|Flickr Creative Commons photo by david.orban|
Yesterday, I decided to be a little daring with my writing. While still in recovery mode from a crazy, record-setting month of work-writing, I took an idea I had for an article and pitched it to a national publication. It required some work on my end--researching publications, finding a magazine that took submissions from strangers, fine-tuning my proposal--but I felt compelled to see what-if. What if I dared to see what might happen?
It's way too soon to know if my proposal has merit, but while I'm waiting to hear a response--knowing I might hear nothing at all--I've decided to play a little game of Truth or Dare. Care to join me?
TRUTH: Unless you're a famous or notorious person with a platform, no agent will come to you and ask for your book.
DARE: Start the book you've been thinking/obsessing/talking about for years and set a goal to finish it. Then edit/polish/critique it among honest writerly friends and then submit it.
TRUTH: Most newspapers, magazines, websites and such accept work from freelance writers. (In your newspaper, look for a byline that reads: Special contributor ... or Contributing writer ... That means the person doesn't have a desk at the paper and submitted an idea or article to the feature's editor.)
DARE: Outline an idea you have for a story and then find some place to pitch it. If you're great at topics about women's health, nearly every women's magazine has a section devoted to it and guidelines for submissions are typically found on their websites under the 'about us' or 'contact us' tab. Be assiduous in submitting, though. You don't want an editor to pass on your great idea just because you didn't follow her guidelines.
TRUTH: Writing contests abound.You can search online for contests or get email alerts from writing resources such as The Writer or Writers' Digest.
DARE: Enter a contest or two or three. If your goal is to make a lot of money, then you'll have fewer options. But, if your goal is to get your work out there, get feedback from the industry (which usually amounts to either acceptance or rejection but not details), and possibly gain some great lines to include in your bio when you query, then go for it! One caution: most contests will ask for an admission fee. Make sure you can afford it.
DARE: If you have ideas for stories and lack confidence to get them on paper, then take a class at your local college. Look online for workshops in your area. Ask your local library, book seller, or community college for information or to be added to their email alerts. Immerse yourself into the writing world, put on your most literary hat and call yourself a writer.
TRUTH: According to PublishersMarketplace, there are over 40,000 publishing professionals (i.e. agents, editors, publishers) who read their daily PubLunch. Forty thousand is a lot of publishing people. You only need to attract the attention of one.
DARE: Before you query your manuscript, make a list of your top ten agents. My favorite site for researching agents is QueryTracker.net. It's easy to navigate and free. If you find more than ten agents you think will love your story, make an A, B and C list and decide how to proceed. Some writers like to test their query on their C list to see if they're getting requests. Others like to start with A and work their way down. Make sure you're putting your best work out there and that any agent you query would be one you'd love to work with.
TRUTH: The market is murky. According to Bowker.com (the company that issues ISBNs for publications) in 2009, 1.3 million new books were published. A year later, that number grew to 4.1 million. Keep in mind, the majority of those titles fell into a category labeled 'non-traditional.' Here is Bowker's definition: Non-traditional consists largely of reprints, often public domain, and other titles printed on-demand. The number also includes records received too late to receive subject classification. In other words, there are a lot of books being printed rather than being published.
DARE: Stand out from the crowd. Exhaust every means available to you to traditionally publish your book before going the self-published route. Getting an agent doesn't cost you a dime. Editors pay YOU for your book. Self-publishing costs you money and while there are success stories out there, they're rare. Be brave. Send your work out to an agent or even directly to a small press. Get paid for all your brilliance. You deserve it.