This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Erika Dreifus, author of QUIET AMERICANS) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.
(Last Light Studio, Jan. 2011), largely by the
the United States in the late 1930s.
supports US-based survivors of Nazi persecution.
See Erika’s website here and her Twitter here.
1. You should stock up on Forever stamps. Yes, it’s true that more and more literary journals are taking submissions via e-mail and through online submissions managers. But for those who still request manuscripts via “snail mail,” SASEs are still required. And given how much time can elapse between your submitting a story (or essay or batch of poems) and a journal returning a response, it’s entirely possible that postal rates will increase in the interim. Stay safe. Use Forever stamps!
2. By itself, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree itself is unlikely to net you a full-time, tenure-track teaching job in creative writing in a college or university. In most cases, you’ll still need at least one published (preferably, traditionally-published, and critically-admired) book.
3. Your MFA thesis will not be your first published book—at least, not without some major revisions.
4. Not every story of yours that gets published will necessarily end up in your first collection. And that’s OK.
5. Agents do not universally welcome short-story collections—especially if you don’t have at least a partially-completed novel to submit to them as well.
6. The above notwithstanding, agents can make major contributions even if they don’t take you on as a client. My own first collection, Quiet Americans, owes a great deal of whatever strengths it may possess to the especially generous editorial suggestions of agents Eric Simonoff and Julie Barer.
7. You don’t need official permission to quote a line from a Nobel lecture as an epigraph to your book. But you will be charged a per word rate exponentially beyond anything you’ve ever earned when you seek permission to quote from a Nobel laureate’s published fiction.
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- “The Book Chooses the Writer” — Here’s Why.
- Agent William Callahan of Waxman Leavell Seeks New Clients Now.
- Learn About a Writing Retreat in Europe.
- Author Sandi Tan Explains How Patience is Your #1 Tool.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- 10 Reasons Picture Books Are Not Just For Kids.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.
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