Cassy's Corner-- Multi-published Writer, Toni Andrews
Today we have the honor of the multi-published author Toni Andrews guest blogging on Mysteries and Margaritas. Please join us in welcoming her. If you tease her a bit, I'm sure she'll tell you more about herself and the path she's taken along her writing career.
So, You Want to Be a Writer...Toni Andrews
Before I decided to become a writer, I was a Business Analyst. This is a job title that, when you say it aloud, causes the listener’s eyes to glaze over. It’s just so...vague.
Actually we Business Analysts like that our job title is vague. It’s one of the things that allows us to charge those exorbitant rates. But the truth is, what a Business Analyst does can be distilled down to a single sentence: We figure out how to get there from here.
I knew nothing about 1) how to write a book or 2) how to get a book published when, one fateful day, I just decided to become a novelist. Just under two years later, I had a three-book deal with a major publisher.
This was because I didn’t just wander into a new career hoping that it would somehow work out. I was a business analyst. I knew where here was. I knew where there was. Without even thinking about it, I started off by trying to figure out the straightest line between those two points.
As the President of a fair-sized writer’s group, I’m often asked for advice on how others can get there from here. Since I always advise the same seven things, I figured it was time to put them to paper. So, here they are: A Former Business Analyst’s 7 Pieces of Advice on How to Become a Published Author.
- Have a plan, and write it down.
Whether you just want something with an ISBN you can show to your grandchildren some day, or intend to overtake J.K. Rowling on the charts, you need to have a written plan. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the steps yet--you can adjust as you go.
Here’s a hint: Some of the items on this list may become your initial steps!
- Join your local professional writers’ organization.
For any kind of fiction, not just romance, I recommend finding your local chapter of Romance Writers of America. When I went to my very first meeting, I sat down in a random chair and found I was sitting next to a New York Times best selling author! This is what a business analyst refers to as finding a “Subject Matter Expert.” If RWA isn’t for you, there are many other groups--do an online search for writers’ organizations and join more than one!
- Write a great book.
This may seem so obvious that it doesn’t need to be on the list but, as a former business analyst, I am compelled to start with the big picture.
I know you’re thinking “Of course, my book is good.” But, who says so?
News flash: Your mother, sibling, best friend and significant other may not be the most objective critics. This leads to the next couple of items...
- Form a critique group.
I don’t mean one of those mutual admiration society groups, where everyone goes to be stroked (you know the ones I mean). I suggest a small, tight-knit group of 3 to 5 people, who are all serious about getting their work published and are all-willing to give and receive tough, honest, constructive criticism. Make sure there are rules and guidelines, and that you have a way of “auditioning” new members before they become a permanent part of the group.
If you’d like to see a sample set of critique group guidelines, email me at email@example.com and I’ll send you the rules that my personal critique group uses.
- Enter contests.
Many local chapters of those writers groups you’re about to join (because you were paying attention to Item #2) have contests. If your work isn’t ready for submission, you’ll get excellent feedback from the first round of judges. If your submission scores well enough to make it to the final round, it will probably be given to an editor or an agent to rank. If they like it, they might ask to see the manuscript. I made my first sale to an editor who had read the first chapter in a contest.
- Go to conferences.
Writers groups sponsor both local and national conferences. Depending on your budget, attend as many as you can.
These conferences have major benefits, including:
- You will have the opportunity to network in a casual setting with published authors and industry professionals (I met my agent at the bar at a conference).
- You can attend workshops and panels that will give you more information about writing and the publishing industry in forty-five minutes than you would learn in a university semester.
- You can schedule a “pitch session,” where you actually get to sit down in front of an editor or agent for ten minutes and pitch your novel. This beats the HECK out of sending your manuscript to a slush pile.
And, speaking of slush piles....
- Get an agent.
Publishers receive hundreds, if not thousands, of unsolicited manuscripts every week. Even if their website says that they accept un-agented submissions, it’s just not possible for them to get around to all of those manuscripts. So, they are forced to rely on the recommendations of reputable agents.
For the many, many other questions you probably still have, I refer you again to Item #2. I have found writers to be very generous with their time, encouragement and advice. Also, I find it enjoyable to hang around with others who, like me, write down what the voices in their head are saying instead of taking medication to get them to shut up!
Best of luck with your writing career....