Thursday, October 20, 2016

25 Debut Authors Share Advice for Getting Published (Guest Post by Chuck Sambuchino)

(Column excerpted from the Guide to Literary Agents, from Writer’s Digest Books)

I love interviewing debut authors. I interview them for my Guide to Literary Agents Blog, and make sure to include at least a dozen such interviews in each edition of the Guide to Literary Agents, such as the new 2017 edition. These interviews are very helpful to aspiring writers, because the authors come clean about what they believe they did right, what the wish they would have done different, and other advice for writers.

So I went back to 25 debut author interviews of the past few years and focused on one single important question I asked them: “Now that you’re done explaining your own journey to publication, what is one piece of advice you’d like to share with writers?” The results are inspiring and fascinating. See below, and learn from 25 writers who have come before you and succeeded.

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“Never give up. Keep writing through the rejections, the revisions, the never-ending explanations to your friends about why you aren’t published yet. Keep writing when you hear that other people have gotten agents and book deals. Keep writing, even if it takes you years to finally accomplish your goal.”
~Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes


“To paraphrase Jay Asher [author of 13 Reasons Why]: ‘Don’t give up because that NY Times bestseller could be right around the corner!’”
~Constance Lombardo, author of Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars


“Don’t send out your novel before it’s ready. Take your time. If it’s as good as you think it is, everything will work out.”
~Lisa Freeman, author of Honey Girl


“I would say to do more thinking than writing. It’s really easy to get mired in language and sentence structure and sort of lose the forest for the trees. It’s important to really think about your idea inside and out and up and down and all around before penning a word so that you really know what you’re getting at and how you want to get at it.”
~Dev Petty, author of I Don’t Want to Be a Frog


“ ‘Ass in Chair.’ Fingers above keyboard. Don’t talk about what you’re going to write—write it.”
~Jeff Anderson, author of Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth


“Find a trusted critique partner to give you honest feedback, and be sure to return the favor in critiquing their work. There is a lot to be learned about the art of writing from editing other people’s work.”
~Aisha Saeed, author of Written in the Stars


(Hi, everyone. Chuck here chiming in for a second. I wanted to say I am now taking clients as a freelance editor. So if your query or manuscript needs some love, please check out my editing services. Thanks!)


“Tenacity is everything. Don’t listen to the people who tell you can’t make money as a writer. They’re well meaning, but they lack imagination.”
~Max Wirestone, author of The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss


“Write the book you want to read.”
~Amanda Linsmeier, author of Ditch Flowers


“Be stubborn. I tried 90 different agents before I landed one.”
~Adam Plantinga, author of 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman


“You can turn rejection and disappointment into a serious motivator if you’re determined enough to be published. But you must also understand why the work is not accepted. Have the discipline and subjectivity to look at your work and say, ‘Yeah, that’s not good enough,’ and then sit down and make it better. ”
~Jamie Kornegay, author of Soil


“Work hard, be patient, and become part of a writing community. Get involved in the industry in some capacity—even as a volunteer—to gain a better understanding as to how it all works.”
~Brooke Davis, author of Lost and Found


“‘Never give up; never surrender.’ Or, the longer version: Write. Edit. Polish. Find a competent critique group or writing partner and learn to take honest criticism. If your novel still doesn’t sell, write another one. And another. Write as many as it takes. And don’t be discouraged by other authors’ success—instead, let it encourage you to work harder, write better, and hang in there. Your turn will come.”
~Susan Spann, author of Claws of the Cat: A Shinobi Mystery


“Don’t be afraid to ask for advice: if you know someone who has successfully written a proposal, ask him or her if you could take a look at it; if you know someone who knows an agent, ditto.”
~Asher Price, author of Year of the Dunk: A Modest Defiance of Gravity


“Always use active verbs. Avoid passive voice if you can.”
~Thomas Lee, author of Rebuilding Empires: How Best Buy and Other Retailers are Transforming and Competing in the Digital Age of Retailing


