Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's Magic! And By "Magic" I Mean a Lot of Work

Do interns really go through the slush pile or have I wasted my coffee money on stamps?
How does a regular person with no connections and no money get an agent?
Will the good houses ever be open to unsolicited ms?
How do you get your foot in the door? Really?

Ali Baba sees a bunch of people walking back from a mountain, loaded down with jewels and precious metals. He imagines the treasure cave they must have found. "There must be some trick to getting in," he thinks to himself. "Some magic phrase."

So he starts stopping each guy as he passes.

"Is it 'abracadabra'?" he asks the first guy. The guy just shakes his head.

"Is it 'hocus pocus'?" he asks the second guy. The second guy just shakes his head.

He keeps asking until finally around the seventh or eighth guy he says, "Is it 'open sesame'?"

The guy stops and looks at him. "Wow," he says. "You just don't get it." The guy swings a big, heavy hammer off his shoulder, where he's been carrying it. "You see this sledge hammer?" says the guy to Ali Baba. "I made this. And it's not my first one. Every treasure I've pulled from that mountain I've hammered out of it with my own hands."


The answers to your questions:
1. Yes, and not just interns.
2. You query them and submit to them the same as you'd do for a publisher.
3. There are good houses open to unsolicited manuscripts.
4. First you've got to create something strong. And then you've got to really work.

13 comments:

MG said...

EA, with stories like that you could be, like, you know, a kids' book writer!

One of the gals in my online writers' group informed me, when I suggested she stop worrying about her writing being stolen by us, that "it's not that hard to get published. I could do it if I wanted to." Are you sure there's no magic word?

(It's 'kalamazamm!', isn't it. You can tell me.)

Big Momma Pimpalishisness said...

I thought you were going to suggest that we start taking sledgehammers to the publishers' doors.

Which if you ask me, is still a valid option if all else fails.

MG said...

I've got it! It's 'Bippity-boppity-boo'!

Ooops, nope, I've just conjured up another rejection letter....

Colorado Writer said...

I read somewhere that you have to stop talking about writing and start doing it.

eluper said...

Soon after I got published, a woman in my critique group trashed me in a GROUP email about how I was "stingy" with my connections and that I could get the entire group published with a few phone calls now. She then told me it was my social obligation to use my vast connections to see that everyone else gets a contract. Needless to say, I'm no longer involved with that group. It's just amazing how uninformed people are about this biz.

Anonymous said...

I think the crux of the matter here is that nobody believes it's their writing. They haven't the skills to see in what ways their own work doesn't measure up to most of what's published, and think "My stuff's as good as that." So they figure connections and trade secrets have to be the answer. The sad thing is, they not only lack knowledge, they lack knowledge of what they lack knowledge of.

MG said...

And then when you suggest they join SCBWI or take a writing class they look at you like you're crazy.

And then some do think they've found the magic phrase: "Hey Presto! Publisho Americo!" they chant, and don't seem to hear all the caves slamming shut around them.

Anonymous said...

It's not just about the writing.
Great writers get rejections too.
Into the mix goes... topic, what's already on the market, timing, longevity blah blah blah. It doesn't matter how well you write about a sassy pigeon, it's been done by MO.
I like Colorado's response.

ae said...

Yes. I like her response, too. And I might add...just illustrate.

And there will be no pigeons for dinner tonight.

Anonymous said...

It all comes down to the writing. Not the contacts, not the credits, not the "platform", not the snazzy agent.

Steve Martin was interviewed by Charlie Rose this week. He explained how to succeed with "simple" advice that every aspiring writer (as well as artist, musician, comedian etc.) should print out in big letters and reread every month...

Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:08 has it exactly right. If you've written a truly fantabulous book about a sassy pigeon? We will look for ways to make it about a sassy chicken/spider monkey/oyster instead. If that's not going to work, we will want to see what else you have. If a manuscript is great but the style or subject matter is simply not a good fit for one house, it will probably be right for another. Keeping up on trends, making connections, all of that is important, but the writing IS the thing.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure it is just about the writing? There are some great books our there but there is also a bunch of crap. Don't pretend that there isn't a degree of "who ya know" mixed in there too.
All the green, wannabe writers excluded, but there are plenty of people who join SCBWI, take classes and spend years researching well thought out books and then XYZ-celebrity gets published...you know what I mean here. Be fair to the educated-unpublished writer.

ae said...

I spent a couple of hours at one of the big box bookstores yesterday looking at picture books.
Yes, there are some 'tragically' written ones (and they SELL, but it is not for the writing...sometimes it is something else..they hit on a good/sellable thing). But then there are some amazingly well written ones that blow me away...like the Diary of a Worm, Spider, Fly. I think they are brilliant, and boy do they sell. I just think they are harder to come by, maybe harder to write... and I do think editors are looking for strong writing/concept like that. Strong writing has its audience, as well, thank goodness.

And good for you anon 8:23 for taking classes and educating yourself. Me too.