Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Hardest Question in the World

I'll give you a hint - it's not "how do we stop global warming" or "how do we solve world hunger." Nope the hardest question in the world is the one I keep getting since I received an offer on RUMBLE. That question is "how do I get a book published."

What? You think there's a harder question? You think I'm being narrow-minded and shallow to think that's the hardest thing to answer? Well, maybe, but it's the hardest thing that I get asked to answer. No one's hit me up on that global warming thing yet and until they do, I'll just cover the publishing question.

So here's the problem with that question - there's no easy answer. No secret handshake, no one person you have to know, etc. I've met so many writers that think there's some sort of 12-step program to selling a book. It goes something like this:

1. Write a book.
2. Make sure your margins are 1 inch.
3. Conduct a poll and find that most people are going with TNR 12 and not Courier New.
4. Make sure you have exactly 25 lines per page.
5. Turn off widows and orphans.
6. Agonize over the title because that's the most important thing.
7. Limit each scene to one pov.
8. Bind the manuscript with rubber bands and put in a Tyvek envelope.
9. Send to your dream agent.
10. Sign contract with dream agent.
11. Go to auction with book.
12. Sit back and collect millions in royalties and have Paul Walker as a cabana boy (okay, so that's my personal dream, but hey)

Uh, yeah - that's it. Heck that wasn't hard after all. Of course, it's better fiction than RUMBLE, but hey, I'm a writer.

The reason the question is so hard to answer is because it's like trying to shoot a moving target. Very few things in publishing remain the same moment to moment. One genre fades into obivion as another rushes in on a freight train. A formerly "taboo" item becomes the hottest new trend. And the list of changes go on and on.

So if I were to really write a 12-step program for publishing, I think my list would go something like this:

1. Come up with a high concept idea (note: if you do not know what high concept is, find out)
2. Write your butt off
3. Join a writer's organization and learn the industry
4. Write your butt off
5. Study technique like there's no tomorrow. Never, EVER assume you are done learning.
6. Write your butt off.
7. Find critique partners who aren't going to be polite and kiss your butt and let them rip your baby apart
8. Edit your butt off.
9. Submit to agentS (plural) until you find a good match.
10. Sign with good agent - hopefully one that provides line edits.
11. Edit your butt off - send perfect book to agent for submission.
12. Pray long and hard that you have luck and timing in the market.

There's no secret to getting a book published. It boils down simply to hard work, lots of learning and hitting the right editor at the right time. If there was another way, believe me, we'd all use it.


Kimber An said...

Great post! I've been running into writers in cyberspace a lot who are totally burned out on trying to get published. Writing is supposed to be fun!

Guess what? I finally found a copy of 'Rumble on the Bayou!' Good ol' Wal-mart. I knew I could count on them. Up here in Alaska, sometimes getting things in can be unpredictable. In any case, I've read five pages so far. I chuckled from the first sentence and burst out laughing on the line, "It had taken only minutes to trap her prey, but thirty-five years to kill it." I'm going to write a review of it on my blog and give it to all the women in our family for Christmas! And I'm saying that only five pages in. Laughter really is good medicine.

Jana DeLeon said...

Hi kimber - I'm so glad you found RUMBLE and thrilled that you are laughing. That was my hope! I can't believe you live in Alaska. Is it cold there yet?

Email me at jana (at) with your blog site (I didn't know you had one) and I'll post a link to it. Also, if you give me your mailing address, I'll send you some bookmarks and alligator bottle openers to include with the Christmas gifts - and some for yourself, of course. :)

Kimber An said...

Oh, oh, you'd really send me bookmarks?! I was thinking of asking you, but, I thought, nah, better not. She'll think I'm a pest. Sure, I'd love some! I have to talk to my CNM about my miscarriage today and my family and 'Rumble' are going to get me through it.

Jana DeLeon said...

Oh, I'm so sorry about the miscarriage. I know that can't be easy, I've been through it with a couple of friends and cousins. Big hugs and lean on your family for support - that's what they're there for.

Tori Lennox said...

*hugs* Kimber.

By the way, your quoting of that line reminded me there was one line in RUMBLE that had me laughing so much I almost fell out of bed. And now I can't find it. Argh!!! At any rate, it was really funny. :)

Jana DeLeon said...

What was the line, Tori - I bet I can find it. :)

Colleen Gleason said...

Very good, Jana. But I'd even simplify it further.

1. Write.
2. Finish the book.
3. Send it out.
4. While you're waiting to hear on it, write another book.
5. Send that book out.
6. Start another book.
7. Keep doing this until you a) sell or b) give up.

Jana DeLeon said...

Well, yes, Collen, but that wouldn't be TWELVE steps and I was making a comparison of writing to addiction. :) I mean, that has to explain it, right? It's certainly not the money...........

Besides, the industry loses most people on step #2 in your list. You actually want them to FINISH a book?????? :)

Anonymous said...

Well... I loved your 12 step program.. and I think I followed almost all the steps.. I know the ones about writing my butt off.. several times..but sigh... it grew back. Note to self: walk and talk your book into a tape recorder and kill two birds with one walk.

Tori Lennox said...

Well, that's the thing. I don't remember exactly how it goes (my memory is shot--which is really embarrassing--except for old TV/movie triva which seems to stick in my head for years and years...). That said, I keep thinking it had something to do with Piggly-Wiggly (where I used to shop, in fact!). Am I crazy? Well, okay, you might not want to answer that question. I think that's a foregone conclusion. *g*

Anyway, I meant to mention the line to you at the time, but I, um, forgot. *rolling eyes* There are days when I do well to remember my own name. :)

Kelly Parra said...

Yeah, there was no secret handshake for me! I was just really like a dog with a bone, wouldn't give it up even though the bone was pretty much stuck for a good long while. Finally that sucker came loose. =D

Jana DeLeon said...

anon - amazing isn't it? No matter how many pages we type, that rear is still beneath us in all her glory.

Tori - I can't recall mentioning a grocery store at all. I did mention Walmart and Sears with that whole underwear conversation with the bartender?????

Kelly - dog with a bone works! And look, now you have a fabulous book coming soon!

Kimber An said...

I did it! I've started reviewin 'Rumble on the Bayou' on my blog. I've had to break it up into parts though because I'm a mommy and, you know, mommies don't have a lot of uninterrupted time.

Jana DeLeon said...

that's great, kimber, I will go check it out! Thanks!!!

Tori Lennox said...

Well, I'm obviously going to have to re-read it to figure out what it was! SUCH a hardship. *g*

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