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5 Tips for Playing a Smart Publishing Game

I’m in the process of learning how to play the Wii.

After recently finishing the writing of my book, I bought a Wii for my kids as a celebration gift and as a way to pay them for all of their “babysitting.” Every afternoon for the past five months during writing time, my older children took turns supervising and playing with my younger ones. Their efforts helped minimize the distractions. The Wii was my thank you to them.

With the new Wii, I had beginners luck in bowling and whipped everyone in our family tournament. But I was terrible at the other games. I still have to learn how everything works—like how to swing the tennis racket and actually hit a ball.

At some point writers seeking publication must make an effort to join in the publishing game. Of course it goes without saying that first, we must have a well-crafted, excellently-told story. It won’t do much good to jump in and play hard without having something to sell.

On the other hand, I’ve met writers who have books ready, but aren’t in the game yet. They’re hoping for publication, perhaps sent out queries, but essentially they’re sitting on the couch doing nothing or very little to learn how things work in today’s market. They get frustrated at the process, but what they really need to do is stand up, grab the remote, and start playing the game.

Very few of us have beginners luck. Most of us have to put forth the time and energy to learn the basics. Then after we’ve been at it for a while, we can start thinking more strategically. Here are just a few ways I’ve played the publishing game:

1. Know the industry. Most of us reading blogs are already immersed in the online world of the writing industry. But there are still those who think all a writer needs to do is type up a good book and send it out. The rest of us know that is definitely not the way things work. The first step is to learn as much as we can—read agent/author blogs, look at publisher guidelines, and learn from other writers through blogging and twitter.

2. Don’t be shy with professionals. The great thing about social media is that many authors, agents, and editors are easily accessible. I suggest leaving thoughtful comments on agent blogs as a way for them to become familiar with our names. Follow them on Twitter. Retweet things they say, reply to their comments. It’s an easy way for us to introduce ourselves and get to know them. But remember—we should always be professional, not pushy.

3. Be ready to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. If we get a request for a partial or a full we should send it right away. If we final in a contest, we should query agents and let them know, or follow up if they already have our manuscript. In other words, if the door opens a crack, we need to stick our foot in. Don’t let a single advantage pass by.

4. Connect with other writers. When we enter the writing industry realm and seek genuine friendships with other writers, over time those connections can lead to further opportunities—blog interviews, agent referrals, someone putting in a good word, critique partnerships, and further connections and help. It takes time, but networking can put us further in the game.

5. Don’t stop writing. Never put all our hope into one book, series, or set of queries. The first book, or even the second, may not sell. But the third story may be just what a publisher is looking for at the time we finish writing it. In the meantime, we should improve in the craft of writing, know the ins and outs of our genre, get critical feedback, look for a niche, find a unique twist, and work at defining our writer’s voice.

It’s a tough game. In fact, sometimes it’s downright brutal. But if we learn how to play smart, we’ll be more prepared for the losses and the difficulties—for they’re sure to come.

Through all the game playing we should always keep the love of writing top priority. When we lose the joy and passion, it will show. And our game will suffer.

Are you in the publishing game? Are you playing it smart? What are some ways you can brush up on your strategy?

47 comments:

  1. Jody, as always, a thoughtful and informative post. I love that you point out that if we're always looking forward, we won't be hit as hard by losses. Excellent point. I had never thought of it that way before. Based on your points, I am definitely in the publishing game. Networking and not missing opportunities is something I've been focusing on more this year. You get what you give in this respect. The people I have connected with have been amazing and the learning never ends. Thanks so much for your post!

    Marissa

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  2. Very nice, Jody! I don't think I realized how "connecting with others" would become such an important part of becoming a writer. I'm so thankful for the wonderful and kind writers I've met along the way so far.

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  3. As always, wonderful post. I probably don't do as good a job of this as I should. I think at the moment, I'm looking at my completed manuscripts and seeing changes that I'd like to make, so I'm not querying or even following up on the one full request I have quiet yet. And I'm a little nervous about editing the one book that I have a full out on (even though it's been a LOOOOONNNNGGGGG time since they've gotten it) but... UGH. Then with everything with the baby, I'm wondering if now is NOT a good time to query anyway.

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  4. Interesting post. I found you first via Twitter, I think. Anyway, I'm following the blog now.

    Good luck with the book when it comes out in October, by the way.

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  5. I hope I'm doing al of these steps:) I find it especially nice that people in the profession are so willing to help.

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  6. Hi Jody! Your posts always make me think and this one REALLY did. I feel so out of my element when I start thinking about querying and playing the publishing game. I only have one MS, and while it did final, I know I am no where NEAR ready for more. So, I am trying to work on the craft, learn all I can, and be happy with the sloooow process. :)

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  7. I'm in. Sometimes I still have trouble viewing it as a game. Business, sure. I feel so blessed to write for a job--for a career.

    So blessed.
    ~ Wendy

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  8. Wise post, Jody girl.

