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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Simple Trick to Help You Get Published, from Editor Kirk Shaw

I first met Kirk Shaw, an editor for a mid-sized publisher, at a workshop for writers. What struck me about Kirk, besides his confidence in front of a crowd and his (very tall) stature, was his knowledge of all the things that go on before a manuscript ever hits his desk. He began describing a simple technique that could increase a writer's chances of being published. The audience was captivated as, step by step, he showed us what he meant. Later, when I cornered him after lunch, Kirk was more than happy to let me share his advice with you.

Publishing Professionalism
How Courtesy Can Help You Get Published and Stay Published

by Kirk Shaw

~ Treat an agent/editor like a regular person and don’t conduct impromptu Q&A
~ Be flexible in conversations—exclusivity vs. inclusiveness
~ Be the first to say hello and introduce yourself
~ Don’t bore editors and agents with the play-by-play summary

~ Listen to editor’s/agent’s advice
~ Don’t defend your story; if you don’t like their advice, you don’t have to tell them that
~ Let agent/editor talk during most of time (after all, you’re not paying to hear yourself)
~ Follow guidelines for pitch submissions

~ Don't talk about your unpublished ideas or manuscripts in public
~ Ask others about their work and listen to them
~ Promote friends’ books and the books of authors you admire

Writers and Critique Groups
~ Don’t monopolize the group—with critiquing or submitting your work
~ Don’t play the “too busy” game—read everyone’s submissions
~ Understand the level of critiquing expected and desired from each person
~ Contribute writing—don’t become a critic only
~ Try to show new material only (rather than the 100th revision of chapter one)

Queries and Submissions
~ Don't call or drop in on an editor/agent/publisher. Either email or send postal query/submission depending on webiste submission guidelines
~ Accepting rejection with grace and thanking editor for her time
~ Address correct person; don’t Sir/Madam or (shudder) “To Whom It May Concern”
~ Follow publisher’s guidelines to a T. Don’t think you’re the exception on any point
~ Don’t talk about past rejections
~ Follow up only after the period the publisher has indicated as a normal review stint
~ If review has been excessively long without major commitment (~1+ year), withdraw
~ Do your research to make sure you have the right publisher; don’t blanket-query
~ If your simultaneously submitting, keep all parties informed at key points
~ Once you’ve submitted, don’t keep resending updated files without editor asking you to

Blogs and Websites
~ Be tactful when reviewing books; I’d recommend only reviewing books you mostly liked
~ Careful what you say about people on blogs, etc. It’s a small world thanks to Google
~ Better to have no website than a really crummy website. Get a good look.
~ Don’t trash on publishers, etc., on blogs; DO compliment them (sincerely)

Editor–Author Relationship
~ Be as willing to meet the editor’s recommendations as possible
~ Set up appointments; try not to drop in
~ Confide in your editor when planning future projects; keep her in the loop
~ Tactfully express changes you’d like made that are important to you (not commas, please!)
~ Discussion is key
~ Don’t treat your publisher like a glorified Kinko’s—remember they’re buying your book
~ Send a gift/thank-you card for each book published; send Christmas/b-day/Hanukkah cards

Agent–Editor Relationship
~ Respect your contract: don’t shop around with other agents while in contract with one
~ Send a gift or thank-you card for each sale made; send Christmas/b-day/Hanukkah cards
~ Respect your agent’s ability to negotiate the best contract possible
~ If your agent is not doing her job (continually), politely and legally withdraw from contract

Keeping Fans Happy
~ Steer clear of cliffhangers
~ Write regularly and well
~ Respond promptly and courteously to correspondence
~ Actively participate in events

Signings and Marketing Opportunities
~ At signings, actively engage customers by standing and seeking them out (don’t read!!!)
~ Include other participating authors in conversations; cross-market each other’s books
~ Always write a tactful and appreciative email to people who review your books
~ Try to attend some of the events you’re requested to attend by fans
~ Get a professional photo done

Thank you so much, Kirk, for sharing this with us!

Want to know what an editor reads? Check out Kirk Shaw's blog, Vagabond Voice, where he points out what works (and sometimes what doesn't) in published books.


Stina said...

Thanks, Suzette, for sharing this advice. Great post as usual.

So by cliff hanging endings, you're referring to the ones that don't end the book's story arc, right? If you leave some ends danging for the sequel, that's okay? (For example Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead . . . Michelle would know what I mean.)

Abdullah said...

Thank you Sir!

Suzette Saxton said...

Thanks for your comments, Stina and Abdullah. Stina, I will try to find out for you.

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

Thanks for the post, Mr. Shaw.

Rebekah Prudhomme said...

I know I made several of these mistakes when I was first starting out, and I winced when I saw them. Thank you Mr. Shaw for these bits of advice! I will try to take them to heart.

Michelle McLean said...

wonderful post Suzy and thanks to Mr. Shaw! (and yes Stina I know exactly what you mean and I can't wait for Richelle's next book!!! It's killing me!) :D

Katie Salidas said...

Wonderful post. Great advice!

M. Dunham said...

What a wonderful post, Suzette. Pass on my thanks to Mr. Shaw as well.

Yamile said...

Thanks for this post! I feel I learn so much every time I stop by here.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Thanks so much for the great advice. I've got two conferences coming up this month, and I'll keep these tips in mind. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Kirk Shaw is a really great guy, probably one of the nicest you'll meet. Thanks for the great list. I love lists because for some reason it tricks my brain into thinking there's less info. or something.

Suzette Saxton said...

LOL, Jaime! Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful remarks. I'll direct Kirk here to read them.

Tess said...

Suzette - love the new photo!

Great post with really helpful information. It's always good to have a reminder of these things :)

Thank you, Mr. Shaw.

Little Ms J said...

Fantastic advice! Thank you for sharing.

Suzette Saxton said...

Aw, thanks Tess. :)

That's a funny pic, Little Ms J.

Kirk L. Shaw said...

I'm glad it was helpful. Thank you for your kind words.

To answer the cliffhanger question, yes, some authors think they're enticing readers to read their next book if they throw in an outrageous cliffhanger at the end of their novel. While that may be true, not all authors are prolific enough to get the sequel story out quick enough for readers (some drag it out a couple years or more).

Readers deserve better, and that's one of the quickest ways to lose fans. It's just rude for authors to do it.

Stina said...

Thanks Mr. Shaw for answering my question about the cliff hanging ending. You're right, some authors take waaaaay too long to write the sequel.

mexh said...

Great Advice.