success???? Probably not.

Be warned, this is not an article proclaiming that writers can only be successful with the traditional route of publishing. Instead, I want to focus on another aspect that comes from the comment that self-publisher made. Yes, the books were going to get out there, but the books being available either digitally or physically in a bookstore would not sell themselves. Yes, a few (and I stress a few) readers might stumble across the books, but that is about it. Regardless of what type of publisher you decide to go with, you cannot simply sit back and wait for people to come running to you and your books unless you do something proactive to take care of it.

As an author, you have to be proactive and seek out what you are looking for. As the title of this blog suggests: agents, editors and readers wont just come to you.

I do think that we are living in this world today where that idea has somehow managed to work its way into our self-conscious. Unpublished writers create blogs and websites hoping that readers, editors and agents will happen to stumble across "Joe Smith - Thriller Writer." We sit in our writing chapters and hope that mysteriously those dream editors and agents will happen to show up at the next meeting because they heard of this great group of writers. There are websites out there that encourage writers to post their writing on their site and it will get in front of editors and agents.

This isn't even limited to publishing. Even sites like Linkin imply that recruiters are out there scanning to find the next 6 and 7 figure employee.

Probably not.

The thing is that all of these areas do indeed open the door to being seen, but it is you who has to be the proactive person to make it happen. You have to get your story to the editor and agent and not the reverse. The reality of the situation is that these people just don't have the time in the day to get out there and randomly search for that new author.

I taught in a middle school before I did the "agent thing" and one of the things we did was write business letters. Now most of the other teachers would incorporate the assignment with their social studies unit and have their students write to the embassies and get information on countries. I took a different approach. I had them invite people to come to the class and speak. Many of these students thought this would be one of those "profession days" when we would have their parent in talking. I pushed them a step further. I asked them how many times they had seen celebrities, politicians and other famous people visiting classrooms. How did they get there? They asked. What was the worst thing that could happen? The person didn't write back or said no. But what if they did say yes.

So they invited: They wrote to the president, to the Pope (yes we did get a response) to Jesse Jackson, and to Gorbachev (and yes we got a response there too!). We did get visitors that year. These were celebrities from the Puget Sound, but they did come and visit.

You can do the same thing.

I haven't given you homework in a while, but today will be that day. It is time to be proactive.

  • Do you have an editor or agent that you want to speak at your writing chapter. Write the letter. Take charge and make it happen. Just a side note here. People often ask how I get to conferences. I only go if I am invited. 
  • Is there an editor you want to submit to but only takes agented material and you are lacking an agent. Find a conference the person is going to and get the plan in motion to get there.
  • Write four submission packages this weekend. 2 for editors and 2 for agents. Send them out Monday morning. NO EXCEPTIONS!
  • Do you want to work for a particular company. Contact the human resources manager and set up an informative meeting to talk. I don't care if there is no job available.
As the Nike commercial says - Just do it!

Oh, and if you do have writing you placed on one of those websites collecting dust as it waits to be seen by some amazing editor or agent, you might want to consider being proactive and sending it to the person you wanted. Who knows, maybe you doing something is all it takes.

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic post and brings up some really great issues. I'm a freelance writer and editor and I've met so many people who ask me how I get clients, and the fact is, I go looking for them. I sent out pitches, and contact companies that hire writers, stay in touch with former colleagues, and generally spend a reasonably large amount of my actively seeking work. But a lot of would-be freelancers balk at that idea.
    And it's the same with fiction. I think far too many writers are waiting for the day the world beats a path to their door.