Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Who's On Your Team?

So, I was hoping to have some great news to report today, but while I wait for the green light to make that announcement, I wanted to chat a bit about building "your team" as a writer. Alas, I truly hate that term, "your team," "my team," because it sounds like the phrasing of a snooty Hollywood actor, but I'm using it regardless because it is simply the best way to sum up the people who support me (or you) when it comes to my book's success.

I've said here before that a successful book - or career - is not due to the author alone. In fact, there are so, so many people who guide a book to the top, or your career to the top, and I think it's absolutely critical to open up a discussion about these people...in many ways, I really believe that your success as a writer is largely due to whom you choose to surround yourself with.

This starts at the very beginning. Even if you don't have an agent. Even before that. This starts with the writers you choose to associate with. Are they supportive of you? Do they cheerlead you if you land an assignment and they don't? Will you do the same for them? If you're in a critique group, do you really feel like you're getting valuable advice? Does the criticism help you become a stronger writer? All of these questions are worth considering. I've made it a point to befriend writers whose success I am absolutely so overwhelmingly happy for and who are unequivocally supportive of me in return. This has, undoubtedly, helped buoy me when times haven't been as great as they are now.

When it comes to landing an agent, please, please, please don't a) settle for someone who doesn't have your best interest/highest career aspirations in mind or b) give up because the search isn't easy. I'll elaborate more on the agent-author relationship (at least MY agent-author relationship) when I have my news to announce, but this is another place where I think authors can really screw themselves. We're so desperate to have "an agent," that we forget that ultimately, it's not a privilege to have representation. What I mean by that is that the agent-author relationship should be a two-way street. It should be as much a privilege for them to rep you as it is for you to have them. I cannot impart to you how helpful my agent has been for me, and thus, obviously, my career. She had a long-term objective for me from the get-go. She asked me to trust her, and I did, and I just cannot tell you (though I will in a few days, hopefully!) what a difference this has made for me.

And finally, if you land a book deal, various people will be assigned to work with (not for) you. Again, this is a reciprocal relationship. Let's be honest. Not every author is thrilled with their publisher. Not every author lands at their top choice of imprints. Ideally, your agent does his or her very best and places you where you're well-matched. But regardless, it's your responsibility to help things run smoothly. Be involved. Be interactive. Don't be afraid to go to them and say, "Hey, what else can I do here?" Even if there's nothing else to be done, folks on "your team," all of whom I promise you are totally overworked, will appreciate it and go that extra step for you. Be professional. Be kind. Be thankful. They will do the same in return, and your book will benefit from it.

It's funny: we think of writing as such a solitary entity, but when I think about it, it is anything but. Sure, I work by myself, but I'm hardly alone. I'm surrounded by so, so many good people that even if I hadn't been "successful," in the purest definition of success, I hardly think I could have failed.

4 comments:

Jael said...

All good points -- the things writers do for each other, and the team spirit we all need to have to get by. Too many times unpublished writers view agents and editors as the enemy, and other writers only as competition. They're not.

I certainly hear you on the "don't settle" as far as the agent-author relationship goes -- and, obviously, I agree with you that it's so extremely fantastic when you find the right one!

Amy Nathan said...

I think this is key, and I'm glad you reminded everyone. So many writers I know never have anyone read their work - never ask for a critique or feedback - don't go on websites or blogs and while writing is key for writers, we also need to be savvy in terms of the publishing world and how it works today.

Larramie said...

It's now Wednesday and I'm still holding my breath waiting for MORE great news! *G*

Jen Singer said...

My team held it together for me when I landed in the hospital with cancer. My agent, my lawyer/manager, my assistant (at the time...she's teaching now) and my publicist all came to my rescue to reassure everyone who paid me that everything would be okay. And it is.