Saturday, April 11, 2009

On Advances

Did you guys see this article in the New York Times on writer advances? I've mentioned a lot of the info before, but it's a very thorough piece and well worth reading.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

That is the question I'm talking about over on Writer Unboxed today. I've jumped in full hog to Twitter and am chatting about how useful (or not) I've found it to be.

Check it out here!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fish or Cut Bait?

Question of the day: Do you feel the current state of the economy is dictating what books are being published? For instance, my second novel is about a mother caring for her adult daughter who suffers from a chronic illness. I am struggling to find an agent for it, although all my rejections are personal. You were able to write about cancer and yet didn't scare away agents, why is writing about diseases now so taboo? Everyone says that my writing is great, yet they say that the subject matter is a tough sell right now. Arrgh!! I wanted this to be my break-out novel and it's not breaking anything but my heart. I've written a third novel in the meantime and my publisher is gobbling it up, but I had hoped to have an agent by now to help me. What would you do, wait to see if the second book can find an agent or go ahead and sign the papers on the third book even though I'm sure the contract will be bad? Do desperate times call for desperate measures or is patience a virtue on this one?

I'll offer a third suggestion: since your newer book is the one that's generating the heat, why don't you shop that one around to agents? I wouldn't sign a contract that I know is going to be crappy, but an agent can certainly take a crappy contract and make it a better one, AND, hey, you never know what other offers an agent could get you. If your previous manuscript just isn't getting the job done, set it aside, and you might discover that as time goes on, your wound will mend...especially if you sell the next one. :) And once you've sold the other one, who knows, maybe it will open doors for the one you have your heart set on right now.

I think the key is not to get too, too, too invested in one manuscript, such that it can divert the trajectory of your career. A lot of us have had that ms, the one that we poured every ounce of ourselves into and that ultimately didn't sell, but I'll tell you what: I am so grateful that I didn't get hung up on that specific ms and that I moved on from it, because if I hadn't, my career would be DOA right about now.

As far as the first half of your question, I'm going to devote a separate post to it because I think it's a worthy discuss to have in and of itself.

Good luck and hang in there! BTDT. Other readers who have BTDT, can you weigh in and help her out?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Question of the day: Was it difficult to create relationships with editors at magazines, and thus, create work through said relationships?

Hmmm, well, I guess it depends on your definition of difficult. :) The reason I say this is because creating these relationships is sort of like establishing your freelance career: they happen over time and eventually snowball, but there are a lot of factors that are going to contribute to your success (or lack thereof).

The first thing you have to remember is that you're going to have to be persistent. If you don't hear back (which you likely won't) from a query, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. If you have other ideas for an editor if she passes on your initial query, send them, send them, send them! Too many aspiring mag writers give up on an editor, and while sure, sometimes you should, many times, you shouldn't. You have to keep pitching until you find something that sticks.

From there, once you land the assignment, you need to nail it. By that I mean that you need to consider her instructions and deliver what you promised you would. Without careless fact-checking errors and typos and all of those easily-correctable mistakes that look sloppy. Your job as a writer is not just to hand in a great piece but also to help make your editor's job easier. Yes, I know this sounds sycophantic, but I don't mean you have to turn yourself into a slobbering servant, but yeah, you need to ensure that the piece really is the very best that you could make it.

After that, you need to be amenable to reasonable edits. These days, yeah, I hear about some ridiculous requests for revisions and no, you are not a doormat, but I consider two rounds of revisions fair game (this is just my opinion, of course), and even if the questions and red-lining are driving you crazy, that's part of the deal, and you'd be wise not to let your editor know. When I was really in the thick of my mag writing, I really did pride myself on the fact that there was very little editors could or would ask of me that I couldn't get done. And I think they knew this, which is part of the reason I was a go-to writer. (I am not talking about those last-minute 10PM "we need a total overhaul by tomorrow" requests, which I perhaps would conveniently not reply to until a reasonable hour the next morning. I'm talking about what I considered fair requests even if they were annoying and pains in the ass.)

Finally, I made it a point to be friendly with my editors. Not everyone is comfortable with this, but for me, it was only natural. I knew about their kids, I knew about their outside interests. And I really think it benefited me - not in a selfish way, like I was learning about their lives only to land work - but because it made our collective experience working together a hell of a lot more fun and enjoyable. You're a lot less likely to get irritated with an editor (or conversely, a writer) if you genuinely like her, and I really did (and do) like the majority of my editors, and I think they felt the same way. We enjoyed working together, partially for the reasons mentioned above (i.e, I worked my tail off for them) and partially because we had something in common other than the 750 words we were working on together.

So, all in all, was it hard? As you can see, yes and no. I also found that if I did good work for one editor, she was always happy to refer me to another, and from there, an entire network of business contacts AND friendships have been built. But it takes time and hard work. But yeah, it's entirely doable, in my opinion.

What about you guys out there? Easy or hard to build those relationship?