Friday, April 1, 2016

College Searches and Publisher Searches Are The Same Thing

My son is currently in the middle of the "college search"phase of his life. I completely forgot how exhausting this time could be, but when you think of the rewards when you find the college you want to go to, the time was well worth it. As we walked around the dorms of college number 2 during our Spring Break tour (one more today), I started thinking about the publishing industry and how similar the processes are. Finding a publisher or finding an agent is really the same thing as finding the right college.

Unfortunately (and you knew this was coming), far too many authors are skipping the search phase and ending up with no offers or in situations that simply do not work well.

Let's begin with the college search process. Students start with their personal needs, and often this begins with the degree and the career they plan to have after those 4-6 years. Obviously this is going to dictate the school they want to go to. If the school doesn't have a program you are looking for, then you don't go there.

With publishing, you obviously should do the same thing. You obviously are not going to submit a project to an editor or agent who doesn't represent your work. This is where we see things breaking down quickly. I know I have reminded many of you over the years to do your homework after I have a huge batch of submissions from people clearly not reading the submission guidelines.

Now, let's say you have found the college that has your degree. It is at this point that you start to do a little more investigating. Factors such as the size of the school, the distance from home, the cost, the financial aid package, the success rate and so forth come into play. You really start to do some trimming of that list!

The same should be happening in the publishing. What do you really know about the publisher and the agency? Have you done your research? Is this an agent just starting to build his or her list? Is this an agent who has been around for a while? Is this an agency that works as a team and you aren't really with just one agent? Is this a publisher who has a proven track record? I think you get the idea.

But now we get to the actual college visit. It is here where you really have to see if you fit in. On paper, the school has everything you need. On paper, that school can get you to the place you want. On paper, that school might even want you there. In the case of my son, he has been working with the added element of wanting to swim so some of the schools have been making huge overtures to him about where they want him on the swim team. Some have even invited him on their winter swim trips to sunny locations such as San Diego, Florida and Puerto Rico (that's really something for people here in the Pacific Northwest).

While you are at that college visit, you talk to students, you see their interactions with each other? The goal is to take in the environment and see how things feel. And is is this part that far too many writers simply do not take the time to do. I have a huge list of agents that I think the world of, but if I were to take my hobby writing to a new level, that list dwindles to just 2 because of the personality match. It has to be right.

As we all know, college searches take time. And, so should the process of looking for the right agent and publisher. If you don't, your time might be a complete waste. You might not find the success you wanted. And, like so many college students, you may become a publishing drop out.

Do you really want that?

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