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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Megan Bostic

Categories: 7 Things I've Learned So Far, Children's Writing, Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, What's New, Young Adult Literary Agents.

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Megan Bostic, author of the young adult debut NEVER EIGHTEEN) 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.

GIVEAWAY: Megan is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: SJ Mitchell won.)

 

 

           

Megan Bostic is a mother of two, residing in Tacoma, Washington.
She was moved to write her first novel in the spring of 2002 after
deciding to close her child care business in order to provide hospice
care for her terminally ill mother-in-law. Megan thrives on the challenges
she has faced so far on her journey to publication, and has
recorded her struggles in a humorous-yet-personal video series,
Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer.  She is a member of SCBWI, PNWA,
Class of 2k12, Apocalypsies, and is an avid blogger. Her YA novel,
NEVER EIGHTEEN, debuted from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
January 2012. Visit her online at her author website, on Facebook,
and on Twitter.

 

1. I am not the next JK Rowling. Of course I thought I’d be the next JK Rowling, and I wanted to be SO bad, but after I wrote my first novel, and after my first few rejections, I realized I was not. No one is the next JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, or Suzanne Collins, but you can be the best you. That’s what I decided to do, and what it took was to put that superhero series aside and work on something that really spoke to me, and to work hard at it. Will I ever pick that series up again? Maybe. But I will and can only be Megan Bostic.

(How to get your children’s book published and into bookstores.)

2. It’s not them, it’s you. I know, that’s a hard reality to face, but it’s true. They are the professionals and they know what they’re looking for. Your writing may need work. However, your writing could be full of awesome sauce, but it’s just not what the agent is looking for. Talent is not the only component to getting a book published. It’s also the market. What are people looking to read? Agents have to be somewhat prophetic in finding the next big thing, and your book may not be it. Throw in there a little luck and timing on top of the talent and the market, and you’ve got yourself a book deal. Maybe.

3. Patience is a virtue. The publishing business is slower than molasses rolling up hill. Query an agent; you may hear back in five minutes or five months. Submit to a publisher, two months or two years. When you get that contract, the waiting is excruciating. You wait for your advance check, your line edits, your copy edits, your pass pages, your ARCs, your book, your marketing letter. To give you an idea of how long the process takes, I received my book deal in April of 2010; my book hit shelves in January 2012. Nearly two years later! If you do not become patient, you may quickly become insane. ☺

(New for 2013: MORE Tips on Writing a Query Letter.)

4. Marketing means money. And not your publishers money. Okay, if you get a huge deal, yeah, they’re going to put some money behind you. If you have a quiet little book and received a decent, but not huge advance, you’re pretty much on your own. When you get that advance, you may want to hold off buying a new car, or putting in a swimming pool. Keep it for marketing. I write Young Adult. Teens love SWAG. I invested in buttons, stickers, bracelets, and bookmarks mostly. Very popular. I also invested in a local publicist, which for me, was worth the money. You may need to purchase ads, or flyers for events. You may want to join a collaborative marketing group. If you don’t market, you may as well not have written a book.

5. Never stop writing. I made this mistake. I was so wrapped up with working on promoting my novel, I kind of put writing my next one on the back burner. I mean, I was writing it, but definitely not consistently. It took me over a year to finish it. So right now, when others are getting second book deals, I’m just now on submission. Not a good feeling. If the book gets picked up, I’m probably looking at a 2014 or even 2015 release. If I want to actually make a living at this, I need to be writing regularly.

(Look over our growing list of young adult literary agents.)

6. Reviews. Either don’t read them or learn how to take them. I did the latter because I like to read the good ones. If you’re a writer, I’m sure you’ve heard of the site called Goodreads. It’s a great site for sharing your favorite books with your friends or followers; it’s not such a great site for writers. If you insist on reading reviews of your book, keep in mind that they are one person’s opinion. If a review bothers you, go to the reviews of your favorite authors and read some of the bad ones. Yes they will have bad ones, everyone does. Do that and you’ll know you’re in good company and the bad reviews won’t sting as much.

7. Time is not necessarily money/Kids are cool. One of my favorite things about being a writer is visiting schools. I do not get paid for this. Yes, I am promoting my book, it’s true, but I just love getting kids excited about reading and/or writing. I love inspiring them. They ask the coolest, funniest, weirdest questions imaginable. And they truly seem excited to have a real live author there, even if it is just me. Lol. Now, I did have to crawl outside my comfort zone at first to do this, but I quickly felt like I was in my element. So I urge you to go after school visits. Even if you inspire just one child, it will be worth your time.

GIVEAWAY: Megan is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: SJ Mitchell won.

 

2014-childrens-writers-and-illustrators-market

Writing books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

 

Writing a novel for children? Literary agent
Mary Kole, who runs the popular KidLit.com
website, has a new guide out for writers of
young adult and middle grade. Pick up a copy
of Writing Irresistible Kidlit and get your
children’s book published.

 

 

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28 Responses to 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Megan Bostic

  1. FlanneryFletcher says:

    This really helped and encouraged me to not quit trying.

  2. LittleBird87 says:

    Thanks for the words of wisdom, I especially liked the molasses comment about how slowly the publishing process moves!

  3. KHager says:

    It must be very rewarding to inspire kids to read and write. I still remember how I felt when a writer came to visit my school in the 5th grade. It was like a celebrity came in!