    I'm in the game. But I'm sort of in a weird phase in the game right now. I have an agent. She has submitted my work. And how it's just waiting. Not sure how to play the game while I wait, other than working on my new wip.

    Any suggestions?

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  9. Looking forward is the only way I survive!

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  10. As always, a great post!

    I still think you should gather up all your posts about writing/blogging/publishing and put them into a book. I know it would be a best seller handbook for other writers! I'd be the first to buy it and promote it!

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  11. Katie Asked: Any suggestions for what to do while waiting when book is out on submission with publishing houses?

    My Answer: Great question, Katie! I'm not sure there is a ton you can do. But I would definitely start preparing for ACFW in the fall. Have all your books ready to "sell" and target two of your top editors in those meetings (maybe you and Rachelle can discuss which 2). I think it will help for them to meet you and have a face/name with the proposal Rachelle's sent out. You'll become more than just another name/proposal in their slush pile.

    You may even consider having a proposal ready to give them for your WIP (if it's going to be done by then).

    You're doing the right thing by continuing to write. One of your books will eventually catch the interest of a publisher and "sell." That's my 2 cents, for what it's worth! :-)

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  12. I need to get some books on the craft of publishing.

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  13. Yup, I'm doing everything you mentioned. INCLUDING playing Wii bowling.

    Any day now. I can feel it.

    have a great weekend.

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  14. Great tips, Jody. I ended up with an offer of representation from my Dream Agent by sending a requested full after she judged my entry in a contest. I put my foot in the door, and the Lord flung it wide open.

    I friended an editor on Facebook and took the time to thank her for the great workshop she'd presented at a conference I attended. I mentioned a conversation we'd had about historical romances, and she asked me to have my agent submit my story to her when it's ready. Yup. A request as a result of a FB chat. It happens.

    Opportunities abound, but sometimes we have to step out of our cozy little corners to find them. When we do, it's our job to make the most of them.

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  15. That is excellent advice, Jody! I keep waiting for registration to open. I'd be thrilled if I could finish this story before the conf. It would be a definite challenge, but one I might try to tackle. :)

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  16. So grateful to be able to learn from authors such as you! Thanks for giving us food for thought and practical information to make our journeys that much easier! Great advice in this post, Jody! Thank you, thank you, and thank you! God bless and I look forward to next week's posts!

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  17. This is my first time on your blog, excellent post. Just what I needed. You've really drilled it down to the essentials. I'll be back. Oh, and have your kids gotten Mario Cart yet for the Wii. Just wait. My six year old nephew laps me as I run off the track every few minutes. Needless to say, I'm a popular opponent. Have fun with it.
    Melissa Gill

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  18. So...what your saying is if I master the Wii I can do anything right?

    Great post and for a new author who is just getting the top of my toe wet, all of your advise is being stored for future use. Thanks.

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  19. Partially smart for me. I can definitely make better use of my time as well. :O)

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  20. Melissa Gill asked: "Oh, and have your kids gotten Mario Cart yet for the Wii."

    My Answer: Oh, yeah! And they love it! And I'm sure when I play them in it, they'll really like beating me too! I've become a "popular" opponent too because I'm easy to beat! :-) And thanks for stopping by!

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  21. A Wii sounds like a wonderful reward for helping you out.

    Am I in the writing game? Up to my neck. I have a book coming out in July that I'm very excited about, working on one to be released next spring, trying to finish a screenplay, and finish another YA that is nearly done.

    Here's a question for you, how do you keep on top of everything: PR, writing, family, and etc? There are days...well let's just say I'm loving the journey just wondering if I'll survive. ;)

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  22. Thanks for the great and concise information, very helpful.

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  23. When I was writing romance, I helped form an RWA chapter. I was amazed how many people used "politics" as an excuse not to write. I think it's easy to fall into the temptation of "being a writer" and all the bonding that it brings...but in the end, we have to find that balance and it should always be in favor of us being at the keyboard the majority of the time, working hard. The successful authors do that...

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  24. I'm in the game, but out in left field, waiting, waiting, waiting for agent responses.

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  25. Oh I like this. Sometimes after gleaning so much from agent/editor/author blogs when I hear some of the misconceptions about publishing I want to be able to share something like this. Just a quick list of hey - here's the road map. Don't make these mistakes.
    This was great, I took it and a list of some of my favorite industry blogs and put it on my FB for people that haven't gotten into blogs. Thanks, Jody!

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  26. Kathi Oram Peterson asked: How do you keep on top of everything: PR, writing, family, and etc? There are days...well let's just say I'm loving the journey just wondering if I'll survive. ;)

    My Answer: I totally agree, Kathi. There are nights when I say to my husband, "Wow, is this really worth all the effort?" I'm grateful to have a husband that helps me carve out concentrated writing/work time. That helps. But I also have to sacrifice a great deal of other things to fit in all the essentials. I work at odd hours and simplify other areas of my life.

