Today’s guest is back for an encore. Author Kim Wright was with us back in October to talk about ways not to behave with your agent. Today she’s back for more commonsense advice for writers. Kim has been writing about travel, food, and wine for more than 25 years and is a two-time recipient of the Lowell Thomas Award. Her debut novel, Love In Mid Air, has received critical praise. She’s also recently released a book for writers called Your Path to Publication. Take it away, Kim!
The Twelve Most Dangerous Words for Writers
There are twelve words in the world of publishing that, while innocent enough on their own, can collectively sink your career.
You just need to concentrate on writing the best book you can.
The problem with the sentence is that it’s accurate – but incomplete. The danger lies in the word “just.”
Yeah, you have to write the best book you can. That’s absolutely, completely, and totally necessary and, God knows, such a hard task that it logically seems like it would be enough in and of itself. But the truth is, that’s only the first step. The first step out of approximately 274. And it’s a crime for published writers to imply that’s all there is to it.
So why does the myth live on? Two reasons.
Many long-established writers actually forged their careers back when this was an accurate statement. Back in the days when all a writer had to do was show up in New York with his latest opus, down a few martinis over lunch, sign his new contract, and skedaddle back to his cabin/ranch/beach house to begin the next one. But when a writer who’s been at it for fifty years tells you these stories it’s a history lesson in how publishing used to work, not helpful advice for how to launch a book in 2011.
When more recently-established authors mouth these words, something different is going on. They’re just telling people what they want to hear. Most writers are introverts and English majors, people who don’t want to promote, go on book tours, reach out to the bloggers, or worry about what 15% of 25% less 15% comes to after taxes. So if you tell them they don’t have to do those things, you’ll be very popular. Say the twelve words out loud at a writing conference and you’ll be wildly applauded. Write them on a blog and you’ll get a lot of “Likes.” You’ll be considered a “real writer,” someone who walks through pie fights in a white suit, who remains miraculously unsullied by the marketplace.
But it’s not 1961 – or even 2004. So much more is required of the author now that it’s unrealistic and unfair to imply that the publishing industry still works like that. Or that it’s a meritocracy, unfailingly rewarding the talented and ignoring the hacks. I bet everyone reading this post right now knows people who have written good books and can’t get them published – and meanwhile Snooki has a book deal. We’ve got to wake up and admit that there’s more to being a writer than writing. A would-be author who doesn’t figure out all the things he needs to do to shepherd his book through the publishing process has handicapped himself before that process even begins.
So, besides writing that good book, finding an agent, and selling the book, what else do you need to do? Here are three important steps. [Read more…]