I recently achieved a dream that took about twenty years when it should have taken five or six max. I’m not complaining (yet); I’m happy with the way things have worked out.
Like really happy. But in the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder where I’d be today if the advice I’d gotten from my HS guidance counselor had been better. “Don’t go into English,” she said. “You don’t have the grades.”
tell a guidance counselor about your dreams and this is what they’ll do to them
By that logic I shouldn’t have gone into anything.
Bad advice from the public school system aside, there are things I know now that I wish I’d known then. I’m not claiming to have any particularly stunning insight into publishing, I’ll be the first to tell you I’m kind of a slow to learn type when it comes to the big picture, but I did eventually learn a couple things. Maybe they’ll help you get a head start on achieving your own dream.
1. Agent Seeking
Do not waste your time with blind query letters. I’m going to do another article just about my experience with agents, but I repeat: do not waste your time blindly soliciting agents.
You have to sit down and do it. Don’t think you have time? Set an alarm and give up one hour of sleep a night. It’s very basic advice, but you need to be disciplined. Read a lot too. Now I’m just regurgitating Stephen King’s On Writing but it’s true. You have to do these things if you’re going to improve as a writer. Subconsciously absorb the lessons and then consciously type some words.
Accept it all, use what’s good, disregard what’s not. And if multiple people are giving you the same feedback, think about it extra before you disregard it.
4. Network Network Network
In publishing, it really is a case of who you know. If you’re waiting to fill the role of “previously undiscovered superstar author,” just go play the lottery because the odds are probably better. While I find gate-keeping an outdated part of the publishing model, it may be necessary for a new writer as they begin to navigate that world. The good news is there are more gates than ever and many gatekeepers who are encouraging and welcoming. The thing is though, you have to try the gates yourself if you want to be part of what’s behind it. You can’t be the only writer you know and expect someone to notice you. Meet other writers and publishers, engage with them, become friends. Nearly every other professional field requires interaction with others in the field, and while writing is a solitary activity, publishing isn’t. When we meet people we like, we want to help them succeed. How else are you going to meet the people that can help you (and you in turn WILL help) if you’re not out there, even digitally.
There you have it, the Ugly Dad guide to getting published. Maybe it’s helpful, maybe it’s not, but there it is. Now, as I was working on this piece I kept thinking of other pieces I’m going to write that will probably contradict this one, if not in content, then in spirit. That’s okay though. As my favorite Whitman line goes, “I contain multitudes.” Love you!
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