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  27. I'd say I'm in the game, but I got in much later than I should have. Your advice is great to those who are just writing and not considering other aspects of publishing or who are new to the game. There's so much to be gained from knowing the industry, making contacts and trying to improve your writing any way you can. Thanks, Jody!

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  28. I'm in the game but in 'Slow' mode. I've been writing and learning while keeping a low profile on forums and agents' blogs. Now that I'm working on my fourth ms it's time to stop lurking and make better use of the networking opportunities, but booting into 'Fast' mode puts me way out of my comfort zone. You know the feeling when you hit the second curve on a roller coaster? That lurch of the stomach and breathlessness? That's me right now. :)

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  29. Thanks Jody...I think I am in the publishing game in a small way, as I have started connecting with you all amazing bloggers and learning loads from you all about marketing, agents, critique groups submissions, and so on.In India its different.
    By the way I mentioned and thanked you in my blog "The Lonely Life of an Indian Writer." In your own unique way you have taught me a lot.

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  30. Excellent, thanks so much. Never put the Wii and writing together:) I do rethink my strategy from time to time as my goals change. It seems that the basics (like you mentioned) stay constant, but sometimes the methods alter depending on the project. Happy weekend!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  31. OK, I'm snagging on number three. How do I take advantage of unexpected opportunities without feeling like I'm over stepping my bounds? I'll have to sleep on this one. Trust me, I'm not shy when it comes to making inroads. Sometimes I think I'm the only one on earth who believes in my work. I guess I'm the right place for that belief to start, right? Have a great weekend!!!

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  32. Not in the publishing game yet, but I appreciate your wisdom. Please don't ever darken this blog. You have so many posts I will be getting back to...

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  33. I'm not in the publishing stage yet but I have tucked your article in a special place to review when I am searching. Thank you. Very informative.

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  34. Great points! I'm learning that I need to explore the publishing world more. Every step is important and I'm trying to soak up each one:)
    My kids beat me on the Wii constantly!!

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  35. Helpful and insightful post as always, Jody. I've "met" so many wonderful writerly friends around the blogosphere; talk about a support network!

    You should try 100-pin bowling on Wii Sports Resort. So satisfying to break 1000 :)

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  36. Great advice, Jody. I didn't actively enter the online world until accepting representation and then having my book go out on submission. I think it's important to keep writing and to keep pushing yourself as a writer as well as learning about the industry and making genuine connections. It's a lot to do: You have to be a writer and if you get a book deal, an author--two different but related roles.

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  37. I'm in the non-fiction game with proposals and article queries in circulation. The fiction game is another story, pun intended.

    I'm revising last year's Genesis runner-up manuscript and am 2/3 through a second manuscript. This WIP is more of a break-in book and I hope to have both polished and ready by fall. Then it's time to get off the bench and start seriously pitching (while continuing to write the next idea).

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  38. While I agree with all your points, #5 DON'T STOP WRITING is the most important. Too many beginners write their life story and that's the only book they think they have in them, the only 1 that will ever sell. Some really do have that single book, but a real writer will go on & write that 2nd book, then the 3rd, & keep on keepin' on until published.

    J.A. Konrath received 500 rejections before his 1st book was published--& it wasn't his 1st manuscript, I believe it was his 9th. A British blogger (probably 1 of your followers), Talli Roland, wrote 6 books before hitting the publishing lottery.

    Yes, it's a tough game, but the alternative of not writing is even tougher.

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  39. Another great post. I joined the blogging world at the end of February so I could learn more about the publishling business and start the slow process and the proverbial foot in the door. In those few short months I've learned SO MUCH. The other benefit of networking is the encouragement you can offer and gain through those connections.

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  40. Hi Jody -

    My problem was I jumped into the publishing game too fast. I backed off and improved my writing. Now, I'm almost ready to stick my big toe in the publishing pond again.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  41. These are such great tips, Jody. Thank you for sharing your insight.

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  42. Your wise comments echo advice I've been given about getting tenure-track work. I'm just learning all the ins and outs of networking, so thanks for the nice list!

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  43. Great tips! Thanks!
    And yes, in a "small" way I'm in the publishing game with my short fiction, poetry, and devotions. I haven't explored all the options you mentioned, but I do research my markets and try to send appropriate material. Somtimes I think it would be easier to finish one of my longer novel length ideas, but I seem to be at a point in my life that short stuff is what works best for me.

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  44. Jody, thanks for this excellent post. You are so generous with your time and advice!

    With the wii, I have trouble hitting the baseball!

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  45. I love this analogy, and laughed at your bowling ability. It is the one thing I'm good at on Wii. As for the writing side of the analogy, I really appreciate your sense of balance and optimism. Thank you.

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  46. You get what you give in this respect. The people I have connected with have been amazing and the learning never ends. Thanks so much for your post!
    Contextual Ad Network India

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