“Choose enthusiasm. If you are lucky enough to have more than one agent or editor interested in your work, don’t automatically choose the bigger name or even the most money. Go with the person who loves your book and is dying to work with you.”
~Eliza Kennedy, author of I Take You: A Novel


“Write a great book. The publishing world may be hard to break in to, but if you have a great book, they’ll have no choice but to notice you. And on that note, edit. Edit like your life depends on it.”
~Lindsey Cummings, author of The Murder Complex


“Don’t send your work out until it’s as good as your favorite book. Also, there is no one way to write. Many authors are long-winded and later have to chop a lot of words. I write sparingly from beginning to end and then go back and plump up all the chapters. Do what works for you.”
~Marcia Strykowski, author of Call Me Amy


“Read widely in the genre you’re writing in. And go easy on yourself. Everyone has their own pace. Persistence is as important as productivity.”
~Nancy Grossman, author of A World Away


“Do not give up. If you believe in your work, find ways to work around those impenetrable doors. There isn’t only one way to break in, so explore all avenues. And be kind to everyone.”
~Karolina Waclawiak, author of How to Get Into the Twin Palms


“Wait until there’s something you really want to say.”
~Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, authors of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending


“It’s cliché, but read. A lot. Anything, but especially current stuff in the genre you write. Find out what’s selling—and why kids like it. Figure out what you like and why you like it. Then write something new.”
~W.H. Beck, author of Malcolm at Midnight


“Do your research. Knowing what kinds of books specific agents and editors like is incredibly helpful. Stay informed. Know what books everyone is talking about. Know what books you yourself love. And, just like any industry, being kind and pleasant to work with, and respectful takes you far. And in publishing, it’s not hard to be kind.”
~Cirey Ann Haydu, author of OCD Love Story


“Read, write, and stay informed. The only thing you can control is how hard you’re willing to work at becoming a better writer.”
~Claire Kells, author of Girl Underwater


“Don’t be afraid to put yourself and your writing out there. Take colossal risks. The publishing world rewards bravery.”
~Brandy Vallence, author of The Covered Deep


“Finish. Don’t keep tinkering with the same book for years. Put it aside and start another one. You won’t improve as a writer by writing the same book over and over.”
~Melissa Lenhardt, author of Stillwater: A Jack McBride Mystery

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Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:
Feb. 10, 2018: Indiana Writing Workshop (Indianapolis, IN)
Feb. 17, 2018: Minnesota Writing Workshop (St. Paul, MN)
March 10, 2018: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
March 24, 2018: Pittsburgh Writing Workshop (Pittsburgh, PA)
April 14, 2018: Michigan Writing Workshop (Livonia/Detroit, MI)
April 28, 2018: Seattle Writing Workshop (Seattle, WA)
June 23, 2018: Writing Workshop of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
July 14, 2018: Cleveland Writing Workshop (Cleveland, OH)
July 28, 2018: Chesapeake Writing Workshop (Washington, DC)
August 4, 2018: Florida Writing Workshop (Tampa, FL)
August 25, 2018: Writing Workshop of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
September 29, 2018: Boston Writing Workshop (Boston, MA)
November 17, 2018: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)


Other columns by Chuck Sambuchino:
What to Write in the “Bio” Section of Your Query Letter
How to Write a Screenplay: 7 Starting Tips for Adapting Your Own Novel 
Why “Keep Moving Forward” is My Best Advice For Writers Everywhere 
Do You Need Multiple Agents if You Write in Different Genres?
How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips 
Building Your Writer Platform—How Much is Enough?
Getting Specific: What Literary Agents Want to Get RIGHT NOW
- 15 Questions to Ask a Literary Agent Before You Sign
- Crafting a Novel’s Pitch: 7 Tips

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Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest Books edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'S WRITER'S and ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing.
    His 2010 humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, was optioned by Sony Pictures. Chuck has also written the writing guides FORMATTING and SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT and CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM.
    Besides that, he is a freelance book and query editor, husband, sleep-deprived new father, and owner of a flabby-yet-lovable dog named Graham. Find Chuck on Twitter and on Facebook.  




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