Writers: You Need to Hear That You Suck
Okay, that was harsh. But it’s true. Like it or not, having honest critics who care nothing for your feelings read and give their opinions on your writing is a very, very good thing.
As writers, we deviate from the norm simply by doing what we do. Not many humans have the ability or desire to sit and write much of anything. But then there are those of us who choose to do it. We choose to use words, as a mason uses brick, or a potter raw clay, to craft poetry, or the [hopefully] realistic and interesting dialogue of imaginary people, or even non-fiction essays and instructional literature. We do it without knowing whether or not it will have any effect at all on another person, or the world around us. We do it for the simple love of doing it. Because we can’t NOT do it.
Sounds like a wonderful, organic concept, yeah? While writing for the sake of writing can definitely be incredibly therapeutic, no matter the form, for some of us, there comes a point when the entire experience becomes complicated by the idea of publishing. And this is where too many writers get ahead of themselves (myself included).
I remember the excitement of the first letter of acceptance I received for something I wrote. I was maybe 14 or so, and had sent a short poem I’d written as a school assignment for Earth Day off to the address in one of the tiny ads in the back pages of my “Bop” magazine.
Everything I’ve Learned About Publishing (Which Isn’t Much)
In the past year or two, I’ve gotten much more serious about my lifelong writing hobby. Okay so I wasn’t penning fiction straight out of the womb. You know what I mean, smartass.
Anyway, one thing I’ve realized is that it’s pretty easy for newbs to fall into some big damn sinkholes on the road to publication. From vanity presses to indie houses to self-publishing services, below is the meager knowledge on avoiding craptastic publishers I’ve collected in my relatively short time in this crazy game. Enjoy!
1. Never pay a publisher. Not one cent. Ever.
One of the first things a properly seasoned writer (yum?) will tell you is that money always flows to the author. What does this mean? It means that you’re supposed to make money, not spend it. But why is it a red flag? There are so many reasons, but this is the only one I needed to know: a house whose authors are supplying the business’ income has no reason to be picky. They’d be stupid to turn anyone away, and as much as they might insist that they are just as picky as a “traditional” house (pro tip: don’t call trade publishing “traditional”), believe me, they are not. You are the customer here. Sales is about parting the customer from their money. Think about it. Do not give anyone there any money.
A publisher should never require you to write a check for any services. Not editing, not print runs, not promo materials.