Something You Should Know BEFORE You Query Agents or Self-Publish

On Bookends’ blog, agent Jessica Faust said, “When an agent tells you that something isn’t working, it’s typically not because you’ve decided to break whatever rules you think exist in this business, it’s because it’s not working. A character not being likeable enough usually means that readers didn’t like her. Now, sure it’s possible another reader might have another opinion, but it’s also possible that in your attempt to make her tough and damaged, you’ve made her unlikeable.”

As a freelance editor, I can relate to Jessica’s statement. There are times when a writer simply isn’t ready to receive REAL feedback. This often happens when she finishes her first or second manuscript and is convinced this book is going to make her famous. The writer jumps right in and starts querying, expecting nothing but praise from anyone who reads her soon-to-be bestseller. Most writers have experienced those same feelings. Who doesn’t want positive feedback? However, not all writers react the same way once they don’t get the praise they were expecting. Be very careful what you post on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, or any other internet site. You never know who is reading and, once it’s out there, you have no control where that nasty remark might land. Bashing the wrong agent could affect your career, especially if the agent was only being honest. Other agents may read what you wrote and decide you’d be too difficult to work with. Publishing is a small community, and with the internet, nothing’s private anymore. Think twice before you post something negative about another person in the industry.

The same goes for indie authors. While you’re obviously not going to approach agents, you might have gotten feedback from beta readers or reviewers. Expect to receive bad reviews. That’s a part of this industry. Not everyone is going to like your book. However, things will get personal pretty fast if you attack your reviewers or put down their reviews of your novel. I’ve seen it happen and it gets ugly. Your best bet is to refrain from commenting on that bad review and move on. Most of the time, you’ll only have a few bad reviews and people can see through those. If you have more bad than good reviews, you might want to re-examine your book. Maybe they’re right.

Have you taken the time to learn the craft or are you just winging it? Do you realize the odds of getting published are lower than they were ten years ago? Do you know how hard it is to prove yourself as an indie author? Not many writers make it very far in their career without learning the ins and outs of the craft. For example, while many writers probably believe they understand GMCs (goals, motivations, and conflicts), there are many who are mistaken. Not understanding how to use GMCs is a big deal—or rather, a deal breaker. The same goes for show—don’t tell, one or two dimensional characters, no inciting incident, lack of emotions, and so on.

Please, please, please… Do yourself a favor and learn the craft of writing BEFORE you send out your queries or self-publish. I promise you’ll receive more favorable feedback if you do.

If you need to learn about GMCs, Debra Dixon has an excellent book available through her publisher and I offer a one-on-one class to help you flesh out your characters’ GMCs. Check it out:

How have you learned about the craft of writing? Did you take courses, read books, hire a writing coach, or what?

Lynnette Labelle

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4 Responses to Something You Should Know BEFORE You Query Agents or Self-Publish

  1. Stacy Green says:

    I was very lucky to snag a great critique partner last summer. I thought I’d learned a lot about craft, but I’d fallen fairly short. She broke down my writing, suggested several books and courses, and helped me to understand several of the important things I was messing up, like back story, info dump, dialogue tags, etc. Without her, there’s no way I would have sold my first book.

    Yes, it hurts to have your writing torn apart, but if you trust the person reading (a huge key) their advice can only make you a better writer. And complaining about it via Twitter, FB, et. al is just unprofessional. In this modern world of publishing, being an author is a business, and we’ve got to show that. It’s all part of the deal.

    Great post, Lynette!

  2. Lynnette Labelle says:

    Stacy: I agree. Being an author isn’t just about writing, it’s about the business of writing, too. Understanding the industry before jumping in will only help new writers. Or scare them. LOL

    Lynnette Labelle

  3. A good editor is invaluable. They aren’t always easy to find. I have worked with editors who tore up my fiction solely because they didn’t believe any of it to be possible.

    Fiction doesn’t have to rely upon the rules of science if it did Harry Potter wouldn’t exist nor would The Lord of The Rings.

    Tell me that characters are weak or that the structure is missing and I will understand. Cut out paragraphs because you don’t believe people can fly and I won’t take you as seriously.

  4. Lynnette Labelle says:

    Jack: Don’t worry. I’m not one of “those” editors. If your character does something that’s not believable, it’s because you haven’t properly motivated it, so I’d help with that. I wouldn’t simply cut the act. 🙂

    Lynnette Labelle

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