Tuesday, September 7, 2010
All of us who go into this whole writing gig have stars in our eyes at the very beginning of things. It's natural to sit there hammering out your story and dreaming of the day someone, anyone will love it as much as you do. These are emotions that, as writers, we all share. We love what we are writing and hope for all we're worth that someone else will love it too. We dream of getting 'the call' and how it will feel when that validation arrives. At this point, you've probably not done much research on how the business works and haven't been warned about those shark infested waters. But they are there. They are real.
I know it's exciting when publisher XYZ writes and says they want to publish your baby. You don't want to believe the contract is bad or that this publisher (who expresses such faith in you) might not pay you on time, might release your story without edits and give hardly a thought to helping you promote your work. These are things you MUST think about.
Lately we've seen blog posts full of all kinds of horror stories and it should all give new writers pause. Please, please look before you leap when being offered a contract. Ask other writer friends, do some research. Does this small publisher have a kickass website featuring beautiful covers? Or it is a website that looks old and shoddy? Are the covers icky? Now imagine YOUR story on that website! Yes, look around carefully before you leap. Fight that glowey, lovely feeling of acceptance and look beneath the hood. If you were buying a car, you'd want to know it was a top notch, well-oiled machine, wouldn't you? You need to find something that will take you from point A to point B with nary a glitch.
New writers should always ask around before they sign a contract. Talk to friends who know the business. Join yahoo loops and other on-line groups where there are lots of published writers who know the ins and outs and have some experience. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You'll find that writers are the most generous people on the planet. What are the questions? Easy...how are they to work with? Are their editors knowledgable? Do they pay on time? Think of it as a job interview. You don't want to rush into something without having all the facts.
Yes, there are many many great publishers out there (mine included) who know how to treat their authors. Some are nurturing for new writers and can offer an author a first-time glimpse of how the publishing world really works. It's not all fairy tales and rainbows. It is a business and you should look at it that way.
In the end, you want your first experience as a published writer to be all you dreamed of. If you hear whispers of non-payment, non-existent promotion and lack of prompt payment, you must realize these are red flags. Step away. I know it's hard because of the whole 'this is my first book and I'm so excited' thing. Believe me, there are other publishers who will love your book too. Best to wait for that perfect publisher to come along than to drown in those shark infested waters. Good advice is everywhere. Take it. Use it.