  4. Tess says:

    Thanks for this very straight-forward post! It’s a great reminder.

  5. elaine says:

    Congratulations on your book release. Thank you for the very practical tips on marketing. I have so much to learn about this business!

  6. pmettert says:

    I am not the next J, K, Rowling either. :) But, some people seem to like who I am so I will stick with that too. Good advice…all seven of them.

  7. Athornia says:

    You are right that people need to be themselves when writing. If everyone wrote the same way, the world would be a lot less interesting.

  8. Heart2Heart says:

    Thanks for sharing with all of us, Megan. Congratulations on your book and much continued success to you!

  9. 4show says:

    Wow! Thanks Megan. Very sound advice for the real world of writing. Congrats on your book. I’m still working on mine. This gives me encouragement.

  10. Cindy says:

    Really good advice for any genre! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  11. You sure are right about the patience part, it’s a real jungle out there!

  12. MARI J says:

    Thanks Megan for posting all your wonderful advice for all the aspiring writers out there. As I am one of them on submission myself. good luck good luck good luck on the success f your new novel!
    Mari J

  13. calypso64 says:

    I have been writing for a long time but have never submitted. I feel like i am wading through a mire of muck trying to get to an agent. Help! Any suggestions?

    • meganbostic says:

      Thanks to everyone for your comments. It’s nice to know that we’re not really in competition with each other. The writing community is so helpful. I’ve made so many friends along the way, been in the same boat, seen people succeed, seen people struggle, been on both ends myself. I love how supportive other writers are.

      If you’re just beginning your journey, I suggest three places to start, the Verla Kay Blue Boards, Preditors and Editors, and Agent Query. You’ll have to Google them, I don’t know them by heart. Good luck to you all. And seriously, feel free to friend me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or contact me through my website if you have any questions. I love to help my fellow writers!

  14. schwip says:

    What wonderful advice to a new writer like myself. You tell of things that we would not otherwise know, like the time it takes to get a book to print. Thank you for sharing your experiences and pitfall solutions with us.

  15. DurnKS says:

    Great advice Megan. I would imagine most writers at the start of their writing ventures imagine themselves becoming the next J.K.Rowling, George R.R.Martin, or any of the countless bestsellers, and it is hard not to get caught up in comparing ones work to the precedent out there. But, everything happens for a reason and as writers, we need to write what we want to write and see where it goes from there, either in the trash or on Barnes & Noble’s front table with hundreds of copies adorning the top and bottom.

  16. gte714j says:

    It’s always good to hear great advice from someone who has recently been published. I need to remember that marketing yourself is just as important as finishing the book!

  17. melissa says:

    I hate to admit you’re right, but your words ring so true. I hate self-promotion. The quiet, introspective person inside of me is definitely who I am most comfortable being. Thank you for your insight and sharing your wisdom. Looking forward to reading your novel.

  18. SJ_Mitchell says:

    Ooops! It looks like I accidentally pasted my entry into the caption contest in my comment above. Apologies. Skip the first line and my post will make more sense.

    How embarrassing.

  19. SJ_Mitchell says:

    No one understands how difficult it is growing up with one arm longer than the other, so I set off on my own.

    Thanks for sharing the 7 things you’ve learned so far. I have been writing since high school but have long avoided the trials involved with trying to get published. My three children have inspired me to try. I’ve never been a very good reader (I read slow and my comprehension takes some time as well) but I enjoy it nonetheless. Two of my three kids are advanced readers for their age and I admire their love for books.

    I had to chuckle when you mentioned writing a superhero series because that was my first completed manuscript. I loved writing it, but I don’t have confidence that it will sell. Your first point that you decided to work on something really spoke to you really flipped the switch in my brain to ‘on’. I’m going back to the drawing (writing?) board after my daughter’s cheer practice tonight.

    Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned so far.

  20. nataliewrite says:

    I like your metaphors and your honesty! I’d love to read your debut YA novel!

  21. sbcrispell says:

    Congrats on your book release! And thanks for the tips. It’s always good to be reminded of the simple (yet so very important!) aspects of pursuing a book deal.

  22. Alphadonkey says:

    Thank you for your insight – love your assessment of the business of writing. Congratulations on your book!

  23. fatrabbit says:

    Wonderful to see a young adult writer with head secured to shoulders! Saving money for marketing – SMART! A lot of folks think its just about getting that book written and published. I’m sure it might also be helpful to get comfy with public speaking :)) Maybe take an acting class or two! That way when you get the book tour, or you take yourself on one, then you can really win that crowd over.

    Almost everyone I know is crankin on a debut novel. Thank you for sharing insight with us.

    Cheers!

  24. MelissaPlantz says:

    Congrats on the release of your book! I loved what you said about patience being a virtue. It is so easy in this super paced world to expect publishing to be the same way and that only leads to disappointment. As a writer working on a debut YA novel I really am taking your advice to heart!

  25. rob akers says:

    Congratulations on your sucess and thank you for the advice.

    • Sheila Lewis says:

      Hi Megan. Thanks for your very real advice, and for following your project through to the best of your ability (and not as JK Rowling). I look forward to reading your books and will heed the call to visit schools once published. I have found students’ early reads of work in progress to be valuable and they enjoy reading a work in progress. I will follow your advice as I search for an agent for my first middle grade novel. Congrats, Sheila Lewis, New York

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