Advice for writers

This is interesting: at Anne R Allen’s blog, a post entitled: Nine Pieces of Bad Advice New Writers Should Ignore.

As far as I’m concerned, that is irresistible click bait. Fine. What are these nine pieces of bad advice?

Social Media is both a boon and a curse to new writers….but social media is also a major source of misinformation and dangerously bad advice.

I belong to a lot of Facebook writers’ groups where I see newbies ask questions that get a bunch of conflicting responses. Sometimes when I see misinformation, I jump in to correct it, but often I can tell that resistance is futile. There’s such a wealth of bad advice that I don’t know where to begin.

She begins here:

1) If you can’t handle rejection, just self-publish.

If you think agent rejections are hurtful, your first Goodreads review will send you into screaming agony.

Hmm. I guess. Nothing requires you to read one- or two-star reviews. I try not to, personally. Still, it’s true you can’t avoid noticing agent rejections or editor rejections in the same way that you can avoid reading reviews.

I would more imagine that reasonable advice might emphasize the time traditional publishing takes rather than the sense of rejection. Sending out a partial or full manuscript to many agents and waiting waiting waiting for responsed is not just bound to result in most of them turning you down, but in a lot of time passing before you find that out.

2) It’s never too early to start marketing.

Don’t send reader newsletters before you have something for them to read.

That certainly sounds reasonable.

3) Learn to game Amazon.

But even if somebody is making major bux running circles around Amazon’s algorithms right now, you can be sure that Amazon will catch on eventually. Then you can be booted off the site—for life. No shopping. No using that gift card, or even your Prime video subscription.

Yes, fear of that phenomenon plus a generally law-abiding nature means that I don’t have to go to the trouble of learning how to game the system, which sounds like it is really a full-time job anyway.

4) Don’t bother editing, that’s what editors are for.

I see this terrible advice a lot. And it can make any editor cry. Whether you’re self-publishing or going the traditional route, you need to send your editor or agent the cleanest copy you possibly can.

This is advice I have never understood. I can’t imagine who could think it’s good advice. 

If you’re a writer, your tools are language and storytelling. If you can’t use those tools effectively, you will not be able to write good books. Therefore, you need to learn those skills. That seems like a no-brainer to me.

5) Using social media to try to make people stroke your ego is a great idea.

Social media can be tedious. So you see one of those memes: “You’re all a bunch of meanies who aren’t really my friends. If you don’t leave a comment on this thread right now, I’ll unfriend you.” Resist all urges to post this to your own page.

OMG. Just do not. 

I probably won’t unfriend you if you do this, because I’m lazy and seldom bother unfriending anybody. But just like every other person in the entire universe, I hate this. If you keep doing it, I will mute you or whatever the word is for making it so I can’t see anything you post. 

6) Newsletters are magic.

I much prefer to be able to visit a blog where I can interact with the blogger and other readers. But I’m not everybody. Here’s my post on why I prefer a blog, but many authors prefer newsletters.

Yeah, well, I am pretty behind on thinking about a newsletter for this fall. Hey, I am totally busy writing right now. Any day now I will think about the newsletter.

7) Forget traditional publishing. It’s dead.

The fact that Barnes and Noble is faltering is sad, but it’s not due to a failing publishing industry. It has to do with their own management issues.

That’s a nice theory. I agree with the part about B & N. Not so sure I agree the Big Five are in dandy shape. We’ll see how the next decade or two go.

8) Don’t query agents. They’re all crooks.

A whole lot of people want to paint all agents as useless greed-monsters. It’s simply not true. Most agents work their derrieres off for their clients.

Yes, let me point out that this is actually offensive to writers who have agents, as well as (obviously) to agents who are honest. I have had indy writers tell me to my face that my agent is probably cheating me. That tells me more about them than about my agent. 

9) Self-publishers can party like it’s 2009.

Those were the days.

But guess what? That doesn’t happen a whole heckuva lot anymore. Not without a pricey, hard-to-get Bookbub ad and other expensive marketing. Things have changed a lot in the last ten years . . .

Alas, you don’t have to tell me it’s not as easy now as it was then

Allen has a lot more under every point, especially this one. It’s a pretty good post with a lot of intriguing links going off in all directions. Click through and read the whole thing if you are so inclined. 

Her take-home message:

Anybody Who Tells You There’s a Shortcut to Publishing Success is Giving You Bad Advice

Unfortunately, that is true.

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7 thoughts on “Advice for writers”

  1. “This is advice I have never understood. I can’t imagine who could think it’s good advice.”

    Anyone who thinks the work is so naturally amazing that the editor will gladly take care of the trivia.

  2. “Anyone who thinks the work is so naturally amazing that the editor will gladly take care of the trivia.”

    Which I literally cannot imagine. I have a pretty good imagination for some things, but this? No.

  3. This is interesting.

    I think the two types of rejection (agent/publisher and negative review) are different enough that it’s believable that someone would feel capable of dealing with one but not the other. A rejection from an agent/publisher isn’t just, or even necessarily, a criticism of one’s book; it’s rather a case of not getting an opportunity for one’s book to be supported, promoted and sold. Like being told you’re not allowed to play the game yet and you’ll have to keep trying if you want in.

    But reviews don’t have quite the same impact. They can affect how well you do in the game, not whether or not you ever get to play in the first place.
    And as you point out, authors can avoid reviews.

    I could be wrong — I’m speculating rather than speaking from experience here — but I imagine it might also be easier to not care about the opinion of a random reader than it is to not care about the opinion of someone you’ve researched and respect the work of.

  4. I imagine it might also be easier to not care about the opinion of a random reader than it is to not care about the opinion of someone you’ve researched and respect the work of.

    That makes perfect sense. I hadn’t thought of it like that, but yes, I think that is definitely true. The other thing, about the gatekeeping function is perhaps a subset of this first idea. The agent’s opinion says “Too bad, you can’t play the game yet” but the random review says nothing of the kid.

  5. One mindset that seems common across the different types of writers who submit sub-standard work is “Once they read my work, they’ll recognize my genius and nothing else will matter.”

    “Well, yes, the cover doesn’t make sense and the first chapter doesn’t make sense, but once you read the whole thing, you’ll understand.”

    “Well, yes, I did change the name of the main character halfway through the book from Gertrude Bell to Ernst von Manly, but once you read the whole thing, you’ll understand.”

    “Well, yes, the story does end with a To Be Continued, but once you get to that point you’ll be so caught up in the story that you’ll understand.”

    All of these assume that I’m going to be willing to spend time on a story that makes no sense.

    Which I am less and less likely to do, as time goes on.

    Not that I was ever much inclined to do so, expect in a “Well, maybe they can salvage this wreck” kind of way. Not any more.

  6. I simply cannot wrap my mind around the strange sort of monofocused egotism that can lead to any of those statements. I know people say things like this and believe things like this. I just can’t get too curmudgeonly about it because I am too busy wondering how that can even work inside someone’s head.

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