1. Don’t Submit Your Work Too Soon
This is true whether we’re talking about critique partners, agents, OR editors. Remember that not all feedback (or readers) are created equal. I’ve seen crit partners destroy a work and also those who do nothing but gush and fawn over pages. I’ve seen agents pitch works that weren’t ready, either because they just don’t have the chops or because they assume the editor will work out the kinks with the author. Sometimes this is the case, but these days, that’s RARE. Editors want to minimize their towering pile, not add to it. So how do you know when your work is ready? If you’ve done your homework, you have a great agent and don’t have to worry about that (let’s assume you didn’t just sign with anyone willing to take you on). But a great option here is to consider freelance editors (like me—yeah, I know, shameless plug. And here’s an article about knowing when it’s time ). But really, a good editor is worth their weight in gold.
2. Be Flexible
You may be wedded to every word of your novel and even your vision, but keep in mind that your agent and editor understand what sells better than you do. Be prepared to make compromises. This goes for book covers, blurbs, and ads as well. You may think your idea of a pretty cover is THE ONE, when in fact, only women’s fiction readers will pick it up and what you write is hardcore sci-fi. On the flip side, they may have missed the mark. In either case, be flexible to suggestion and they will be more willing to work with you to make you happy.
3. Never Assume Your Book is Done
You know what assuming does, right? It makes an ass out of…yeah, you know that line. Your book isn’t done. Ever. Yes, it has made it through your critique partners, the eagle eyes of your agent and editor and has even gone to press. But your book still isn’t done and you’re NEVER DONE talking about it, pitching it, selling it. So be sure you are utterly in love with your topic, because you’ll be talking about it until the day you’re no longer an author (or on your deathbed—whatever comes first.)
4. Put on Your Game Face
A lot of writers are divas. They’re creative types and highly sensitive so they kvetch about things that don’t go their way in the publishing world, and as far as I can tell, that happens a lot. Keep your mouth shut. Do not whine about crappy reviews, publishers who have dropped you, or other craptastic occurrences ON YOUR FACEBOOK STREAM or Goodreads, or Twitter. This should be done in private.
5. Do Unto Others
Writers like to think of themselves as little islands, living in their fantasy worlds they’ve created on the page. NOT SO. You need all of those other writer friends, the connections you’ve made with industry professionals. You need your family, you need readers. Nurture your relationships with them, help them, BE AVAILABLE. A beautiful thing happens when you help someone else—they want to help you back, and they will support you in your great endeavor to take the publishing world by storm.
What have you learned about the business of writing?