I got into a brief conversation on Facebook with a young writer who posted that she had finished her first novel and was “saving up to have a professional editor go over it.” So I suggested she consider submitting the novel to a few New York publishers (one at a time, of course) before going the self-publishing route. I didn’t claim that was the only way to go. But there are a lot of advantages to going with a publishing house, including the fact that they provide the editing free. And, of course, pay you an advance.
The writer replied that she’d assumed she would have no shot without a well known agent backing her.
This is not true, I told her. Go to a few science fiction conventions. Attend the panels. Politely speak to published writers, tell them you've written a novel, and ask for advice. Most fantasy and science fiction writers are far friendlier and more approachable than you’d suspect. I’m guessing that you’re planning to self-publish. Don’t do so until you’ve talked with some writers who have successfully done so and listened seriously to their advice.
I don’t have the time (I am reminded by various editors who are figuratively frowning over my shoulder and tapping their watches to remind me that I do have deadlines) to correspond with this young writer and give her all the useful advice she requires. But I will say this to her, and to all of you who find yourself in a position analogous to hers: You’ve already done the hard part. The overwhelming majority of those who want to be writers never do finish a book. So stand up and take a bow. You’re part of the one percent.
The whole business of learning how to find a publisher looks daunting to you now. But it’s far less difficult than what you’ve done already.
And up above . . .
I was at Pook & Pook Auctions the other day and discovered that the National Clock is going up on auction sometime in January. This astonishing piece of folk art -- something like six feet tall -- has hundreds of little figures, both religious (the Crucifixion) and political (Uncle Sam and his monkey). Apparently it was one of those strange things that made the rounds in the nineteenth century, supporting its owner on the contributions of awestruck yokels.
Just thought I'd share.