Sunday, 20 January 2008

On Starting Out

Any writer seeking publication for the first time should make a stop at the Writers Beware website which provides "Warnings About Literary Fraud and Other Schemes, Scams, and Pitfalls That Target Writers". This site, hosted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., was created by Victoria Strauss and is maintained by her.

"Have you ever:
  • Been charged an upfront fee by a literary agency?
  • Received an agent's offer to read your manuscript, only to be referred to an editor or editing service?
  • Received a publication offer and discovered a fee was required?
  • Used a pay-to-publish service and been dissatisfied with the results?
  • Entered a contest and found out you had to buy something in order to participate?
  • Used a manuscript submission or book marketing service and felt it didn't live up to the hype?
  • Encountered any kind of scam that targeted writers?
Then Writer Beware wants to hear from you."

Two years ago when I began getting offers of representation, I e-mailed Victoria for background information on the agents concerned. She responded promptly and the information she provided was vital not only in helping me make a decision, but also in putting my mind at ease.

Here's an encouraging snippet from an interview with Victoria on the Writers Write website. I hope they don't sue me for this...

"Don't believe the mythology -- that successful agents aren't interested in first-time writers, that publishers don't want to take a risk with new talent, that really original writing has no chance because publishers are only interested in cookie-cutter copycats of bestselling authors. Yes, publishing is a tough field. Rejection is a given. But it is possible to break in. What's hard these days is not to start a career, but to maintain one.

Also, the competition is probably not what you think it is. Much is made of the fact that though thousands of manuscripts are written every year, only a tiny percentage ever find commercial publication. But the truth (as anyone who has ever looked at a publisher's slush pile knows) is that less than 10% of those thousands of manuscripts even approach publishability. Given a marketable work, you're not vying with every other writer seeking publication, but only with that 10%."


Pacha said...

Brilliant. Very helpful stuff. I hope they don't sue you either ;)

Kaz Augustin said...

Great advice, Liane! Oh, and I've tagged you for the Six-Random-Things meme. The details are on my blog (

Anonymous said...

This is interesting and the following might be a bit off-topic.

To be a writer takes talent and courage. The bright side of rejection can always be found by using the Beatles as an example, because they were first turned down by Decca Records with some flimsy excuse about guitar music being a thing of the past. But rejection comes form critics as well and Voltaire, in 1601, called Hamlet ..a vulgar and barbarous drama, which would not be tolerated by the vilest populace of France, or Italy …one would imagine this piece to be the work of a drunken savage. Once a writer, or anybody for that matter, puts themselves up for public scrutiny then the harsh words must be expected. I would say that harsh words are better than no words at all.

wordtryst said...

Pacha, I'm not sure what constitutes 'fair use' and what doesn't. :)

Thanks,Kaz. I'll do it.

Absolutely right, akalol. The only way to avoid criticism is to never do anything.

"Asking a writer what he thinks about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs."
—John Osborne