Mar 28 2010

Please Be Confident, Writers

Published by at 11:09 am under Writing Articles

1.  Be quietly confident. Ideally, confident enough to encourage prospective publishers and agents but not so arrogant that working with you sounds difficult.

2.  You need self-confidence to drive yourself through an emotionally grueling publishing process. Getting published will probably take thousands of hours of writing, submitting, rewriting and resubmitting.  If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else can help you much.

3.  Your query doesn’t need to say anything about you, and shouldn’t say much. Only talk about yourself if it makes you sound like you will sell thousands of copies.  For example, if you’re professionally published (any medium), have professional experience relevant to what you’re writing (like a doctor writing a medical drama), already have a large audience (through a day job, perhaps), have worked in the publishing industry or have something similarly impressive, say so.  If you don’t have any impressive publishing credentials, that’s fine–just focus entirely on what will actually impress the editor: namely, your book.

4.  Don’t distract publishers from your greatest asset: the manuscript. Editors want manuscripts that sound interesting.  Editors do not want to hear about how awesome you think your book is.  The difference is showing vs. telling.   Be specific.  Give us the details we need to conclude that this is an interesting premise with characters that will be challenged in interesting ways.  “John is a guy that does fascinating things” is just the author’s opinion.  “During the siege of Leningrad, Lev will be executed in two weeks unless he comes up with 12 eggs for a colonel’s wedding cake.”   Hook us with what you have.

4a.  This should go without saying, but some authors miss it. If editors do not want to hear how awesome you think your book is, they DEFINITELY do not want to hear how mediocre you think your book is.  If you really think your book is mediocre, I’d recommend rewriting rather than submitting.  One red flag in this area is referring to your work as a “draft” or something else that suggests it’s been slapped together.

5.  Every remotely talented author has doubts. The ability to evaluate and improve your writing is an important part of your development as a writer.  Nonetheless, you have very little to gain from belittling yourself, especially in public.  Everybody will make mistakes and, since that’s a given, you just need to learn from them.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Please Be Confident, Writers”

  1. Contra Gloveon 20 Jul 2011 at 4:20 am

    Hey, B. Mac, I think a spambot slipped through. You might want to get rid of it.

  2. B. Macon 20 Jul 2011 at 6:13 am


  3. catswoodsriveron 18 Jan 2016 at 7:46 am

    You could also have peers read the book to look for stupid mistakes, like misspelling angry.

  4. B. McKenzieon 19 Jan 2016 at 7:18 pm

    “You could also have peers read the book to look for stupid mistakes, like misspelling angry.” Ehh, personally I wouldn’t characterize typos as stupidity. First, making 0-10 typos in a novel length manuscript is probably not a problem. Second, a lot of the writers making the most glaring mistakes are probably non-native to English and/or much younger than average, and while a lack of professional polish may be a significant obstacle to publication, the main consideration would probably be “this would take too much effort to proofread” rather than “this author is dumb.”

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