Friday, May 06, 2005

Put It Out In the Market

Are you one of the closet writers? You have been studying writing for years and going to conferences. You read tons and you have built personal relationships with a number of editors. Yet you are always polishing your material and never quite finishing it. Why? You show it to critique groups and get feedback, then you rework it some more. It never gets into the marketplace of ideas.

Or maybe you have too much material in the market. You are constantly writing and never getting published. You have compiled a bunch of rejection slips but you don’t have a clue where you will get published. Like some gambler in a casino, you are getting it out there in volume and figure the odds will help you hit it eventually. Wrong. There is a lot of stuff writers are sending out into the market which simply isn’t ready. I see it fairly often in my fiction acquisitions editor role. You would be shocked at what some writers are trying to send out for a query letter or a novel proposal. It’s a sad statement—but true. I don’t have time to do much of anything other than shake my head and send them the form rejection letter.  I’ve learned through hard experience what many editors and literary agents have learned: if you try to add something personal, then you usually regret it—because instead of quickly handling the matter—you’ve opened yourself for a dialogue (and at times argument) with the writer.  There simply isn’t time or energy for such an exchange. It’s unreasonable for the writer to even consider it.

This week I was talking with an editor.  It was an introductory conversation and we were getting to know each other. She told me about her rude awakening to the life of an editor—when she became one. Now she understands why it takes forever for editors to get back to writers. It’s hard to explain but read there is a massive volume of material coming at the editor. Most of the volume comes through the mail (my personal preference). Email hasn’t helped but only added to the expectation. You meet someone at a conference and from that passing nod—the writer figures they have “earned” a quick response—at least within a week. After all, it’s only email. The writer with this attitude doesn’t understand the editor gets literally hundreds of emails—and has meetings and other obligations besides answering such email.

I’ll admit you have to study the marketplace, know some editors, make some relationships, go to conferences and read a lot of books. You have to craft your words. If a nonfiction book proposal, then learn how to write a proposal. If fiction, then learn how to tell a good story and tell it with rich characters and a riveting plot and great dialogue that makes the reader turn the next page.

It’s a delicate balance between persistence in the market and studying the craft. May each of us find it today.

1 Comment:

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

Terry -
Well timed topic for your blog! As I ready to go to my first writer's conference, your posts have been incredibly helpful. Thank you!


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