I have a self-published writer friend who is mentoring a young lady aspiring to be a YA novelist. She asked me to meet with her and talk about my journey in the quest for publication. This particular young lady is extremely ambitious, but like most of us starting out, has the starry eyed dreams of making it to the New York Times best seller list in a year.
I tried very hard not to laugh and be considerate of her aspirations, but I felt I would be doing her a disservice if I didn't prepare her for the journey because it's not for the faint of heart.
The truths I told.
You have to edit.
New writers never think of editing. I didn't. I cranked out my first book in a month and started sending it out. Unfortunately for me, I wrote a fantastic query letter for it. I got a manuscript request on the first query letter I sent. And later I got my harshest rejection to date: "There's too much wrong with it for me to go into detail." And she was right because I also didn't pay attention to formatting. It was double-spaced and that's about it. No indentations for dialogue, improperly punctuated dialogue and I think the word, or pretend word, "OK" was in there at least a thousand times.
Agents typically only sign a few clients a year from the thousands of query letters they receive.
I thought she might cry after I told her this.
Even after you get an agent, it doesn't mean your book will get published.
I saw her mind at work, picturing herself at my age, still unpublished.
You're going to get rejected...a lot.
This she seemed prepared for, which is good, but I think everyone says that until they start collecting rejection letters.
Once you've sent a query letter to an agent and been rejected, that book is dead to that particular agent.
This I wanted to tell her so she would only send out her best work.
On the positive side...
The industry is really subjective.
Someone may hate it. Someone else might love it. If you've edited your little heart out and you stand behind your work, keep sending it out.
Why the heck aren't you reading blogs, twitter, etc?
I cringe over my first novel. It's locked in a drawer, never be seen by human eyes again. Had I not researched, researched and researched online: reading agent blogs, publishing blogs, articles, Twitter chats, other writer's blogs...I'm confident my following manuscripts would be equally crappy.
And because I follow a ton of agents on Twitter...
Mermaids, vampires and books in the eighties are over done.
She said she was working on some manuscripts set in the eighties and I told her agents get innundated with those because a lot of YA writers are in their thirties (like me), and we write what we know, the eighties and nineties. Agents see this as a lazy way to get around dealing with technology or finding out how things are today.
BUT I also told her the most important thing is to write a great book, because a fantastic story about a mermaid in the eighties will get more notice than an okay book about a modern shapeshifter.
I don't think I completely dissuaded her from writing, but I certainly gave her a lot to think about.
Did I miss anything major?