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
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
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.
if you are doing work-for-hire projects, you probably don’t need an
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
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.
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
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?
You should buy two. It makes a