I have a fond memory of being in an old bookstore and discovering a pile of very old copies of Writer's Digest
magazine. I bought them all and carried them home as though they were treasure.
I have never taken a writing course. While I wouldn't necessarily suggest my path to other people, it's the route that worked for me. Once I'd decided I wanted to be an article and book writer, I subscribed to Writer's Digest every year without fail. I bought and marked up the same company's annual marketing guides, and later their agent guide.
At first, I spent more money on stamps than I earned from my tiny sales of essays and articles about raising my kids. Eventually, I sold to larger markets, expanded my subject areas, and entered the world of book writing. This is where some might say, "And I never looked back," but I'm always looking back.
How Do I Love Thee, Marketing Guides?
While it's easy to research just about anything online now, there's nothing quite as pleasing as grabbing the latest compendium of agents or magazines or publishers and marking up your copy with little checks and notes or stickies.
In perusing the latest editions of some of the books that helped me so much in my early days, I came across some tips that might help you. Each of these, as it happens, was something I didn't know during the first few years after I began writing.
The 2013 Writer's Market Deluxe contains 181 pages of practical advice before the listings of book publishers, agents, and periodicals, both consumer and trade. It also comes with an activation code good for a year's subscription to the WritersMarket.com database, updated daily. I recall frequently using the pay rate charts. [Buy at WM Deluxe Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Writer’s Digest.]
- Online readers like short pithy helpful sentences, as they do a lot of skimming and scanning (and lately, reading on their phones). So if you're seeking to build a writer's platform and plan to blog or submit essays to others' blogs, keep it simple.
- Think long term, so that you don't get stuck in a rut of writing the kind of thing that doesn't lead you in the direction of your goals.
- Learn to negotiate. Writers usually hate to ask for more, but the fact is you'll very rarely lose an assignment by saying, "Is that all?"
- Choose your battles, rather than fight over every contract clause to the point you become very annoying. But learn about what each kind of "right" means and don't give them away lightly.
The 2013 Guide to Literary Agents
contains119 helpful pages preceding the listings themselves. [Buy at Amazon
or Barnes & Noble
or Writer’s Digest
- Keep your agent queries to a page, even online.
- Before you submit to an agent, put your "finished" work aside for a while (a few weeks, if you are patient). Then re-read and see if it's as finished as you thought.
- In your proposal, avoid saying things like, "I'll be happy to appear on morning talk shows." Instead, be realistic about what you're actually able to do.
The 2013 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market
comes with a one-year online genre-only subscription. You'll find 116 pages of advice and tips before the listings. [Buy at Amazon
; or Barnes & Noble
or Writer’s Digest
- Learn from rejection. Whether you agree with an editor's opinion or not, it's useful to consider and keep track of what the gate-keepers are telling you.
- Write a chunk at a time. If your goal is a novel, there are numerous ways to approach it. Overwhelming when considered as a whole, a novel feels more manageable when you write it a few pages or a thousand words at a time.
- If the ending is resisting you, sketch out three different possible ones.
- Edit your dialogues down so they're shorter and sharper. We don't often speak in complete grammatically correct sentences.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Susan K. Perry