Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is an award winning writer, newspaper reporter, TV news producer, playwright and essayist. He writes supernatural suspense/Christian horror and is currently at work on another such book, much to his mother’s chagrin (“Why can’t you write a nice romance?”). In addition to writing he enjoys teaching classes for beginning writers at conferences and local writers’ groups. He has been a joke writer for Joan Rivers and his comedy material has been performed on The Tonight Show. Currently in his fifth decade of service, he is considerably younger than most people his age. Visit his website: Twitter: and Facebook:

How NOT To Get Published

Questions That Perplex the Mind and Upset the Digestive System

Questions about writing tend to perplex the mind and upset the digestive system. In an effort to be helpful (okay, to make the editor of this magazine happy), I will attempt to answer some of them.

Q: Should I have a blog?

A: I don’t know. Do you have anything to say?

That is the best answer I can think of. If you have something worthwhile to share, regardless of the topic, there is probably someone who will not only benefit from it but follow it. The problem with the Internet is too many people with nothing to say, say it on a regular basis.

The same goes for Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, LinkedIn accounts, and other social media outlets. In case you’re wondering, we don’t care what you had for lunch; whether Julie and Ben are, like, late again; that you just wrote a poignant paragraph; what movie you just saw; who George Clooney is dating; what your favorite color is; whether Britney Spears is wearing her drawers again; which celebrities look good in a bikini; about the latest jokes from “The Internet” (somebody has already sent them to us); that cute thing your cat just did is really only cute to you; and we especially don’t want to hear how hard and unfair the publishing world is. Because it just ain’t so.

Blogs are a great way to pass along interesting and useful information and great stories, and they can be good marketing tools, but they can also be a bloody nuisance. So think carefully about which kind you are proposing.

Q: Should I write an e-book?

A: I don’t know. Do you have anything to say?

That’s not a trick answer. Many of the same things that apply to blogs apply to e-books.

Is the story interesting? Does anybody other than your mama and her cousin think so? Is it informative? Is there anything like it currently making the rounds? Is it done well? Does it look professional? Are you writing it as a public service or a money-maker? (Either is okay, you just have to decide.) Is it easily accessible? Is the information yours? Unless the information is public domain, it had better be original. Cutting and pasting non-public-domain sources is still stealing if you do it without permission.

E-books can be a big help in certain areas, some provide great entertainment value, and others are valuable sources of how-to information.

And some are indulgent exercises in typing.

If you are going to produce an e-book, make sure the layout makes sense. Think in terms of layout and design, not just getting the words on a page. Also, if you are planning to charge for your e-book, is the story or information presented a good value for the amount you are charging? In the case of freebies, sometimes even a free book is worth what you pay for it. Be honest in your appraisal. And if you are offering a story or book-length work, is it really good enough to be published in e-book format or otherwise? Again, be honest in your assessment.

Q: Do I need an agent?

A: Good question. Some people need an agent, and some people think they need an agent. They like the idea of having an agent. In fact, some folks are drooling right now just dreaming about the day they can say, “I was talking to my agent this morning . . .”

Here’s a good rule of thumb. If you’re writing articles, short stories, and essays, you don’t need an agent. And that’s good because an agent probably won’t be interested in you anyway. Fifteen percent of a short story sale won’t feed the baby.

Also, if you are doing work-for-hire projects, you probably don’t need an agent.

However, if you have a marketable manuscript with real potential, an agent can be your best friend. In simple terms, an agent makes his or her money primarily by selling books and brokering

deals for the corresponding movies, audiobooks, etc., so if you have an interesting premise and compelling proposal, you may very well garner the interest of a good agent.

Ultimately the decision comes down to the (honest) merit of the manuscript and the writer’s ability to present himself/herself in a professional manner on paper and in person. While many publishing companies are specific in their refusal to accept unagented manuscripts, they are still not in the majority. Those markets you probably won’t crack without an agent, but that doesn’t exhaust the market.

Q: Should I self-publish my book?

A: That all depends. There are some very good reasons for self-publishing. If the writing is really bad and no reputable publisher will touch the manuscript, self-publishing may be your only option. And no, that’s not a facetious answer. Let’s be honest (see . . . there’s the “H” word again. Now put on your big girl panties and big boy drawers because it’s truth time). Some writing is just bad. I know. I’ve done some of it. And no publisher in his or her right mind would touch it with a ten foot Eberhard Faber.

However, if the work doesn’t fall into the bad category, some other scenarios lend themselves to self-publishing.

If you are writing for a small niche, self-publishing might be a viable option. Some topics are incredibly interesting but to a relatively small segment of the population. Maybe you are very knowledgeable in the area of crafting swords for medieval reenactors. A major publisher is probably going to pass on the manuscript because it won’t be able to make any money on it. You, on the other hand, could do very well marketing your book at Renaissance festivals and various online outlets.

If you are a professional speaker, self-publishing is a great way to create books and other materials to sell at your speaking engagements. And did I mention that some of the columnists in this self-same magazine have written brilliantly on the subject of self-publishing (from the shameless plug department)?

Also, if you are writing a church or family history, self-publishing is probably your best option.

If, on the other hand, you have been rejected a few times by the major publishing houses and choose self-publishing because “publishers just aren’t buying these days,” then I suggest you may be a little lazy and need to do some more homework. A number of small presses are doing great work, and they may be looking for your book.

Q: Should I buy a copy of your novel, Something Stirs?

A: No.

You should buy two. It makes a great gift.


Soemthing Stirs