Monday 18 March 2013

Cara St. Louis – Ten Things I Wish I Had Known About Being An Author

Ten Things I Wish I Had Known About Being An Author I Did Not Know Before

by Cara St.Louis

There are a couple of rules you must follow and a million that will only get in your way.

Query letters by post…my sense is that less than 25% of agents insist on getting queries this way anymore. Given the age we live in, I simply don’t waste my time with these anymore.

One submission at a time. This has never been reasonable anyway, especially given that snail mail preferrers will take several months to respond.

Write a snappy pitch. Forget the idea of a ‘query letter.’ That was the way we did things in colonial times. A nice, meaty paragraph that captures the attention like a movie preview is the thing. Then one can follow that up with a slim idea of why else an agent should respond to you…such as, “In am a writer of screenplays, poetry, non-fiction articles, and several volumes of fiction….live in New England, writing degree from..any awards? Not really a big deal. One of my books was a supernatural thriller and so I would describe it as a cross between M. Night Shmayalan and Dan Brown. That leaves a flavor in the mind of the agent. And send it by email.

Get as many direct emails as you can get and query directly. See the subject line of your email as part of your pitch. Assistants answer these email lines less than half the time. You will be talking to an agent and why not! I would rather have an agent tell me no than some assistant-bot.

That brings up the question: who reads my stuff? Once you get an agent hooked with your pitch, I have found that it will be the agent him/herself. The only time I found that to be different was when one of my favorite agents disliked the idea of my novel but loved my writing generally. He passed it on to a new but very experienced assistant. This deviates from a standard reception – even via email – of a slush pile, wherein it seems to me that whatever college grad the agency just hired will be sorting through slush and, desperate to make their name, they will have a very narrow and inexperienced bandwidth of what gets through to the next level at their new job.

Start a collection of agents who respond in constructive ways. Even a small bit of criticism is useful. Someone who says they love your book, they love your writing and then tells you why they cannot represent you in spite of it is someone worth hanging onto. I have made several solid contacts. Recently I had one of those very solid agents tell me that the business is such now that unless a publishing house feels it can sell 50 thousand books in the first month a new book is out, they generally won’t touch it. That was a turning point for me in understanding just where the book business is these days.

The book business has changed. It is all but unrecognizable. If you are like me and you turn your nose up at ebooks and kindle and all of that but still want to be a working writer, get over yourself. Immediately. Start learning this side of the business.

Contrary to what you may believe or have been taught: you will have to do most of the marketing work yourself for your book even if you sign with a publisher. And when you get through all the red tape, you will realize about forty cents a book. So just get your brain around that now. Otherwise your books will languish in the attic or the top of your closet.

Surely the tide comes twice a day. You will almost certainly have to write in the cracks. As John Gardiner said, it’s hard to justify a career as a writer when you always have the skinniest dog on the block. Jobs, children, life and essentially the business of life which in the end is the stuff of writing anyway. I came across a poem long into the process via a friends who is a musician. “After I had worked all day at what I earn my living, I was tired. My own work has now lost another day, I thought, but began slowly, and slowly my strength came back to me. Surely, the tide comes twice a day…” This is the nature of being an artist in the modern world, a world without patronage. But it gets done. It does get done.

Most importantly, the thing I wish I had known years ago was that as an artist, as a writer, I am all but required to break the rules. Just trample on them…albeit in a charming way…with good, crisp clean work and remember you are either representing yourself or dealing with a real cadre of Middle Men. Sometimes they have a feel for the work and the words and sometimes they don’t. So either start breaking rules and fly over the rooftops or don’t break the rules and spend most of your non-writing time languishing in the endless, impenetrable grey area between your fingers and the readers eyes.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Thriller

Rating – PG

More details about the author & the book

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