Do you know what an indemnity clause is?
Can you name three of the top selling authors in your genre?
Which agent represents them?
How about trends in the publishing industry? What's new? What's flagging?
What is the air speed of a well-laden swallow?
Okay skip that last one. Though it did get me extra credit points on a college exam once. The point is, what do you as an aspiring career author need to know about your career of choice? Everything. (except maybe the bit about birds)
Every day I read a slew of messages from various writers' groups and most of the time I find a lament from some author or another who has gotten themself into a heap of trouble by not being informed about their industry before jumping in head first.
Now, more often than not it's because they signed up with someone like Publish America and now they're totally SCREWED. (don't do it, please) But sometimes it's just a matter of making a rookie mistake, a mistake that could easily have been avoided with a little bit of research ahead of time.
Granted, I have no doubt that mistakes will be made regardless. Just give me time, I'll find a way to make an ass of myself one way or another. But still, getting informed can save a lot of headache and heartache along the way. So here are some of my ideas for keeping in the know. It's a tiny fraction of a start, so keep your ears open and look for other options. If you have any great additions, let me know as well. I'm hoping to hold off making a public fool of myself as long as possible.
Know How it Works:
What are the steps to getting published? Who do you go to when and with what? What happens next? And next?
So this is where I say, read. Hit the bookstore, the library, the used bookstore and grab anything you can find on the publishing business, how to get published...how it works. While you're there pick up a few good books on writing and you can incorporate polishing your craft into the deal. (whole other blog post, believe me)
Know What to Look Out For:
Sharks and scams and shady deals. Google everything. Every offer, every publisher, everything. Better yet, get to the Preditors and Editors website and bookmark it. Check everyone and every business you come into contact with. The "writer beware" site is a good tool too.
Know What's Going On:
Keeping up with your industry is good business no matter what business you're in. Every heard of Publishers Weekly? It's the industry trade journal/magazine and it's....well really expensive actually. BUT, they blog, gods bless them and MAN do they blog. I've found industry news feeds, and blogs by genre on their website. Follow them. At the very least in your genre. While you're at it, search that blogosphere for other resources. There are millions of blogs that cater to the publishing industry and authors. Hey, agents blog!! We like agents, remember? So do publishers and houses. So do other authors.
Don't follow so many that you can't keep up, or they'll just sit in your feeds doing you no good. (or rob you of valuable writing time) But pick a few good ones--ones that post frequently and have relevant and helpful information.
Know Your Peers:
Ever been stuck at work and too embarrassed to ask the boss a question? Your co-workers are a source of valuable information. So are other authors. Mingle for heavens' sake. Not only do authors blog, but they chat too. Interacting with people doing what you want to do, people who may have already succeeded, who have made a bunch of mistakes of their own to learn from, may be the best idea here.
Search up some authors groups by genre and in general on Yahoo... I'll wait.......
How many did you find? More than a few, right?
Okay, now specialize. You may have to test drive a few...or a bunch, but eventually you'll find three or seven that work for you. I like groups that post a lot, that share info and that aren't simply a promotions engine for their members to shout out, Hey, BUY MY BOOK PLEASE!!!
Weed those out and the numbers will drop dramatically. What you're left with is golden. I learn more every day about this business from my authors' groups than anywhere else.
If you're lucky enough to have a local writers' group, you can mingle in person. If not, start one. If you build it, they will come and drink coffee.
Anyway...none of this really matters if you're not interested in making writing a career. I think we both know that you are. Like me, you dream of hiding behind a bookshelf in the local chain bookseller and peeking around the corner while dozens of rabid fans rush to pick up your new release. . . Tell me I'm not the only one who has that dream.
Let's make it happen without too many tears. I'll bring the wine and chocolate.