Grappling with the business of writing

Writing isn’t just writing, it’s reading and knowing how to sell yourself and how to query or submit to a publisher and a million other things that aren’t the actual process of writing. Oh, first and foremost you’ve got to be able to string words together in an interesting way — it’s the most important thing, no question about that — but when you’re all done making with the wording what do you do with it?

It’s easy to stagger around blindly at that stage. All this mess about query letters and proposals and cover letters markets — writers want to WRITE, they don’t want to bother with that stuff! But you HAVE to if you ever want it to be more than a hobby.

It’s a good idea to have your head in that world whenever possible. When you write, consider the possible markets for your work. Think about how you’ll sell it. How you’d pitch it. How editors will see it and how you can improve it. Presentation and how you sell yourself are important. Believe me, the things that come across my desk in my day job as an editor often make me cringe. That’s why I do the best I can to not be one of Those People when I’m putting my own work out there.

Does it work? Hard to say. Of the four books I’ve written, two have actually been pitched to publishers (the other two are sitting in drawers). One, a history of the Lakehurst/Manchester area of New Jersey, most famous for being the site of the Hindenburg disaster (as seen on the cover of the first Led Zeppelin album), has gone to three or four publishers of regional interest books. No response yet. The other, A Year of Hitchcock, sold to the second person who read the pitch. We had interest after just a few weeks. I like to think that a professional approach helped.

Because let’s face it, good ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s the execution of those ideas that counts.

So anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough.

If you aspire to sell your writing, read Nathan Bransford’s blog. He’s funny and entertaining and engaging, but more importantly he’s informative. He’ll get you on the right track as far as getting ready for the submission process. A not-as-nice blogger, now sadly retired from blogging, is Miss Snark. Writers MUST read her archives, even if only to avoid things that will make you look like a complete idiot.

Whether or not you’re into the genre, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website is a great resource for tips on how to format your manuscript, how to submit it, how to write good query letters, best practices when contacting an editor or agent, and more. I can’t recommend the Writer Beware section enough. Writers are so eager to jump at the first opportunity that comes their way they too easily fall prey to scams that take advantage the naive or new to the writing business.

And be sure to grab yourself a copy of Writer’s Market.

There are, oh, about eight billion other resources out there worth knowing about. If you’ve got a good one, send it to me! As in horseshoes and hand grenades, every little bit helps. Or something like that.

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