How To Balance Writing, Publishing, and Networking?

My cousin Jerry, by most any account, has a pretty good life. He’s successful doing work that he loves, makes a nice amount of money, has a beautiful and charming wife, and three great children. When I talked to him about some of the initial challenges I was facing after I quit my job as an educator and planned to make a go of it as a writer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Jerry told me a story. As a man in his early twenties, he quickly earned more than double the salary of many of his middle-aged coworkers. How? When others put in 40 hours on the clock, with maybe 10 hours spent actually doing their jobs, he put in 80 hours, working beyond what was expected. Now, he doesn’t have to work so hard, though he still puts in a great deal time in projects he cares about. Those other guys, who knows what they’re doing now?

The point of this story is simple, if you’re serious about not just writing in your spare time, but making a career of being a writer, you’d better work hard. Still, even if you put in 80 hours per week, in such a competitive position as creative writing, if you’re not working smart, you just might end up stuck in as bad a position as Jerry’s former coworkers.

chess

One of the most difficult concerns for any writer looking to not just break in, but succeed, is the balance of writing, publishing, and networking. Here are a few suggestions that should help you work smarter, not harder:

  • Above all, write. One novel, three short stories, five poems – that’s not enough. Don’t even think about publishing or utilizing contacts and networking until you have a solid body of work. One success wouldn’t make a career, and the amount of time spent doing so is counterproductive. Make writing a consistent habit, have a lot of work to show around, and then start thinking about networking and publishing.
  • Understand that writing probably won’t make you rich. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are the extremely rare exceptions. That said, many writers can make a living off of writing alone, many times even off of creative writing alone. It helps if your budget isn’t extreme. If you are single and live in an area with a low cost of living in the United States, you could probably get by on around $1000/month. While you wouldn’t be living well on that, you could survive. Then, through perseverance and building your reputation, you could make a good deal more.
  •  The Internet is your friend. Creating a blog centered around your writing, or other topics of interest to writers, could be a great way to attract attention. Taking a participatory role in the culture of the writing community online will open yourself up to many new opportunities. Helping others will lead them to helping you. Websites like Upwork and Craigslist present many opportunities for publishers looking for ghostwriters. The pay may not be great, but with a body of work, a high-character approach, and determination, you can get those jobs and build traction. Do so.
  • Don’t be an outsider. Jumping off the previous point, many communities on the Internet are niche. If you write science-fiction or romance or mysteries, find where those writers and readers gather and become a part of their communities. Above all, help as many people as you can. Being a self-serving renegade can kill your chances of succeeded in today’s literary world.
  • Understand your markets. Don’t submit a 80,000 word science-fiction novel to an avant-garde poetry site. Respect publishers by being familiar with the writing that they publish and reading a significant amount of it. When you read the work that publishers put out, you’ll quickly know if it’s similar to your own. If it’s not, don’t waste your time and the publisher’s time with a submission. There are so many magazines and publishers that there is bound to be one that’s a good match for your style. Use Duotrope, Poets & Writers, or the Writer’s Market and find it!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a favor. In the words of new wave singer Morrissey of The Smiths, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” If you have a friend or other contact that could potentially lead to a solid break, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. The worst they can do is say no. Of course, make sure that you’ve done the basics first. Above all, follow their suggestions afterwards. Nothing burns out a good contact more than asking for a favor and not following through after someone does what you ask.

Taking these suggestions into account, you’ll be in an excellent position to advance your writing career. What do you think? What advice would you give to a new writer seeking to follow their dreams? Let’s start a dialogue.

 

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A Guide To Publishing Etiquette

Maybe I have some sort of undiagnosed personality disorder, but one of my biggest pet peeves is writers who don’t follow the submissions guidelines for Beautiful / Losers Magazine. When a writer sends us an email with their poems or stories attached as a Word document, I become visibly filled with rage. My blood pressure shoots up. My smile turns upside down. And then I delete it, but not after having soaked in my righteous anger for a bit. If you don’t believe me, just ask my fiancee.

portrait-angry

The last thing any writer hoping to get their submission accepted for publication wants is for an editor’s face to look like the one of the man above. Chances are, if an editor has that face before even reading your submission, it’s toast.

So, how do you avoid making editors displeased? It’s simple, etiquette!

  • Always read the submissions guidelines and follow them to a T.
  • Find out to whom you should address your cover letter.
  • Send a respectful cover letter.
  • Don’t get angry if they reject your writing. Don’t respond at all in such a case.
  • Read their magazine first.
  • Submit work that fits with the aesthetic of their magazine. To find out what the aesthetic is, read it!
  • Be patient. Sometimes it can be a spell before you hear back from a publisher.
  • Don’t paste your submission in the body of an email if they want attachments.
  • And, of course, DON’T SEND YOUR SUBMISSION AS AN ATTACHMENT IF THEY WANT IT IN THE BODY OF AN EMAIL 😉

How to avoid making editors displeased? Treat your submission to a magazine or publishing house with the same respect you would take to a job interview. Put your best face forward, do your homework, follow the rules, and you’ll be in the best potential situation for success.

