Friday, January 9, 2015

Advice for Novice Writers

by Alan Orloff
(bestselling author)

Things move slowly in the publishing world. Be prepared to wait. A Lot. For your critique group to go through your manuscript. For your queries to be answered (if you’re lucky). For your partial and full manuscripts to be read. For editors to weight your submissions. For your book to wend it way through the production process as it heads toward the bookstore shelf. Best advice: have some other projects to work on while you wait.

Getting help really helps. Critique groups can help you with your writing. An agent can help polish your submission and will know where to send it. An editor can help massage your manuscript into its optimal form. Ignore these helps at your own peril. Getting published really is a village effort (so make sure you have plenty of food on hand.)

You need a thick skin. Rejections are the norm—don’t let them “spin you out.” Otherwise, you’ll never get any writing done. Persistence and perseverance are key. When it comes to reviews, read them if you want, but remember writing is subjective and a lot of those online reviewers have axes to grind. 

My conclusion? Reviewers who write good reviews are sophisticated, discerning, and intelligent, while the bad reviews are written by illiterate trolls.

Your book doesn’t “belong” to only you anymore. While you were writing your manuscript, it was your baby. You could feed it what you wanted, dress it how you wanted, play with it whenever you wanted. Now, you have to share and listen to other people’s “baby raising” advice. Once you sign a contract, your book gets slotted into a release date and is tossed onto the production conveyor belt. Flap copy, cover design, titles, internal and external sales pitches, editing, publicity, sales. It’s all done on schedule, without emotion and (mostly) without you. Get used to it.

Online promotion takes a lot more time than you think. Website, blog, Facebook, Google, Twitter, list serves, Yahoo groups, and a kajillion other social sites lure in you and won’t let you escape.These connections are valuable, but you need to exercises discipline or you’ll look up and four hours will have elapsed with nothing to show for your “writing” time except a few Mafia war hits.

Other writers are extremely generous. I’ve found other writers (published, unpublished, bloggers, Twitters, etc.) to be very helpful with their advice, comments, and time. The sense of community among writers is unbelievably amazing.


Take time to enjoy every bumpy, thrilling, uncertain, joyous main-biting, wonderful, anxious minute. No sense getting stressed about stuff you can’t control (and that encompasses a lot). Getting your first book published is a very exciting time—but sure to stop and smell the ARCs.

1 comment:

Richard Mabry said...

Alan, good (and accurate) advice. Authors are used to doing things in their own way, on their own schedule, and we sometimes resent it when editors, publishers, reviewers, and readers stick their noses into the process--even though each of them is necessary. Thanks for the reminder, especially the one to stop and enjoy the sense of success that goes with having a book published.