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.
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. ☺
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.
Writing books for kids? There are
hundreds of publishers, agents and
other markets listed in the latest
Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Find it here online at a discount.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- What “Show, Don’t Tell” Really Means.
- How to Start Your Novel Strong.
- Why Children’s Book Writers Should Spend Time at Schools.
- Is Teen Dialogue in YA Always a Good Thing? Not Always.
- 10 Tips on Writing Picture Books.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- 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.
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.