Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Irony of Ironies
I feel their pain. I’ve lived it and I’ve got much more than a t-shirt to prove it. I have a library of “how to get published/write that winning proposal/find that agent” books. Trust me here, not enough years have passed to dull the memory of buying this one more book because surely it would hold the answer to cracking the code that is the publishing world. I just wanted someone to move over a tad and let me get a foot in. If I could, I’d be more than happy to scoot over for other aspiring authors.
The thing is, while I may understand why it's happening, I still shake my head at the irony of my making decisions for which I’m wholly unqualified. How is it that I’m now the one holding other people’s babies (for that’s what they are, you know) and deciding if I can risk mentioning this one or that one in my columns or on the air because I think it’s truly that good, without inviting another avalanche of books in the mail that I can’t possibly give the attention they deserve?
Some of you will say, “That’s easy, Shellie. Just make a blanket policy that you won’t review self-pubbed books and be done with it.” I could do that. I probably should do that. It’d free crucial time I could spend reading the ever-increasing pile of books I want to read, blurbing the books I’m interested in and am committed to blurbing, scheduling author interviews for the radio show and basically running the rambunctious preteen called All Things Southern—she’ll be ten years old next year! Oh, and getting my own manuscript turned in to my editor on time. (If you’re reading this, Denise, I’ll make it, I really will!) By the way, that list didn’t even mention my top goals of being the best wife, daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother I can be. If I fail at any of those none of this is worth it. None of it.
But the truth is, precisely because of our shared experience, (I have three self-published books in my history), I haven’t been able to draw that line. Instead, I beg patience from everyone as I “work my system” and try to get thru my reading list.
This afternoon I received yet another reader’s email with the familiar theme. “I’m trying to get published,” it read. "And I’m hoping you can help.” Here’s my open letter to that sweet girl, posted here for all the world to see. Maybe it will help someone else.
“Dear Aspiring Author, I do so wish I could make your dreams come true but the cold, hard, truth is that I can’t. I don’t have the magic key and I’m more than ever convinced that there is none. You told me you didn’t want an agent, that you wanted a publisher. I understand. I felt that way for the longest. I was wrong. I’d like to humbly suggest that you are, too.
Without an agent it’s highly likely that your baby will never see the light of day. Overworked editors simply can’t afford to scan anything that doesn't come to them through an agent, that all important filter. And here’s something you may find surprising. While they may have “accepted” my work, neither my agent nor my editor consider me qualified to discover other authors. They get nervous and downright skittish when I try. So, here's my suggestion, for what it’s worth.
Do your homework and find out which agents are representing works like yours. Prepare a proposal. (There is a ton of free info online and at your local library about how to write such a proposal.) Then—submit and polish and submit and polish to those agents until you get one. In the meantime, write, write, write, and then write some more. No, it’s not easy, but it can be done. Blessings on your efforts! I’d like nothing more than to see your name in print!
Shellie Rushing Tomlinson lives in Lake Providence, Louisiana with her husband, Phil. She’s the author of “Lessons Learned on Bull Run Road”, “’Twas the Night before the Very First Christmas” and “Southern Comfort with Shellie Rushing Tomlinson” . In 2009, her Penguin Group USA release, Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On, was a finalist for Nonfiction Book of the Year. She’s hard at work on the sequel: Sue Ellen’s Girl Ain’t Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy. Shellie is owner and publisher of a website called All Things Southern and the host of daily radio segments and a weekly radio talk show, All Things Southern LIVE. Beginning March 18th, she’ll be touring with River Jordan on The Great Southern Wing and a Prayer Tour.