Easy as 1, 2, 3….
Anybody can write. If you have a good enough plot that’s fresh and original, you know how to spell, great interactive and lively characters, and pretty decent grammar, anybody can do it. Writing is, for the most part, pretty easy.
My cousins (Jackie, 10 and Katherine, 7) like to write stories about my cat, Hunter. They also incorporate our neighbor’s cats, Socks and Mittens. Plus, they made up a new character and named him Hunter Jr., who apparently is Hunter’s son. Hunter is also apparently married; however, aside from “mom,” she is a nameless character who only appears in the story when she is nagging Hunter Jr. to clean up his room.
The two of them write their stories down on normal white-lined paper. They draw illustrations to go with each page and then staple the pages together to look like a book and include an illustrated cover. They actually come out pretty well. I’m creative, but if I was their age, I would have never thought to put it in “book format” like that. Actually, I’m 18 and I still wouldn’t have thought of something like that.
Their stories are all dialogue (yet no quotations), repetitive with “he said/she said,” each story is only about maybe five pages long (but with the illustrations, it’s technically less than that), and if you did not have the illustrations, you would have no idea what was going on in the story. I will give them some credit: for the most part, you can make out where the story is going by just reading the words (even if they are spelled incorrectly), the illustrations are pretty good for a ten- and seven-year-old (better than what I would do), they definitely each have a creativity bone in their body, and they’re trying.
Now, whether you write like Jackie and Katherine or you write like J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), you could get something published. This is simply because of self-publishing. I bet that if I took one of my cousins’ stories, edited it a little, and sent it to a self-publisher, people would buy it simply because little kids wrote it and it’s “cute.” You could do the same thing-whether your story is good or bad-you could self-publish. If it doesn’t sell, well maybe you haven’t promoted yourself that much…or maybe that novel just sucked. Try again.
I don’t know a lot about self-publishing or big publishing companies or even getting an agent. But I’m trying. How am I going to do it? I don’t know. Where am I going to start? I don’t know. Will I become as big as James Patterson (Maximum Ride series)? I don’t know. There are a lot of unknowns in this world and believe me, trying to become a published author is definitely one of them.
I can’t stress this enough: I don’t know much about agents, publishing companies, or self-publishing. One could probably say that I know little to nothing about it. Sure, I have written and completed a couple of novels, but I am not published. I have not gone on that journey to seek out an agent or gone through the process of self-publishing. But based on my research, this is what I know.
Let me tell you something: I finished a young adult novel. Good for me, right? Yes, well, there is an accomplishment is simply finishing a first draft…actually, it’s quite a big accomplishment. However, whether you are planning on self-publishing or looking for an agent or skipping over the agent to try to publish with the big publishing companies on your own, you need to edit. And edit. And edit and edit and edit some more because guess what? Nine times out of ten, that first draft is going to be crap.
When I finished that novel, believe me, I was beyond excited. I edited it once. That’s right. Just once. I was so excited that I just said to myself, “It’s done. It’s ready and it needs to be put on those bookshelves immediately.” Of course I was wrong. Due to my lack of knowledge on big publishing companies, I decided to look for an agent first. I didn’t even consider self-publishing because I wanted my book to be published by a big name publishing company that everybody knew. Like Harper Collins or Random House. I also wanted my book to be on bookshelves in stores and not just sold online.
So, I sent this novel to about…ten agents. I heard back from all of them. Can you guess what all the answers were? A big, fat no. Was I discouraged? Honestly, no. I’ve heard the saying, “be excited when you get rejected” and in a way I was because I knew that I had tried. I knew that the agent(s) have at least looked at it. However, if I told you that I got discouraged, you all would think I’m some sort of cocky jerk. Let me guess: you’re laughing at me right now. You must think that I’m a big idiot. In some ways, I am an idiot. After collecting all the rejections, I looked over my manuscript and I thought the same thing: “I must have made myself look like an idiot in front of all those agents. This novel is no where near ready! What was I thinking?” I was thinking that because I actually finished something, it was the best in the world, every agent would want to represent me, the first publishing company we asked would fall in love with the book, publish it right away, and then I would be on the Oprah Winfrey Show because I wrote such an “amazing” book. Or, to put it short and simple, I wasn’t thinking at all.
