Thursday, February 3, 2011

What Do I know?

For some reason, I am having a recurring daymare in which John Banner (who played Sargent Schultz on Hogan's Heroes) repeatedly and enthusiastically asserts, "I know nothing, noTHING!"

Actually, it's no mystery...he's just expressing the anxiety I've been feeling for the past few months.

This writing thing is turning out to be an emotional roller-coaster.  I knew there was more to "the business" than simply writing the story.  I knew that.  I've spent years researching how to submit a manuscript, where to submit a manuscript, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. I thought I had a handle on it. But now that push has come to the proverbial shove, I am afraid it is going to turn into shove-it-where-the-sun-don't-shine, if a Christian author is allowed to express such a sentiment.  Don't get me wrong; I know that the whole thing is in God's hands. But who am I kidding?  When it comes to the "business" of writing, I'm right in there with Schultz.  I know NOTHING.

If you check out the blogs of editors and literary agents, you will soon discover what I did: no two of them agree on ANYTHING (except that Publish America is professional death). 

To market or not to market, that is one of the questions. Whether the prospective author knows more about the market than the editors and agents...or to trust...perchance to allow the editors and agents to do what they are undoubtedly better at than I...THAT is the question. Some of the E&A are adamant that they will not consider a project unless the author has attached a comprehensive market analysis with sales figures, synopses of five different "comparable" books, a detailed compare & contrast essay that demonstrates that MY books are different but not TOO different (and keep it humble)(but sell myself)(but don't appear overconfident), a description of my "platform" (but don't waste time mentioning that I don't have one on a national scale), my plans to sell my book (but don't waste time telling them that I will do whatever they ask me to do)........Others come right out and say what I used to think: they know much more about these things than a first-time novelist, so don't waste time telling them ANYTHING about the market.

And then there's the bio.  I don't have one.  It's that simple.  Some of the E&A want to see it anyway; they want to know my interests, writing influences, educational background, related experiences; basically what makes me "tic" (pun intentional).  Others say that unless I have a successful (translation: lucrative) publishing history, they don't need anything but the dreaded words, "This is my first novel."

Speaking of E&A: most editors won't even look at a query from an unagented writer.  Most agents won't even look at a query from an unpublished (translation: lucrative) writer.  Do the math.

So anyway, here I am, all set to go off to my first writers conference in exactly one month, and absolutely betwiddled.  Befuddled.  Bemused.  Besturbed.

E&A, if you are by any remote chance checking out my blog to see if I have what it takes to make it in this business, let me set your minds at ease: I don't know.  As far as I'm concerned, it's not about me; it's about my writing, and I like to think my writing speaks for itself.  The rest...well, that's up to God.  (So is the writing, but I don't want to appear "overconfident." Interestingly, a Christian author is never supposed to express a belief that his/her writing came from God. That would be unprofessional to the max.)  But I will say this, HONESTLY, and not because I've figured out the right "formula" for selling myself to you: buy my books, and I will WRITE for you.  I will also do my best to be mature, courteous, cooperative, and professional in the process.  I know that I'm really just a selfish know-it-all at heart, but most of the people who know me (including my pastor's wife) think I am a nice person with a teachable spirit.  That cracks me up, but if that's the way I come across to them, I guess you and I will get along pretty well too.  So please, if God is tugging at your heart just a little, give me a chance.  One thing you can be SURE of: I won't tell you how to do your job, because, hey, what do I know?

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