Friday, February 6, 2015

Being Perfect: An Unfair Burden on Unpublished Authors

We want perfection. I know it is a tough thing to conquer and we all know achieving perfection is probably not likely, but for new authors, this is what we need to see. This is one of those crazy twists about the publishing industry. The bar is set so high for new authors trying to get that first "call" to sign with an agent, or to get that first publishing contract.

What is so funny about this concept is that once you get signed with an editor or agent, we work on making you a better author. We work with you on deciding the best path to take with your career, your marketing and so forth. And yet, to get that contract, the writing you do, that synopsis you write and that query letter your craft has to be near perfection.

As an agent, when I (as well as other agents out there) look at a project coming in, I don't just look at whether or not the story is something I can market, but I also assess the amount of work that will have to go into that story to get it ready to market. Remember, we are gambling on that project. No one makes any money on that project until it sells, so essentially, we are working for free. Editors are doing the same thing, except for them, they have that financial burden of the advance they have to work with. We are all gambling that project will do well and sell.

This is all an issue of that first impression you are making with the editors, agents, and yes, even your reading public. You want to show you have it! You don't want to show them you "might" have it, but that you do have it now! This is very similar to what high school athletes face when they are working toward that scholarship and college sports career.

My son is currently going through that with his swimming career. What we have found is that colleges are not looking for people who "may peak" after 3 or 4 years of college. They want someone who already has those times. They are comparing those high school swimmers to the people currently on their rosters. While this may sound like it is an unfair burden, there is a rationale reason for that. If the swimmers currently have those times, the college can "fine tune" that swimmer and make improvements. They don't have to try and fix both the time and technique.

It is for this reason that I have always pushed for authors to slow down and not rush the process. Taking the time to learn the business and learn the craft is crucial. Before you send off those projects to the editors and agents, you have to ask if "this is really my best work."

And this goes for those of you self-publishing. Sure you can "get that story out there" but you too have to ask if that is really the best you can do. Readers return to the authors who tell a good story. They are not so forgiving if your first book is garbage. They won't give you a second chance.

So don't waste the chance you have to be great and put out the best you have. The editors and agents deserve it. Your readers deserve it. But most importantly, you deserve it.

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