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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Being Published

Perhaps one of the most interesting things that has happened to me since being published is that I get a lot more respect from agents, editors and other published authors.

Yes, I still get the occasional brush off from 'big' NY published authors, but these boors are few and far between. For the most part, I am treated exceptionally well by nearly every publishing professional I've ever contacted, whether it's for a submission, an interview, or simply to ask a question.

I noticed this most recently when I started querying agents this month. I'm getting requests for manuscripts which is always nice. But it's the two rejections I got last week that really made me take notice.

They weren't form letters or surly remarks, but real letters with actual opinions on the story and justified reasons on why they didn't offer representation. I feel truly grateful that these very busy people took the time to provide feedback.

I know that's not normally the case, and I got to wondering why I'm given such good treatment. I think the only thing that's changed since the last time I sent queries is that I got published.

It was a small press, but it's a respectable company. I'm a relatively new writer, and my credentials show that I take this profession very seriously. I'm an editor, a freelance writer and a conscientious reader and reviewer.

My query letters are usually pretty strong, thanks in no small part to all the copywriting I did in my early years. I don't revise a lot, and when I ask for critiques by people I trust, I scrutinize every word.

There are a couple of rules I give myself when I write a query.

• I never give the same query to the same person more than once. I want to know how it reads to an agent or editor, so I need an untainted perspective. If you already know the story it makes it that much harder to give an honest appraisal.

• I make every word count. If it doesn't deal directly with the point of the story, it doesn’t go in.

But mostly, I think pub credits have given me more credibility as a whole. While there are still plenty of writer snobs, the agents and editors in the field are far more broadminded and cognizant of what entitles someone to a true publishing credit. They see beyond the borders of New York and mine their gems in places where authors have already proven their salt.

I really like the place I'm in. Small press has given me the experience and the time I needed to mature and learn the ropes of this industry. And it's made me feel safe in the bosom of veterans and peers. I couldn't have asked for a better education.

--oh, and they pay me too.


Jannette Johnson said...

Good post!

I have a few published credits to my name (editorials, short stories in 4theluv markets), and I plan on sending out queries to agents this fall/winter for my dark fantasy. But I'm wondering, should I start with small press, to get me feet wet, or just go for it and hit the big guys?

I always hear people say that not having anything published before hand won't hurt your chances of finding an agent or editor, but I wonder. Wouldn't doing something small show you have dedication, and arent in this just to see what happenes?

Anyway, have a good day. :)

Maria Zannini said...

I would do both.

In my case, getting published by a small press was purely a fluke. I didn't even have a story, just an idea. But a friend of mine told me about a hook contest and I entered on a whim. I won, so off I went to finish the story--and it sold.

Since then, my health took a nose dive and I had to nearly stop in my tracks, but it also gave me time to savor the moment and to learn the ropes through one book alone.

You can also start small. Many small presses take novellas. You get the same education (more or less) but with less time commitment--on the premise that novellas take shorter to write than novels.