Did I miss anything in this post? What do you think are some of the things to avoid when submitting writing to a publishing house or literary magazine?

Two Poems Featured @ In Between Hangovers

Tasha, the editor for In Between Hangovers, specializes in publishing underground poetry. A lot of the work she features is quite raw and edgy. It’s awesome to have had two poems recently published with In Between Hangovers.

You can click here to check out Manifest Destiny. 

And click here to check out Tired of Torch Singing

Of course, I suggest you check out many of the other great poets there too. I enjoy most all of the stuff they put out.

Thinking About Kindle Direct Publishing? Hire a Formatter!

Do you want to publish on Kindle Direct Publishing? Great! Just make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to uploading it on KDP or you might be less than satisfied with the results.

I was excited to roll out a collection of short stories, tentatively titled New Weird America, on Kindle Direct Publishing. I edited all ten of my stories once again, making sure they were as tight as possible. I wrote my dedications, my biography, my title page, my table of contents, the whole shebang. In less than a day, KDP had my title up and running. Two days later, I took it down.

A word to the wise – the formatting you use in Word (or Pages, or whatever you use to type your manuscript) doesn’t always translate so well to Kindle Direct Publishing. My table of contents looked completely off. My introductory pages were cut off in weird places. I didn’t even get a chance to actually see how my stories looked from the free introduction, but given what I had seen, it needed to be pulled.

With the new possibilities for reach using Amazon Direct Publishing, self-published authors need to consider the possibility of hiring professionals to format their manuscript for readability on Kindle. I found a website, Word-2-Kindle.com, that does this job for only $49. I suggest that anyone new to KDP utilize their service, or others doing the same.

The rap on self-published books is that they are of poor quality. Formatting issues that hinder a reader’s capability to enjoy your work are a big turnoff. To uphold the standards of your writing, make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to using Kindle Direct Publishing.

Drinking At A Soviet Bar On My 33rd Birthday With The Guy Who Did The Song From Revenge of the Nerds

Running a literary magazine has its perks, believe me. Sure, it can be a chore to read through countless submissions, strategize on how to build engagement with readers and writers, and plot on how to scale up at an appropriate time, but there are some interesting things that come along with the job. Like meeting Leslie Bohem.

Les Bohem is an accomplished screenwriter (he wrote Dante’s Peak and wrote and co-produced, with Stephen Spielberg, the SyFy Channel show Taken), and musician (ex-member of Sparks and Gleaming Spires). More than his accomplishments, he’s a hell of a guy, and funny to boot. So, of course, the story of how I met Les Bohem started with a rejection letter from Beautiful / Losers Magazine.

Running Beautiful / Losers Magazine with two other editors, Dario Cannizzaro and Austin Wiggins, while simultaneously having a policy of pieces only getting accepted if they’re voted in unanimously, means that many amazing writers get rejected. Austin, Dario, Drew Gorman (who no longer is an editor with us,  but was at the time) and I all have different tastes, yet we all desire to uphold extremely high standards for publication. And so good pieces get rejected. Like Les’ first piece he submitted to us.

What made me reach out to Les after the rejection letter? Well, I did vote yes on his initial piece, but more than that, he was the frontman for Gleaming Spires. Gleaming Spires! If you’ve ever seen Revenge of the Nerds, you must remember their iconic song “Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?” A classic, one which I admitted to Les that I pirated off Napster when I was in high school. A pardonable offense clearly, although I do owe him a round for that. It’s justified.

Through our correspondence, we built a friendship, and when I learned that his son (Charlie Keys Bohem, a talented writer in his own right) was a student at Vassar College, the alma mater of my fiancee Lauren Rubin, well then, the bond was cemented. With an impending move to Baltimore from Norwalk, Connecticut the next day, I invited Les to join me and Lauren for some drinks at KGB Bar, a super chill hipster bar decorated with tons of Soviet paraphernalia in New York’s East Village. And he accepted.

We had an amazing time hanging out and drinking with Les Bohem. Sparks were a seminal band in the LA scene, Dante’s Peak was a great movie, and Taken was one of the most ambitious miniseries I’ve ever seen, but I’ll remember that night as the night I drank with the guy who did the song from Revenge of the Nerds. Cross that one off the bucket list.

 

 

 

Happy Labor Day – Save Some Labor

First of all, happy Labor Day!

This is a quick post about a new service I’m offering: proofreading writers’ manuscripts. For only $10 per 1,000 words (so, for example, $250 for a 25,000 word short story collection), you can get your self-published (or attempting to be traditionally published, your call) manuscript completely free of errors in spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation, formatting, and consistency. If you’re a student or active or retired U.S. military, I’ll offer you a 25% discount on the total price. If you’re interested, just let me know with an email by clicking here. Thanks for spreading the word!