"Helpful" Writing and Publishing Advice:)

As far as writing goes, I’ve received A LOT of less-than-helpful advice. Luckily, I didn't heed a lot of it (though was definitely tempted more than once). If I had followed some of these directives, I probably wouldn't have had the career I do now (which I'm very grateful for). 

Here’s just a sampling of some of the advice bits I've been given over the years, as well what I've learned along the publishing way (in no particular order): 

1. “You need an agent to sell your work.” (You don’t, but the right agent can definitely help you. Plus, once you have a contract offer from a publisher, it can be easier to find the right agent to help you negotiate the deal. I sold my first few books to an editor on my own and later got an agent.) 

2. “You need to pay a reading fee before we can consider your work.” (Run if you hear this. It’s simply not true. Make sure you’ve done your homework and that you’re sending your work to reputable professionals in the business. Know who their clients are and what types of deals they’ve brokered. Research, research, research, and, yes, it's okay to ask questions.) 

3. “You need to work in publishing to sell something.” (Not true.) 

4. “It’s all about who you know.” (Also, not really true, unless you’re famous, which will help because then you’ll have a built-in audience which will help the publisher sell kajillions of books. Bottom line (in my opinion, of course): if your manuscript is amazing, have faith that it will find its place when the timing is right, market-wise. Even if you’re BFFs with the executive editor at Fancy Publishing House…if your work isn’t ready or if the trends are elsewhere, it’s going to be hard. Keep focused on your work, getting it where it needs to be, writing/story-wise.) 

5. “You should get an MFA in creative writing.” (That depends. While you certainly don’t need the degree itself to publish a book, unless you want to teach at the college level, an MFA can be beneficial if the program supports your growth as a writer. If you don’t need the degree and have an amazing support system in place for your writing growth and publishing goals, i.e. a fabulous writers’ group that reads/critiques your work in a beneficial way and gives you the opportunity to read/critique their work; and if you also have a book group that studies work, looking at it for literary devices such as point-of-view, characterization, plot, setting, themes, dialogue, structure, etc., etc. then you may not need the classes.) 

6. “You don’t need an MFA in creative writing to publish your work.” (See #5.) 

7. “You should make this adult suspense book a young adult sci-fi-romance (or equivalent) because that’s what’s hot right now.” (What’s hot right now will likely not be as hot in a year or two years. Trends change, so don’t chase them. Write the novel you want to write. Focus on your intention for the story and characters. What is your goal in delving into this particular story?) 

8. “This story just doesn’t work. I don’t get it.” (I was told this about my novel Bleed, which sold in a bidding war a year later. Trends change. Tastes change. You kind of have to go with your gut as far as your own work goes. Do you really believe in it? Do you truly feel the story needs to be told? Or was it a story that helped you get to the next one, which, by the way, is invaluable in itself? Resist letting others make that choice for you.) 

9. “I just don’t feel this book can compete in today’s competitive market.” (Months later I sold that book, Blue is for Nightmares, to an editor who believed in it as much as I did. It’s spawned a series and gone on to sell over a million copies worldwide.) 

10. “Once you sell one book, it’ll be easy to sell another.” (Not true. Even New York Times bestselling authors have to work and struggle to get book deals. There are no sure-things in this business. It can be tricky and painful for sure, but those of us who stay in the game do so because we can’t not. Writing is our love; it's a major part of who we are and how we make sense of the world.)


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