Saturday 30 June 2018

Publishing Lessons

by Dianne Bates

More than thirty-five years have passed since my first book, Terri (Puffin) was published. Those decades in this business of writing have taught me many things. They have also taught me that I have much still to learn. But today we’ll start with what I’ve learned thus far. My hope is this list will shorten your own learning curve.

1. Writing is a business. Treat it as such if you intend getting published. 

2. Keep records. Keep very, very good records and save your receipts. You never know when you’ll be audited, as I have been. (Thankfully, I passed the test.)

3.  Keep track of your expenses. Do you think that it’s too much trouble to record your mileage to a meeting or postage costs? Think again. Every cent counts.

4.  Invest in yourself. If you can attend writers’ conferences and festivals. Subscribe to industry periodicals such as Buzz Words, Bookseller + Publisher, etc. Join organisations such as ASA, FAW, CBCA and/or SCWBI

5. Invest in good equipment including a printer/photocopier 

6. Network. Even if you are an introvert, as many writers are, learn to network. You needn’t become a social butterfly at conferences, but don’t spend all your time in your room. Engage others in conversation. You never know who you’ll meet. It’s a good idea to have a business card with your contact details.

7. Have a support group. Writing is a solitary business. One of the best things you can do for yourself and for your career is to find a group of like-minded people. Or join an online group. Workshop your writing-in-progress regularly.

8. Find a mentor. A mentor can guide you in your writing, offer critiques, and tell you when you’ve gone off track.

9. Be a mentor. I’m a firm believer in giving back. Mentor a less experienced member of your writers’ group. Mentor a young writer. You’ll learn much in teaching others. If you are mentored, consider giving back to those who mentor you (perhaps offer to critique their work-in-progress)

10. Work to improve your craft. Take classes. Attend workshops and conferences. Above all, practice your craft and write. Also read regularly, especially in the genre in which you write.

11. It is a good idea to have a professional read and assess your manuscript before submission.

12. When it comes to getting published, don’t take the first offer that comes your way. In our eagerness to sell a book, especially a first book, it’s tempting to take the first offer, even a bad one.

13. Always do your research before paying anyone to edit your manuscript or help you self-publish

14. No agent is better than a bad agent. Don’t be in such a hurry to sign with an agent. Do your due diligence and check out any agent or agency before you sign. Ask around and especially ask the agent what his/her terms are. A contract with an agent does not mean you are married to him or her, but that you will be “bound together” for the lifetime of any book he or she sells for you.

15. Leave any agency or publishing house with good feelings on both sides. Any bad-mouthing about editors or agents on your part can and probably will come back to bite you.

16.  Keep in touch. When an editor leaves your publishing house, it pays to stay in touch. The same goes for agents and other industry professionals.

17. Volunteer at conferences, book fairs and your local library. You will not only be giving back, you will also be making valuable contacts.

18. Establish working hours. When you’re writing, you’re working. Let your family and friends know that. 

19. Don’t be afraid to say no to family and friends. This goes back to treating yourself as a professional and expecting others to do the same. If you are writing, you are working and need to be left undisturbed.

20. Give yourself a break now and then. It’s wonderful to write every day (or whatever your schedule is), but it’s okay to take a break occasionally. You need to experience life to write about it.

21. Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t make your word count. Double down the next day. The important thing is that you keep writing.

22. Treat rejection as part of the learning curve. Rejections are a way of life for many writers, including me. After selling 130+ books, I still receive rejections with depressing frequency. I once sold a book on the 16th submission (and it went on to sell overseas). You need to believe in yourself!

23. Don’t pester your agent and/or your editor with constant calls, texts, or emails. It’s okay to stay in contact -- just don’t overwhelm them.

24. Meet your deadlines. Publishing houses operate on strict deadlines. If you don’t meet yours, you may wreck the entire schedule. If you can’t meet a deadline, let your editor know as soon as possible. Editors realise that emergencies happen.  

25. Don’t be so quick to send off a book. Revise and polish, revise and polish again.

26. Stay current. Know what’s happening in your genre. Keep up with the latest trends. You don’t have to write to them, but you should know what is going on. 

27. Keep learning. There is always more to learn!

28. Be active in social media. Publishers are on the look-out for new authors and like to see who is doing what, too! Make sure you have a blog and/or a website and contribute to them regularly.

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