Never Grow Up and Other Contrarian Advice
By Sharon Buchbinder
Marian, thank you for having as a guest on your blog today. I thought it might be useful to share my thoughts about getting published with you and your readers.
As a relatively recent arrival to the realm of “Published Full Length Fiction Author,” I am here to provide the contrarian’s guide to achieving this status. There truly is no one route to publication. You really don’t need an MFA. You don’t even have to have majored in English, although being able to use the language correctly is a plus. You don’t have to starve in an attic writing timeless prose or poetry. You don’t have to have lived in the belly of the underworld and struggled with alcoholism and addiction, although that has worked for others. You don’t even have to have designated office space. What do you need? Here are my top ten tips of for becoming a published author.
1. Never grow up. Be curious about the world around you and wonder, “What if?” Grownups (i.e., anyone who is done growing) are boring. Childlike curiosity is not childish. It enables you to see the world with fresh eyes and to bring a new perspective to a story. Look at F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep. Paul is a physician who started writing medical thrillers. Then he had a wild idea: what if Nazi’s encountered vampires in World War II? The result is a cult classic. Keep saying, “What if?”
2. Be yourself. There is only one you and you have your own voice. Don’t try to be a clone of another author. And don’t promote yourself that way. Do not say, “Oh, my work is just like Nora Roberts.” Um, no it isn’t. You will only be a pale imitation of that author--but you are unique.
3. Get a job that pays. Money. Preferably with benefits. Because you have to live. Another contrarian posted that the worst career advice is to do what you love. While this flies into the face of common platitudes, her comments make sense. Seriously, do you want to live in your parents’ home forever?
4. Seize the moment. You can write in 15 minute blocks, at lunch, on break, in a fast food restaurant, on a napkin (yes, I’ve outlined entire books on a napkin), before the kids are conscious, in the bathroom, in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. If you are passionate about writing, if it is an obsession, you will be unable to resist the urge to write. Where ever you go, have a notepad or phone and jot or text your ideas to yourself. I used the notepad app in my phone and made a list of story ideas. When I looked at it 3 years later, I had written all those stories. Carpe diem, carpe noctem, carpe wheneverem.
5. Get rejected. Yes, get rejected. You will learn from those rejections what works and what doesn’t. I was rejected by 82 (no, that is not a typo) agents. That experience taught me to look at other avenues to publication. Paper your office with your rejections. And, yes, I'm still submitting to agents, because I believe the right agent can be an author's best advocate in the competitive publishing world.
6. Have trusted readers. When I started writing my first novel, I needed a cheering section to keep me going, to give me the courage to keep writing. That first stage should not last more than a year--at most. The next step is to put your work out there for others to read and critique. No smoke blowing allowed. Regardless of what path you go--paid editor, critique group, critique partner--you must have other readers. Otherwise, it’s like well, dare I say it? Masturbation. It feels good for you, but it wasn’t good for the other person. Be brave, get alpha and beta readers and listen to their constructive criticisms.
7. Be persistent. Did I mention I received 82 rejections from agents? If I hadn’t been persistent, I would have never had the courage to send my work to contests, I would have never won writing awards, I would have never had the chutzpah to send my little story to a small electronic publisher and gotten it published. You must press on.
8. Do not whine. No one, and I do mean no one, likes a whiner. If you get rejected, allow yourself no more than 24 hours to cry, stomp your feet, and have a pity party. After 24 hours, STOP. Be child like, but not childish.
9. Don’t take it personally. While the story of your heart is your baby and you know this is the best (fill in the blank) story ever told, publishing is a business. The publisher is not going to take a story that doesn’t fit with their lines or needs. They are in business to make money.
10. And finally, if it doesn’t fit, find another publisher--or publish it yourself. Right now, we have a lot of choices as authors. Agents, editors and publishers are feeling the pressure to perform. Some are responding to the sea change and stepping up to the plate to market and promote our stories. This year I chose to obtain my rights back for seven of my short stories and novellas so I could package them together in an anthology. KILLER KISSES, available in Kindle or Paperback, is a collection of all my short romance stories. Now my readers can have all of my babies in one package for a very good price. Will I continue to pursue publication with other publishers? Yes. I believe there are many great opportunities with traditional publishers. I don't think this is an either or proposition. I see it as a great prospect (with some caveats) to connect with our readers and do what we do best: tell a story.
If you'd like more of my contrarian advice, or to find my books, KILLER KISSES and DESIRE AND DECEPTION (Erotic thriller), I can be found all over the web, but usually hang out at these places:
Snap, Crackle and Popping Blog http://www.sharonbuchbinder.com/blog
Sexy Romance Stories http://sexyromancestories.com/