From Writers To Writers

Last year at a convention, I was horrified to discover that there were handouts in the swag bags that promoted predatory "publishing" companies. (Both were mentioned by name in Writer Beware.) Sure, I started each panel by saying "take the handouts out, crumple them up, and throw them away – and here’s why", but that only goes so far.

So this year, I decided to do my own PR blitz. I asked writers, editors, and small publishers to offer the single most important thing they could tell an author today. This is what they told me. Each person speaks for themselves. Some quotations were edited for length and clarity.

You may reproduce the PDF below for your own local convention’s swag bags under a CC license. You can copy it, just keep it intact as it exists. Please link to instead of this post.

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Business Advice From Writers To Writers by Steven Saus is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Exposure is a word pertaining to nearly dying of cold, not a useful way to make a living as a writer.

Don’t be afraid to try something new – audiobooks, bookmarks, book blog tours, serializing, etc. Don’t hesitate to stop doing what doesn’t pay off.

Sales need contracts. Read everything in the contract and pay attention to what rights they’re buying. This is more important than how much money you get, especially for a short story.

  • K. W. Taylor

Think long and hard before you self-publish. It is easy to get a self-published book in your hands, but incredibly hard to get it into someone else’s hand.

Finish your work. No one publishes half of a story.

Never collaborate with someone you don’t trust; never undertake a collaboration that lets someone else hold YOUR idea hostage.

Never say yes until you’ve thoroughly vetted the offer. Check the contract, company, co-writers, etc. Even the big players respect your right to get the details before making a commitment.

  • Kerrie Hughes

When researching agents or publishers, always, always check Preditors & Editors and Writer Beware.

Ask questions and learn to parse the advice you’re given. Learn the business as well as the craft. If I wanted to write just for the love of it, I’d just put my stories on my blog. My time and work are worth pay, not just the promise of "exposure."

Professionalism in everything: your finished product, your attitude, your whole life. Those worth working with will do the same.
-EA Younker

Never stop learning – business, craft, economic changes. Be a student forever – and check your ego at the door!

Tell the story you want to write; otherwise no one will want to read it. And if no one wants to read it, no one will want to buy it.

Believe in yourself, and don’t give your manuscript to yes men. Get readers that are honest – your story will benefit and so will you as a writer.

"Writing" and "Publishing" are two very different things: Many people enjoy writing, but few people can put up with the effort and heartbreak required to publish.

  • Margaret S. Lundock

When you deal with small press, sanity is optional. When working with a new publisher, never send them a second project until they’ve paid you for the first.

  • Ramsey Lundock

Write what you want to read. Finish what you start.

True writing is rewriting. Your first draft  isn’t  good enough. Your second and third probably aren’t either. Have someone else read it and give honest feedback. Have the professionalism to polish your work before you submit it.

Find a writing group with similar interests and share not only your work but information about opportunities for publishing, further education, and suggested reading. Although many of us still cling to the image of the solitary writer, don’t fear collaboration and cooperation.

  • Cynthia K. Marshall

Don’t be afraid to spend money on improving your writing skills via writing classes, coaching, and workshops, but do your homework first to match what you need and want with a reputable teacher/program/workshop. This may not seem like publishing advice, but it is, because the better your writing becomes, the more opportunities become available to you. 

Publishing services means that a specific service is delivered for a specific fee. I do what you pay me for, and not any more or less. Someone providing publishing services gets paid by the author. A publisher takes a percentage – usually a majority one – but handles much, if not all, of the business aspects without involving (or bothering) the author. The publisher pays for editing, cover art, and also (usually) pays the author an advance against royalties with royalties paid out to the author through the sale of the book to the general public. A publisher makes money from sales of the book to the public.

This industry is not about telling compelling stories, creating dynamic characters, nor memorable villains – you have to have all those to succeed, yes. But, this business, at its root, is about making money.

Keep writing. A lot. No matter what happens.

The following were mentioned by many of the respondents

Money Flows Toward The Author – Yog’s Law

AbsoluteWrite –
Book Country –
Critters Writer’s Workshop –
How to Write a Query Letter –
Miss Snark (read the archives) –
AgentQuery –
SlushPile Hell (how NOT to write a cover letter) –
Preditors & Editors –
Writer Beware –
Duotrope’s Digest –
Ralan’s SpecFic and Humor Extravaganza –
Strange Horizon’s "Stories We’ve Seen Too Often" –
William Shunn’s Manuscript Format Guide –
Writer’s Digest –
Science fiction & Fantasy Writers of America –
Horror Writer’s Association –
Romance Writers of America –
International Association of Tie-In Writers –

Compiled and edited by Steven Saus
Brought to you by Alliteration Ink Publishing –