There’s no secret handshake

The secret is…there is no secret.

Hello, dear...
The secret publishing society meeting will be tonight at 6 at Starbucks.
Remember...only let them in if they know the password...

“How would my life be different if a fellow writer or someone in the industry had told me that the money I’d be receiving for my advances was absolutely no indication of what I could make on future book deals? ” 

— @HDemetrios via Medium. How to Lose a Third of a Million Dollars Without Really Trying

Okay, so the link above is to an article that has seen some rounds on twitter this week. I posted my response(s) on Medium, but there are things I’m still thinking and I want to put them out there.

Writers, by nature, are a nosy bunch. I’ve yet to meet a writer who wasn’t insanely curious. We eavesdrop on conversations–not to be rude, but listening to people talk help us with dialog, we get story ideas, and heaven help you if you’ve got an accent, because most of the writers I know love trying to infuse more authenticity into their dialog and nothing helps build that sort of thing like listening to people from areas outside your neck of the woods.

Some E - Card -

We listen in, we read, we have a bajillion questions in our heads at any given point.

Questions should come easy. Like breathing, almost. Yes, We can be introverted as hell, I know, but you don’t have to be the belle of the ball to know how to Google.

Just typing in:

What happens after you sell your first book… will net your article after article after article. Wikipedia has information on advances against royalties. Amazon is full of reference books on the publishing industry.

So, this melodramtic…

If someone had told me…

Just comes off as a cop out.

If you can figure out how to write a book, land an agent, and get a six-figure advance, figuring out Google shouldn’t be hard.

Ms. Demetrios goes on to talk about how she grew up as a poor kid and people don’t understand how the systemic poverty can make it to where people don’t realize they need to know these things.

“People called me out for being privileged and elitist, without recognizing the inherent elitism in their criticism: You are elitist if you can read my piece and walk away without understanding how someone like me who grew up without financial literacy could make these mistakes.” — @HDemetrios Dear Readers

Oi. Again, I’m saying cop out. Why? Because, again, two of the hardest things to make happen in publishing is:

a) Landing an agent

b) Landing a publishing deal

If you can figure that out, you should be able to figure out how to research publishing in general, things like…what is an advance? What happens after a publisher buys my book?

If you get giddy on the high after you sell? Hey, that’s great. I did. Lots of writers do. But if you stay giddy and don’t come down to earth and realize you’re now in a career and you need to act like it, then it’s on you. This industry isn’t one for wimps or people looking for an easy road or hand-holding.

I think I was in 9th grade the first time I checked out a book at the library on how to get published. I don’t know if they still put the same series of books out, but the tome I remember was massive and it was similar to this one, and these? Well, they’ve been putting them out for a while. Like…for decades.

The earliest ones I remember reading told me about which ones were open to unsolicited submissions, what the pubs were looking for, how to query, etc. This was all back in the dinosaur days, pre-internet.

Later on, as the internet became more of a tool, I found more info about agents and what terms like advance against royalties meant. The Writer’s Digest site was one of the ones I can remember visiting the most when I first started taking a serious look at getting published in my early twenties.

I checked out books like Getting Your Book Published For Dummies, which was first put out in 2002. There are guides to literary agents. As a matter of fact, you can find dozens of books on these subjects, and some books narrow it down to the field.

  • Getting Your Children’s Book Published
  • Publishing Your Romance
  • Self-Publishing For Dummies

If it’s about getting your book published, there’s a book out there for it.

There are also websites.

I already mentioned the WD’s site.

But there is the water cooler at Absolute Write. There’s Writer Beware. There are agent blogs, like Nathan Bransford’s. His site is a veritable treasure trove of information. There is Pub Rants. No longer in action but still available with all sorts of knowledge and goodies, author Lynn Viehl’s PBW‘s blog. These are sites that have been around for years and there are many more I’ve forgotten but some wandering around on Google will have them popping up.

There are writing organizations. Most of them are dedicated to writers who have already been contracted, but once you have a contract, you have a wealth of information at your hands and all you have to do to discover these resources is look. Google. Ask your agent…that’s what they are there for.

And one of the best organizations for training aspiring writers to be professional writers? It’s Romance Writers of America--and you don’t have to write romance to get something out the organization. RWA has its flaws but they also have tools that benefit writers, especially new writers.

They offer advocacy–they went to court two years ago with a writer to challenge a bullshit trademark.

They offer workshops on everything from what to expect after you’ve sold your first book, to taxes for the writer to estate planning to marketing to looking for an agent and everything in between.

They have forums for both unpublished and published writers, various chapters, online workshops, conferences, etc. You can connect with librarians, booksellers, PR experts, agents, etc.

And there’s no secret to figuring any of the above out.

There’s just a willingness to educate yourself so you know what to look for, what to ask, how much you need to learn, and the determination to do all of that.

So either you take the matter in hand to do it, or you just don’t want it enough.