Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just say no

by Joe Moore

731 I was a guest at a recent writer’s event. I got to discuss my new book, THE 731 LEGACY (co-written with Lynn Sholes). Afterwards I took part in a meet-and-greet with the audience. Among the questions, someone asked me: What was the most important advice I could give a new writer? My answer was to realize that you can just say no.

I explained that publishing is a manufacturing industry. But unlike most other industries, publishers don’t manufacture anything. Instead, they have an endless tsunami of writers constantly beating down their doors with pre-manufactured product. Yes, they have to know what the customer is looking for. And yes, they need to edit, package and market it in a professional and appealing manner. But publishers will never run out of product because there will always be writers wanting to be published.

New writers want to be published in the worst way. Unfortunately, their journey to publication can turn over time from excitement and enthusiasm to desperation and fear. You write a book, send out queries, start getting rejections. But you don’t give up. You revise your query, send it out again, and get more rejections. So what happens? You become desperate. You think that maybe you’ll never get published or never find an agent. Never see your precious work on the shelves of Borders or B&N.

Out of fear, you become so desperate that you are ready to take the first offer that comes along. Because when it does and you don’t, you may never get another shot.

Then the call or letter finally comes and someone is willing to issue a contract. What do you do? You jump at it without a moment’s hesitation. You just want to be published. And you finally got an offer. You go for it.

Now, stop and consider this. Did you marry the first person that asked you out? Did you buy the first car you saw for sale? Or the first house?

When that offer to publish finally comes along, ask yourself: Is this publisher perfectly matched to my writing? Will this publisher put in place the appropriate marketing and distribution to get my book to the correct audience? Do they have the expertise? Do they understand the genre? Will I get the quality and personalized service I need? And most important, do they have the ability to help me grow my career as a writer?

Remember that desperation is not a reason to say yes. It’s a reason to stop and realize that you can say no. Because getting married is blissful, but getting a divorce is not. Always remember that you can just say no.

What is the most important advice you can give a new writer?


  1. I think the best advice I can give to a new writer (at least to one who hopes to get published) is to get as much exposure to as many responsible opinions as possible, in order to have a decent handle on the ins and outs of what they can expect to encounter. This is the best way not to have unreasonable expectations, which avoids disappointment and conflict later.

    There was a time when would have said "read and write as much as you can," but anyone who isn't doing that is in the endeavor.

  2. I think the most important advice is to learn the craft of writing. I've noticed that new writers tend to view their writing through a filter of what they meant to convey, rather than understanding how to create an effective scene.

  3. The one other best piece of advice I ever heard was to write every day, at the same time of day, to build a writing discipline.

  4. You're right, Dana. Even wannabe writers need to go to signings, conferences, and other events to network. And join a professional writer's organization, most of which accept associate members. Networking always pays off later.

    Kathryn, you're so right (as always). A specific time of day and a designated place to writer form discipline that will be needed later when that first deadline appears.

  5. My best advice is to think "hard" about what you are going to write before you put it on the page. If it goes down easy, it could probably be a lot better.

  6. Good advice, John. The great novelist, Wallace Stegner once said, “Hard writing makes easy reading.”

  7. My best advice would be to do your homework - on agents, publishers, writing, the market - everything. Then you will at least be informed and (hopefully) able to kae the best decision possible when the offer to publish comes along. I can't say I really had an idea what I was getting into!

  8. I second everything you said, Joe. I jumped at the first agent that offered to sign me, even though I'd only pitched three of them. Mind you, she was a good agent, but if I'd done more research, I mighthave gone in a different direction (which I ended up doing two books into the contract). I also have to say that far too many people self-publish simply because they're too impatient. It's worth waiting, "Chicken Soup for the Human Soul" was rejected by more than 30 publishers, but look what happened there...