People ask me all the time how I got my first book published, and I have two internal reactions: 1) the short answer is that I wrote a good book and then got extremely lucky, and 2) there’s no way you have time for the long answer. There are so many paths to publication – and so many different kinds of publication, let alone definitions of success…it’s just not the sort of thing one answers in a sentence. If I were to try, this is the best I’ve ever come up with: “Well, first I got an agent, and then she sent the manuscript to publishers, and one of them bought it.”
Of course, if you know anything about the publishing world, you know that’s a massive oversimplification. It’s like saying, in response to a request for directions from New York to San Francisco, “Well, first you get a car, then you drive west, and eventually you’ll get there.” And even that example situation is way simpler and more transparent than the publishing process. It’s simply not as easy as ‘just Googling it,’ since most people don’t even know what to Google when they first dip a toe into publishing.
This is one of the reasons I want to do a Publishing 101 class or webinar at some point – I’m working on it – but I promised you all that this newsletter would be pretty brief and digestible, so I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty here. Still, the good thing* about the internet is that support and information are always out there, if only you know where to look! On which note, I’m going to share some resources I offered to a friend’s mom recently, when she emailed me for advice on getting a book she wrote published.
If you're writing nonfiction, I actually started a group for creative nonfiction writers – we do biweekly webinars with information about the publishing process and the group feed is a great place for getting your questions answered and finding support.
For pure education purposes, I can't recommend the Manuscript Academy more highly – they have a ton of lessons on all areas of the publishing journey, and they also offer brief meetings with agents and editors for times when you feel really stuck. I've done two of those and found them both immensely helpful. They also have a linked Facebook group where members can ask anything and everything, and where people get their query letters critiqued and connect with each other on Twitter and pretty much anything else even remotely publishing-related.
For genre-inclusive help finding an agent and building up your online presence/getting your work out there, these are two of the Facebook groups I like best: Binders Building Platforms and Binders Seeking Literary Agents. BSLA is particularly helpful for refining query letters and synopses (for fiction) – they do weekly query critiques where you post the letter/synopsis on the group and members give you feedback to make it stronger. NOTE: Binders groups are for women/femmes/non-binary people only.
If short-form/freelance writing is more your game, I’m an admin for a fantastic group called The Fairest Writer – it was started by the writer Meredith Talusan and it’s full of brilliant, generous people making their ways in various parts of the publishing world.
Hopefully that’s helpful to some of you, even if you already have some sense of how the process works.
Also, if you’ll allow me a brief plug: I'm teaching a Memoir Writing & Publishing class at a local community college in April and, thanks to Covid, it's virtual! If you've started working on a memoir, or you feel like you have one in you but you're not sure how to get it OUT of you, you can get more info and register here!
I was THRILLED to have a pitch accepted by the one and only Catapult at the beginning of the year – I got to write about Taylor Swift and the challenge of brevity and the beautiful pain of recognizing when someone has done what I do, but better (and luckily differently). The essay was published last week and I’d love for you to read and share it. March has actually been super busy for writing stuff, so if you want to read any of the other pieces that have been/will be published this month you can always check my Linktree. And now I need to get back to pitching, so April won’t be a dead zone!
What I’m Reading:
I’ve spent a lot of time this past month reading and editing submissions for the literary magazine I launched last week!! I’ve heard it said recently that I “never stop working,” which is fair and something I need to address, but at the moment I’m in the honeymoon phase with far too many commitments and I don’t want to cut any of them – Moments Between has been an especially fulfilling timesuck <3
That said, I’ve also enjoyed listening to the audiobook of my first Marian Keyes novel, The Woman Who Stole My Life. It was an engaging romp, only improved by the charming Irish accent of the reader, and Keyes herself is fabulous – if you’re thinking of writing a novel, her YouTube series is a wonderful and encouraging place to start!
A Random Joy:
I started a new full-time remote job this past week at a great company, with colleagues and a boss I already love – that’s obviously a joy to be celebrated, but the random joy of my month is the new home office my husband helped me set up in our guest bedroom (the two of us working in the same upstairs office was…not working). Look how beautiful!
*Bet you thought I’d forgotten about my rebranding/theme, but if you did then you don’t know me very well. I love a good theme…