JERRI CORGIAT’S NEWSLETTER
News: Upcoming Appearances / NEW CONTEST!
Feature Article: DOING YOUR HOMEWORK
Recommended for Other Writers
Best Book(s) I’ve Read This Month
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Throughout this week (beginning Feb 17), I’ll be talking about my book, SING ME HOME, during a “Book of the Week” chat at www.nalauthors.com/forums. If you have a moment, pop on over and post your comments or questions.
On February 26, at 8 PM, join me and a number of other NAL authors at a cyber-party at www.writerspace.com/chat. It’s a great opportunity to “meet” authors, ask questions, or just hang around and “listen.”
Up until now, my newsletters have attempted to give you a glimpse of what it’s like behind the scenes during a book’s production. Now that SING ME HOME is on the shelves, I want to launch a new series. But on what topic?
YOU tell ME.
Would you like to hear about my day-to-day writing life? Or the process I go through in creating a novel? Or maybe you’d like to get into the subject of what it was like during those four years pre-sale: the learning process, finding an agent, how to keep going even when your psyche (and your mother) is telling you it would be more worthwhile to sling burgers at McDonalds.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and cast a vote on one of these topics, or propose an entirely NEW idea of your own. Everyone who responds with a suggestion before noon, March 31, will be entered into a drawing for a set of three bars of Caswell-Massey Lilac-perfumed soap! Believe me, it’s heavenly stuff. (And why Lilac? Why it’s the full first name of SING ME HOME’s heroine, Lil, of course!)
------ FEATURE ARTICLE: DOING YOUR HOMEWORK
Until you’ve voted on a series of topics, I’ll just wing it! Because publication of SING ME HOME has generated some questions about about how I went about finding an agent who sold my book, I thought I’d direct this newsletter to answering that question.
Homework. Ugh. Who likes the sound of that? Pretty much nobody, which is why I think I encounter fallen faces when I tell fellow writers there are no quick shortcuts to selling your work.
I’m sure if you know—-or are related to—-a mega-bestselling author, an editor at a major house, or an agent who is A Name, you can at least get your manuscript into the right hands. (Caveat: But without any guarantees they’ll like it.) But if you don’t and aren’t—-and that encompasses the vast majority of us—-it’s necessary to do homework.
(Once, of course, you’ve written something you think is saleable. Very rarely in fiction does anyone buy a first book on proposal. You have to complete the manuscript first.)
That’s how I did it. That’s how every writer I know did it. And when I started out, I knew absolutely nothing about the publishing industry. Here’s how I found out...
1. Visit your library. There happens to be a very good library where I live, but even in smaller ones, you can borrow books from far afield. Look in the card catalog/computer index. You’ll find a slew, and I mean an absolute slew, of books on marketing and publishing your work. Some will be specific to a particular genre—children’s, young adult, mystery, science fiction, romance—others offer a broader base of information.
2. If you’ve got deep pockets, or just want to start a collection of books on the publishing business to keep as reference (I did), you can find an equal number of new books at big stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. If you live in a community without a big bookstore, buy from an online bookstore like amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.
I read somewhere around thirty books—-in whole or in part—-on the business of writing and selling. In each one, I’d collect some piece of information to add to my growing knowledge. I don’t recommend you use only one book—-too often opinions differ and everyone’s experiences are different. But I will recommend a couple I added to my own library: HOW TO BE YOUR OWN LITERARY AGENT, by agent Donald Maass (which is a great book, even if you don’t plan to be your own literary agent), and THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, by Betsy Lerner (which is much more anecdotal, but paints a good picture of what the world of submission is like).
If the words synopsis, query, manuscript format, partial manuscript, and submission are largely foreign to you (and they were Greek to me when I set out), there are also books that help you prepare each one.
Many books also includes indexes of national and local writers’ groups, and how to reach them, online or via snail mail.
3. Surf the internet. This is an invaluable tool. There are writer e-lists on almost every topic imaginable, and I highly recommend them when you’re first starting your education. (They can be fun later, too—when you’re the one who can give advice!). To start, visit www.yahoogroups.com. You’ll be able to search these groups by topic. Pick a couple and try them.
4. Look for local writer groups and join one. The phone book and internet are both good tools, as is your local paper (the Arts section, usually on Sundays). National organizations, like the one I belong to, Romance Writers of America (www.rwanational.org), also will have lists of local chapters. Like writer e-lists, you can further your education while you make new friends. Many also offer critique groups.
In a similar vein, look for one-time writer workshops. Your library will usually know what’s going on where.
5. Attend writer conferences. This can be an expense unless there’s one in your own backyard. (And don’t assume there isn’t—you might be surprised. My local community colleges offer some very good ones.) I enjoyed conferences. Not only were they educational, they were energizing. There are a variety of workshops offered on everything from honing your craft to how to land an agent to manuscript formatting. And as an added bonus once you’re ready, there’s almost always a handful of editors and agents (at the bigger ones, more!) attending with the purpose of listening to you pitch your work.
6. Don’t neglect magazines. In any big bookstore, in the magazine rack, you’ll find magazines written solely for writers. The library will also have a selection.
7. Take a class or attend a seminar. Through my local community college, I joined a four-week, once-a-week class on marketing a book, taught by a local author. It’s a great place to ask questions in an atmosphere where you don’t feel like an idiot. :)
Note: If you take a class on the craft of writing.... do remember this business is highly, highly subjective. What works for one writer might not work for you. Ditto in using caution in adopting the advice from craft books or anywhere else: If you plan to hone your craft by using such tools, make sure to get a sampling of differing viewpoints... and don’t adopt anything that doesn’t strike you as right for your work. You can end up editing your own individual voice right out of your book.
8. Once you have a manuscript ready—-polished until it’s absolutely shining—-and are ready to search out an agent who believes in your work, there are a number of references that can help you locate a list of those to query:
The following is a minor sampling. There are many more worthy sites you can find by googling “literary agents.”
www.aar-online.org: The Association of Authors’ Representatives. Includes a complete listing of agents who have agreed to a specific code of ethics.
www.publishersmarketplace.com: You don’t have to join to browse their database of agents.
http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/: Includes information, and caveats, about various agents and editors.
In compiling my lists of “agents to query,” I used these books, each updated and published annually, until they were dog-eared. They include contact information, partial client lists, what types of work the agent handles, and other tidbits:
GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS
Jeff Herman’s WRITERS GUIDE TO BOOK EDITORS, PUBLISHERS AND LITERARY AGENTS
They aren’t cheap, but the information is invaluable and you’ll probably want at least one of your own so you can mark up the pages. If I had to choose only one, I’d pick Jeff Herman’s guide.
I wish there was an easy way to get from writing a book to seeing it published, but I’ve yet to hear of any such magic. But while homework may sound like a horrible grind, I truly enjoyed the learning curve—all the people I met and experiences I had. And that’s the real joy in life, isn’t it? The journey?
RECOMMENDED FOR OTHER WRITERS:
For this newsletter, I think the feature article will do!
BEST BOOK(s) I’VE READ THIS MONTH:
GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, by Tracy Chevalier
Simple but powerful prose that paints sharp portraits of its characters. I loved this book!
Q IS FOR QUARRY, by Sue Grafton
What I like about Ms. Grafton’s continuing Kinsey Millhone series is that her protagonist never remains static. She grows and changes against the backdrop of each mystery.
A huge thank you and cyber-hugs to all of you who have taken the time to write and tell me you’ve enjoyed SING ME HOME. An author never gets tired of hearing she’s touched people in some way, or given them a few hours of enjoyment. I treasure these notes!
Fiction for and about women rediscovering themselves