Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How Much is Too Much...and How to Find the Balance

I receive emails daily from writers and wannabe writers asking for assistance. The most recent ones asked for:
  • grant money to write a book
  • a conference within a two-state range
  • the name of a publisher for their book
  • markets to sell a story
  • contests for short stories
I love giving advice. And if it takes only a few moments to answer, I give a handful of references to help them along their way. However, most of these requests can be found in a simple Google search, or even on the FundsforWriters website.

I firmly believe that many do not search for answers on their own because of the Internet's grand propensity to provide way more than we ask for. We receive so many responses to our requests that the gadzillion options paralyze us.

Ever gone into a super mall and felt stymied that there were too many stores to know where to start? For instance, I have no desire to go to the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. The very things they brag about turn me away.

.57 miles walking distance around one level
8 acres of skylights
4.3 miles of total store front footage
7 Yankee Stadiums can fit inside the Mall
32 Boeing 747s could fit inside the Mall
86 hours to complete a visit to the Mall if you were to spend just 10 minutes in each store
258 Statues of Liberty could lie inside the Mall
520+ stores are located in Mall of America

I guess it's good for people to be thrilled at the bigger-than-life mall, but if I'm seriously shopping, I want to know where to find my item. For instance, I need a mother-of-the-groom dress for October when my youngest gets married. Show me the store, maybe two or three, let me select, and I'll write the check. My time is precious to me. I want to languish and spend my time over novel chapters, not shopping.
I think the same goes for writers, especially new ones. They want to submit to contests, but don't know where to start. Googling shows hundreds and hundreds. After an hour not finding what they want, they quit. Probably do not submit after all. I'll bet I'm a last resort request - "please help me find a contest."
Publishing is the same way. Publishing is one of the most convoluted industries on the planet! If you Google publisher, guess what? You get pages of self-publishing information. Any newcomer with a freshly completed manuscript in hand would think those are the best options. I continually receive requests from new writers asking for grant funds to publish. Upon questioning them, I learn that they don't know that there is a traditional publishing option. Some have actually self-published, rued the experience, and come to me saying they didn't realize until after they'd written their check that there was a traditional arm. They stopped searching before they understood the big picture. That's part of what I call Internet paralysis. It's too much to comprehend sometimes.
But if you do not educate yourself, you fall prey to scams, too-good-to-be-true opportunities, or options that fall short of what you hoped to accomplish. If you do not relish searching the Web, at least take the time to search for experts in the field.
  • Sign up for blogs of agents, writers, editors, publishers and publications
  • Sign up for email newsletters of agents, writers, editors, publishers and publications
  • Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn - again, with agents, writers, editors, publishers and publications
If you studied these concentrated doses of information, you'd not only learn gobs of information, but you'd most likely learn more of the right information. Don't feel the need to read everything on the Web about a topic . . . but worse, don't stop learning because there is so much. Become followers of those who excel in their worlds - the agents, writers, editors, publishers and publications who/that make a living doing what they do. That's who you need to enjoy.

Yes, enjoy. If the search becomes too hair-pulling-frustrating, you tire of writing. It becomes too hard. You want to keep the joy in your work.

When you go to college, you don't sign up for all the majors. You select one. Then you focus on the classes and professors and extracurricular activities that center around that major, confident that the expertise presented is the shortest route to understanding a field in which you want to excel.

Take the time to Google the ones you like. Or ask a few people in your social circles. In the meantime, here are a tiny few suggested connections:

Rachelle Gardner
DHS Literary
Dystel & Goderich
Knight Agency
Kristin Nelson
Janet Reid (of FinePrint)

Writers Resource Center
The Renegade Writer
Query Tracker
JA Konrath
Men With Pens

Pimp My Novel
Evil Editor
Vegetarian Times
Wood Magazine
Most magazines have blogs - easier to break into than feature articles!

The Book Designer
Publishers Marketplace
University of Chicago Press Blog
Beacon Broadside Press
Harlequin Blog
Random House Blogs and Podcasts
Bell Bridge Books Blog


Laura Townshend said...

I know exactly what you mean about malls - I love to shop, but online is my speed these days. ;-)

Thanks for all that you do for writers - you're so helpful and willing to give folks a leg up (without spoon feeding). The writing community is lucky to have you.

D.G. Hudson said...

What did you mean by mags have blogs that are easier to break into than article writing?

I've always assumed they were dedicated to the staff for that mag, not freelancers?

Could you elaborate on this? OR point me to the right place to find examples? (Sorry, another question by your readers. . .)

Hope Clark said...

Check each site, DG. You will not find guidelines for their blogs, but blogs are perfect places to pitch the short term topics that are more immediate and can't last the timeline it takes to publish a magazine feature. Look for who handles the online material, and pitch them a blog post. As always, know the publication inside and out.

JFBookman said...

Hope, thanks for linking to my blog. I totally agree with your analysis: there's just too much stuff to make out what's good information and what's hype trying to sell you something. Curated information is much more valuable, where a trusted source has reviewed a lot of material and presented the best for you. I would also add Jane Friedman's excellent "There Are No Rules" blog to your list, it's great for writers thinking about publishing.