Post by L.O. Nobi
While I’ve been pursuing publication for over a year now, I only threw myself fully into the community around October last year. But in that time, I’ve picked up some key lessons here and there that has made walking this tricky path much smoother. Hopefully, as you read, you’ll also find them actionable on your own journey!
– Social Media Isn’t A Diary
This is a controversial point. No one wants to feel like they’re being controlled on what to and what not to say just because they’re trying to land an agent/book deal. But the thing is that what you say on social media, Twitter especially (The online Hub of the writing community), matters.
I only realized after an offering agent followed me on Twitter (without me writing my Twitter handle anywhere on my query letter) that agents google writers. And it makes sense. No one wants a business partner who could turn out to be problematic. They want someone who is professional, polite, and possesses good judgment. When most agents start considering your MS, they’ll check out your online comportment. The things you say. How you say them. Often, these things include your interaction with other agents and writers. So Twitter probably isn’t the best place to bad-talk agents that reject your MS. Or to get into fights with other writers. Or to rant that an author got a deal for a book that doesn’t sound as cool as yours.
And in that vein, I’d even go forward to suggest not posting about every rejection you receive, especially those to full/partial MS requests. Why? Because if an agent sees that other agents are turning down your MS—unless they feel very very strongly about it—they’ll likely also start to see faults they didn’t before. Or reasons editors might not be so interested in the MS after all. Please, post when you get MS requests (that’s good for business!) and even R&Rs if you want, BUT keep the rejection tallies as private as you can.
This isn’t to say you should keep glancing over your shoulder every time you tweet about your process. Just utilize moderation in all things, and it will serve you well.
– Expect Rejections
Rejections will come in all forms on the path to publication. Yes, there will be rejections to manuscripts by agents and editors, but beyond that there’ll be others. Like friends rejections from people you admire and reach out to—who won’t respond or want to be friends. Or those you think might be awesome C.Ps after seeing the similarities in your writing styles—who won’t want to share their MS with you. All kinds. I’ve gotten rejections to Path2pub related requests e.g. requests for interviews, guest posts, etc.
The thing though is that you can’t let them deter you from pursuing your goal. Each time you reach out, you need to bear in mind that there’s a chance this person won’t be interested in what you’re offering/asking for. And that is okay. There’ll be others to reach out to if they say no, and out of those many others, someone would say yes. Don’t let rejections stop you from moving forward. And most importantly, don’t dwell too long on them. Try (keyword is try) to take them in stride, all as pieces of your journey that would make a compelling recount one day!
– Be Graceful At All Times
This is very important. You see, the awesome thing about the writing community is that it’s filled with numerous kinds of people with numerous goals and approaches to those goals. People will push your buttons and while flying off the rail might seem like the best way to take a stand, gracefully letting go of many things will serve you well.
Not sure about this? Okay, here’s an example. One of the earlier agent interviews we had on Path2pub was copied entirely by a writer who doesn’t even follow Path2pub. She structured it like it was her undertaking in minutes, not knowing the efforts it took to find these agents, the time and resources it took to set up the interviews, or all the hours and planning that goes on behind the scenes. And then after setting it up on her blog, she tweeted about it and wrote on the tweet ‘thanks to this site’, so at least she wouldn’t get in trouble for taking someone’s content. My first reaction was to DM her and tell her to take it down while including a number of other interesting sentences. The next was to call her out. But ultimately? I blocked her to prevent further content theft and just… let it go. Let her have it. There have been other occurrences too where a bristling reaction is so tempting, such as when someone took a key element of my story to use in theirs right after reading my story and profusely praising the use of that element. I’d been angry but if I’d reacted furiously, it would’ve made things escalate to lord-knows-what-extent. And who know? Maybe I might’ve ended up seeming the bad guy by the time we were done.
While I’m naturally not prone to aggression or fights, I’ve learned that specifically on this path to publication, approaching things gracefully at all times will save you lots of stress.
– Kindness. Kindness. Kindness!
The publication path is a really tough one. People are getting rejections from right, left, and center. Manuscripts are being shelved and tough feedbacks are being received. So try to be kind or at least polite to everyone who crosses your path. Answer questions (DMs/replies), be kind about refusals, don’t look down your nose at anyone simply because they don’t have an agent or book deal yet. Help out when you can. No one is an island, and this is coming from someone who can be a bit of a hermit.
When I first decided to pursue publication I’d already been writing for many years before that, but all for my reading pleasure. So this time I knew I had to up my game. So publishing newbie that I was… I went on Instagram, skittering into popular authors’ DMs with ‘can you please critique my book? Thank you.’ Lol. I honestly expected to be ignored by all of them. But you know what? Many of these big-named authors replied, kindly. And one ultimately agreed to critique my book, later gave me a referral when I submitted it, and ultimately became a mentor to me through that first few months of my journey. When I say mentor I don’t mean just in writing—and I learned a LOT from her in that aspect too—but she also held my hand through rejections, always urges me to keep going, and got me out of a few scrapes my newbie self tangled myself into.
I’ve definitely learned plenty from her kindness. Besides, you never know when your kindness will speak for you.
– Nothing is Perfect
The final advice on this list is to remember that nothing at all is perfect. Usually in the community, you’ll see writers gush about their wonderful agents or book deal or C.Ps or covers or just something you want. And so it’s easy to get the impression that those things are perfect for that writer and to expect that when you get them too it’ll be all wonderful-rainbows-and-sunshine.
Some things to note. Some agents and clients often bump heads over one thing or the other, it could be over edits or over submissions or anything. Usually, there’ll be a few conflict of interest here and there, and so don’t seek out agents or go into that relationship expecting a best friendship, because those writers gushing about their agents probably won’t share the moments when things weren’t great. Do go in expecting that differences should be settled amiably though! For book deals, not everyone will write a How I Got My Book Deal post, so when you see the announcement it’s very easy to imagine it happened easily. But you don’t know how long the writer was on submissions, or the number of rejections the MS received, or if a huge R&R was involved before the offer was made, or the wrangling that might’ve gone on to draft a suitable contract. So don’t go into submissions expecting a perfect journey. The same goes for C.Ps and book covers and so on. The perfect C.P relationship probably takes years of building and trust. That perfect cover probably involved some back and forth between author and publisher. There’s no aspect of the world as a whole where anything is perfect and that certainly also applies to the publishing world.
I could probably add a few more points to this list but it’s running pretty long at the moment and I think these five cover the basics. Do everything in moderation, expect that people will turn you down, stay graceful, and remember that nothing is as perfect as it seems!
Do you have any advice to share with those on the path to publication?
L.O. Nobi is an avid writer, with numerous novels constantly blinking at her on her laptop. She’s a lover of words, reading, and Disney. You can find her tweeting here, or visit her personal blog here.