I have edited that novel a few more times and I’m still editing it. I’m on the seventh draft. Yes, you read correctly. However, I can’t edit all the time and stop all my writing simply because of that one novel. So, I wrote and completed two children’s novels and another young adult novel. Have I tried sending any of them in to any agents? No. I want to make sure that the manuscript, whichever one it will be, is ready. Really ready, not fake ready.
I have looked through books at Barnes & Noble listing agents. I wrote down all the ones that would represent the types of novels that I write. Then I remembered something…before I sent in that novel to all those agents, I researched how to write a good query letter. Every bit of information I found on query letters said, “list previous publications.” And I say that if I had any previous publications, I probably wouldn’t need an agent in the first place. So, all my query letters never listed my previous publications because they are non-existent. I researched some more…specifically that question. Apparently, most agents wouldn’t even think about representing you unless you have some sort of background in publishing. It shows them that you can meet a deadline, your writing must be somewhat decent if it was published somewhere else, and you must have some sort of knowledge on publishing if you really did publish something. Even if it was only in the local newspaper.
I looked up magazines. I figured that I could write a short story, send it to a magazine and if they like it, they can publish it. I might have written a couple of short stories to publish in different magazines. That way, I would have something published and a little publishing knowledge under my belt. Of course, magazines are a long process. One magazine said to wait six months to hear back. January 2012 ended the six months and I never heard back from them. Of course, I’ll keep trying. Write different stories, try different magazines…but then I had an epiphany.
Alright, so this “epiphany” is only from what my sister told me, but I sound smarter when I say I had an epiphany. Anyway, apparently self-publishing is a great way to get your foot in the door. I know a few people who have used a certain self-publishing company (I don’t know these people personally…they’re all from a writing website that I am apart of), but I at least know that this self-publishing company is legit. However, I still researched it and some people like it, some people don’t. Some people say it’s a scam, some people don’t. Some people say it’s cheap, other think it’s expensive.
I’ve also heard the saying, “if they want you to pay them, chances are it’s a scam.” However, self-publishing is a little different than publishing through a big company. I still have to do my research and possibly take a look at other self-publishing companies, but my point is that I’m going to try to get a novel self-published (and/or a short story published in a magazine or something) before I start searching for an agent. It will still take me a while to get an agent, but at least being published will increase my chances a little.
You’re probably thinking, “The title of this post says that anyone can do it, but all you’re doing is talking about failures of the publishing process.” No, I still stand by what I said: anyone can do it. It’s a hard, long process, especially if you don’t really know what you’re doing, like me. My point is, if you take it seriously enough and really try and believe in yourself…you could publish something all on your own. From there, you could get an agent and sell a lot more things through big publishing companies, or continue self-publishing depending on how well the first one turned out.
I told you everything I went through with the publishing process (everything I went through so far, I mean) because if you really want to get somewhere in life with your writing, you can’t get discouraged at every little thing. The road is long and you don’t know if you’re supposed to go left, right, or straight. A lot of detours will pop up unexpectedly and you’re most likely going to make a few wrong turns here and there in which case you’ll have to turn around and go back to retrace your steps in order to get back on track.
You can’t let that stop you. If you want it bad enough, believe you can do it, and keep at it, you’ll make it. Get excited when you receive a rejection. Take both good and bad critique to heart. Don’t get discouraged so easily. Certainly don’t give up. You may make thousands of dollars off your novel(s), have your novels turned into movies, and/or just be one of those laid-back authors who make just enough money to get by, but aren’t that big. Either way, you’ll make it because, well…anyone can do it.