So the reviews continue…
Writing Tips: How Long, How Many, How Much?
So his section is sensible, including numbers on length to actually quantify stuff… but I have read it before elsewhere…!
Luckily, not all of it. And when even as it comes to what agents do (the bits we don’t know about) there are numbers. Numbers are good. They offer certainty and security. we know now. More internal linking and references too (this piece is almost scientific!).
On the other hand… a quibble: “Manuscripts aren’t rejected because their winning number doesn’t come up in a lottery. They are rejected because they’re not strong enough to sell in a competitive market. So – make your manuscript good enough” [bold mine] Perhaps the wording is overcareful, but, “in a competitive market” does mean their lottery number didn’t come up. It means that they’re only not good enough right now, today. The placement is the lottery and your scrappy novel could be good enough when nobody is writing anything good in its area. And if I get this impression, so will lots of other people reading this, and then instead of improving their novel they’ll put it aside and wait until they think the chick-lit vampire genre is doing poorly again (and I’m not sure that is good advice).
And this next to some very good advice which properly makes the point attempted above (and which I’m going to repeat here because it makes me draw smiley faces on my review notes and if, writers, you haven’t read it on Writer’s Workshop, you can read it now):
- Rule 1
Write what you want to write and what there is a market for. If you’re not sure what the market is, then go into a bookshop and find out.
- Rule 2
Be utterly perfectionist about your work. The successful writers are the ones who obsess over their every page; who revise their work repeatedly. And quite often they’re the ones who come to us for help.
How Long Does it Take to Sell a Book?
Well, I’ve learnt a few new things in the section, and it’s interesting as well as novel (do you see what I did there?).
- “[A]n oral agreement is nevertheless something you can depend on. These agreements never sour. ” Because this is the kind of thing everyone would just expect you to know, and would be offended if you doubted. And after a long waiting process and nobody tellig you, who could blame you?
- It’s easy to sell US books in the UK, but hard in reverse. Reading why, this makes total sense, but it’s not instinctive, and Writer’s Workshop not only tells us that it is, but explains the market.
- Advances from different countries are not necessarily what you’d expect. Well, at least we know to expect that now.
And to sum up by Monique, a commenter:
Thank you for a very informative article. You’ve answered several questions of mine, all at once! I’ll be back for more.
Given the absurd lengths of some of the early posts, I AM SURPRISED THIS SECTION EVEN EXISTS. Not the content, but as a section, it’s own post, because meeting publishers is not only unusual, but it’s not normally recommended (except apparently in the US, as the post goes on to say… surely this should be a subsection of a post about US publishing?)
It has a few other teething problems as well. For instance, sometimes, the headings in the bullet points, which are aligned with the text as if part of a paragraph, don’t juxteposition well. Like, “Scrub up a bit. Contrary to widespread belief, publishers aren’t just chasing books by the young and beautiful.” …So, um, be clean, the publishers don’t want you to look good? What a cofusing message. Which only starts to make sense later on when you realise the second sentence is part of a longer point, the header of which sums up the conclusions.
Also, “Don’t forget things digital. Publishers know that digital platform matters, but they are pretty rubbish at helping authors with it. So take a one page sheet setting out what you’ve done already (in terms of blog, website, etc) and explaining what further things you intend to do. Those things won’t swing a deal all on their own, but they do make a difference. ” …which leaves me in the dark. I literally have no idea what this means (beyond “make a plan”). It is so broad and vague I wouldn’t know where to start on this, and it’s frustrating that it tells you to do something, but not what that something is. “take a one page sheet setting out what you’ve done already” took me three readings to even understand that they weren’t talking about a blog page print out (yes, that was slow of me).