16 Sep 2006
I’m continuing my writing info and share the second set of questions from Mrs. Thompson
Hello Mrs. Thompson
I’m taking your second question for my blog today.
“How-to’s” and anecdotal essays of professional fiction writers often speak of a magazine pathway. But it seems as though the readership of magazines has dropped and venues have disappeared.
As a solution I’ve considered self-publishing, and zine-ing. But this lacks the critique and validation of the professional community. And I would think that being my own publisher would give any reference to those publishing credits a real lack of shine.
I don’t know if you’re trying to make a living at writing or not. It isn’t clear in your post.
If you are not trying to make a living — rather — trying to hone your writing skills, then it shouldn’t matter if the article market is smaller and paying less. This is just one more way a writer pays his or her ‘dues’ on the way to getting published. I wrote many articles/how-to’s/ect. on my way to getting my first fiction book published. I even tried to get some rather awful poetry I wrote, taken for poetry magazines which paid little or nothing. Lucky for me, they always rejected my poetry! I simply wasn’t good at it!
And if you are, indeed, trying to stay afloat economically by writing then you’re quite right about the article market shrinking and the pay is less. I know very few writers who didn’t have a ‘real’ job eight hours a day and wrote at lunch time, on their breaks and at night after the kids went to bed. Most of us have had to juggle career and family AND try to develop our writing skills. Very few aspiring writers are lucky enough to be rich and they don’t have to worry about the same things most of the rest of us do. Do think about a second job while you’re trying to break into writing, is my advice. Or, you can starve. Breaking into writing/publishing is tough. But not impossible. It just takes a lot of time and more patience.
Self-publishing is certainly another avenue. But you have wisely pointed out the ‘potholes’ in that path. You have no editor to help guide you on your book being the best that it can be. And what you’re putting out there without another objective, professional eye on it may end up hurting your career (or as I call it: shooting one’s self in the foot….) rather than helping it. Of course, there are editors for hire, but most charge $50-100/hour, minimum, for their services. But, if you have the money to do this, it’s a possible avenue.
Ebooks is another avenue and one that I heartily endorse. Why? Because most of the ebook publishers have some excellent editors in house. And you’re going to get the same quality of someone looking at your manuscript as you might at a big publishing house. You may well get rejected from them too–but you will hopefully get a ‘nice’ reject letter explaining a critique of your writing that can help you correct your weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
And, ebooks is a step, in my personal opinion, to getting to the big houses of publishing. You pay your dues there, too but you are also building a readership–which is vital for your survival when you publish at a known book publisher later on. It doesn’t hurt to come to a house with a readership. Because, whether writers like it or not, sales count. They will either end or support your career. I don’t think readers truly realize how important they are to the process and not from just a monetary bottom line (although this is legitimate because if the publishing house can’t stay afloat economically, there is no place for writers to submit their work). From another perspective, the writer, if she cannot have enough readers or keep acquiring new readers, she will be released by the publishing house sooner or later. It’s just a fact of business life. It’s not a nice thing to think about but it happens all the time. So, ebook route is a good one for a long-term business strategy for an aspiring writer.
Ebook publishers also will take pains to ‘grow’ you as a writer where a big publishing house does not have the time to do it. They can help you turn weaknesses into strengths and often give you much more feedback and advice. All these are good things for an aspiring writer!
My experience with Hard Shell Word Factory, who accepted my manuscript, VALKYRIE in 2000, was fantastic. I not only got into a close, working relationship with the owner, Mary Wolf, who is just the best in my opinion. And even more exciting for me, I got to actually put ideas for the book cover! Normally, in publishing, authors are consulted about details of the hero/heroine/clothes, ect., but we never get asked or show the art until it comes out in a cover proof. That was an exhilarating change for me and I was grateful Mary allowed me to have some two cents worth on cover development for VALKYRIE.
I think this answers your questions. I have one more set to go which I’ll cover in tomorrow’s blog.