No matter where you are in your life or your writing the road to publication starts off at the same point for everyone: unknown debuts. It’s easy to carry things from your life into your writing–expectations of success, timelines, ideas about working relationships and more–but, you have to be easy on yourself, let go of comparison to other writers, and let go of any expectations you are projecting.
Remember: You’re starting at the beginning and for many, it’s the first time you’ve started from scratch in awhile.
How are you going to leave your perceptions about your writing behind and start on the road to publication?
Set realistic goals for your writing. How many words are you going to write per day? When do you want to have your book on submission? Envision your plan from the start and develop a sensible strategy to get there.
Just like when you studied in school, you need to train in your craft. Take a short story writing class. Do an online workshop. Buy a writing guide like Stephen King’s On Writing. Make an effort to learn about the industry you want to be a part of. These are gifts only you can give yourself.
Evaluate your natural skill
Now’s the time to evaluate whether you’re cut out for the publishing business. This should be done early on. Do you have thick skin? Do you see books on the shelf and reasonably think that you can sit along side them? Are you working on a project that will catch the attention of agents and editors?
How agents spend their working day is a bit confusing for many authors. There is the impression that we read all day long, when in fact the reading we do is on the weekends and evenings. What we do during the week involved managing submissions for new work and managing relationships between editors, and clients who have deals in place including contract negotiation.
The reality is that our days are busy, time sensitive, and based on priority. (For more on what we do see this post on agent skills and the typical day of an agent.) You are one client to an agent with many clients that have varying needs. In many authors’ minds the ratio is 1:1 and you are always on your agents’ agenda. In reality, we manage many clients and it’s unrealistic to assume that.
However, we’ll always be there when you need us (see priority above), we’ll always be there to manage issues and problems that come up, but our other clients might be having issues that need problem solving as well so we do a balancing act of all this, plus doing deals. Continue reading The author/agent ratio
Aspiring writers have heard how long it can take to get representation (if at all) and how long it can take to get an offer on their book from a publisher (if at all). But still, so many writers ask how long it will take for them. Agents are vague about this not because we are trying to keep cards close to our chest, but because it simply varies between each project, and that’s the truth. I’ve had a project sell in three weeks and a project sell in thirteen months. So there is no definitive answer. I know it doesn’t help you in planning and with expectations, but you must have patience, trust in your agent and your work and read the signs that you are being given.
It’s one thing to have a fantastic manuscript and big dreams, but it’s another to have unrealistic expectations about how the industry will unfold in front of you. Each manuscript has a different path to publication–if it’s destined to be there–but, there are certain realities that never change:
Be prepared. Know how the industry works and the processes involved. Know that not all first-time novels make it to publication so how are you setting yourself up to succeed in the long term?
Don’t quit your day job. It takes a long time to see money come in from a book. Advances are split into three parts and you only see royalty payments come in twice a year, provided you’ve earned out your advance.
Always keep writing. Whether you book is currently being shopped by an agent or you already have a deal, keep working on the next project. You never know what will happen so in the meantime: write! Continue reading Managing Expectations