Feb 15 2010

Amateurism is Not a Personal Failing; Stupidity Is

Published by at 1:13 am under Getting Published,The Publishing Industry

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Prospective authors, myself included, sometimes worry about looking like idiots.

The good news is that agents and editors are very understanding of amateurishness.  After all, everybody starts out as an amateur through no fault of their own.  You’re safe as long as you’re remotely friendly and professional.  If your submission is poorly formatted, the agent or editor may even direct you to a submission guide and ask you to resubmit.

If you’re trying to get a novel or graphic novel published, follow these two steps and you won’t look like an idiot.

1.  Please pay attention to the submission guidelines on the website of the publisher or agent.

2.  Please don’t be a total jackass.

Seventy-two minutes after sending out a query to an agent, one author sent this e-mail…

Subject line: For those liiterary agents who do not even look at the work (sic)
Body: I am still writing 4 more books you will keep getting these queries about every 2-3 months block this email address I will use another one

Anyway, the good news is that whatever alleged hangups you have about your writing obviously pale next to that. And, if they don’t, could I recommend trying a different career path?  Preferably one that doesn’t involve people.

Submit us to Stumble!

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Amateurism is Not a Personal Failing; Stupidity Is”

  1. B. Macon 15 Feb 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I should probably add a few more steps to ensure you are not received as an idiot, but they aren’t quite as important, I think.

    3) Please address your letter to a particular person rather than “Dear Editor” or “Dear Agent” or (worst) “To Whom It May Concern.” Otherwise, it will look like you were too lazy to put in a few minutes of research on their website to figure out the name of any one of their employees. Also, please spell the name correctly.

    4) Proofread!

    5) Only talk about yourself to the extent that it makes your book sound more impressive. Your credentials and experience generally aren’t too important in fiction. So if your past novels have sold thousands of copies or you have some major professional experience that will help you sell your book, great. (For example, veterans selling military fiction). If you’re a first-time writer, I generally wouldn’t recommend spending more than 1-2 sentences talking about yourself in your query because it’s probably a distraction from the novel or comic book you are trying to sell. Please do NOT mention any self-published works unless they sold thousands of copies.

  2. k1dorkon 18 Feb 2010 at 12:39 am

    This is really just a general question, but I don’t know if there is an area for general questions, so I’ll ask it here…

    B. Mac, do you know of any writing contests for sci/fi? I see on many sci/fi books things like “Winner of such-and-such contest or award.”

    I heard that entering contests is a good way to get your writing noticed, but I’m having a hard time finding many contests.

  3. B. Macon 18 Feb 2010 at 2:16 am

    Oof, sorry I can’t be more help on this one. I’ve only heard of a few of them, and if you know how to get a Hugo or a Nebula, let me know. 😉 If you have easy access to a college, the creative writing instructors would probably know much more about rookie-friendly awards than I would. Besides that, you could try networking with sci-fi writers on LinkedIn. As a last resort, you could try something like Googling “science fiction writing contests.”

    I do not know how much of a difference it’ll make to getting published. Unless the editor has actually heard of the writing contest you won, I don’t think that it would impress them much. (For one thing, some of the contests are scams where you essentially pay for the certificate–please don’t enter any contest with any sort of fees unless you are 100% sure they’re legit).

    PS: I can answer general questions wherever you’d like, but using the open writing forum might get you might help from other commenters.

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