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?