Friday, December 16, 2011

The five biggest mistakes I made as an aspiring author...

Finally, I sent in the edits to my editor, and now I'm waiting to see if they pass the mustard. So, until then, I'm back in the land of the living.

Holy Schnikies, Batman. I can't believe how long it's been since I've posted and visited blogs. I'm SO out of practice... hope I remember how. *nervous*

Please be gentle with me!

Okay, looking back at my blog idea file (those of you who know me can attest that YES, I'm that much of a geek to actually have one--hee), I found two awards and one meme I haven't done yet. So this week, the awards. 

Lovely A.M. Supinger over at Inner Owlet (BTW, she's every bit as cute as the name of her blog) gifted me with this:

Thank you, dahling! This gal never ceases to amaze me with her talent for story telling, and she's also artistically gifted ... which means she'll be getting a very special award in my upcoming  Second Bi-Annual Wonderland Bloggy Awards in a few weeks. (◕‿-) 

The rules for this award:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them. Done!
2. Pick some of your favorite blogs to share the award with!

A.M. picked two recipients, so I'm following in her hoof prints.

1. Bethany Crandell, of the notorious Rookie Riter blog. Why do I think her blog is lovely? For one, she's put up a new rocking background that fits her book (presently being subbed) to a T. Also, because I love to hang out there. Her insights are witty, irreverent, and laugh out loud funny. Not to mention, there's always a kernel of poignant truth in everything she says. Simply put, she's a gem.

2. Jenny Phresh of The Party Pony fame. She's been redecorating her place of late, and it's quiet lovely. Also, much like my other recipient, she always makes me laugh, and sometimes makes my heart sigh. So, anyone who can pull my emotional puppet strings like that, deserves a lovely award.

Next, Bailey over at Over Yonder Lit gave me the versatile blog award.

Thank you, Bailey! It's already on my sidebar which means I've passed it out another time or two, so I'll skip that bit, but here are five things about me ... with a writer's twist.

The five most naive mistakes I made when first starting out as a writer (IOW, five things aspiring writers should never do as proven by my bumbling bloopers):

1. Trying too hard to stand out. When I started querying the first book I ever wrote, I read LOTS of books and articles on how to go about it. One of them suggested you do something out of the ordinary to get noticed. So I decided to make a query brochure ... the tri-fold kind *in full color, mind* that had pictures of my characters, a short synopsis, excerpt from the book, and an author's bio (under a pseudonym, thankfully ... that's the one thing I did right). To further humiliate myself, I included a picture of me. Want to see?

*Shudders* Needless to say, I didn't get many responses. And those I got, well, they aren't worth mentioning. ;) So glad I only sent out five.  Lesson learned: The only way your query should stand out is a unique story premise and polished writing. Everything else needs to be standard and professional.

2. Thinking that finishing a book = instant success.  I just knew the first publisher who read my three page query letter (after I abandoned the brochures) would buy my MS. In truth, I got over 100 rejections before I ever learned how to write a query letter to begin with. And it took that many for me to realize maybe I wasn't going to get in with book one. Here's a picture of HALF of the rejections I received. Didn't have room to lay them all out, so imagine a line twice this long (Note: some of the rejections are on small slips of paper or postcards, so they're hard to see)...

Lesson learned: There are a lot more steps to getting published than writing a book. Educate yourself on those steps and ace them. It will give you an edge over the millions of other writers out there trying to get in the door.

 3. Assuming agents are out to make you miserable. I once did a post on my old blog poking fun at all of the pointless form rejections I'd received, even copying some word for word--omitting names, of course. A very savvy fellow blogger (who happened to be an assistant for an agent) pointed out that it might not be the smartest move, considering I was querying at the time, and if any agents googled me, they might be offended and write me off. Lesson learned: agents are people; they have limited time, ergo, they have form letters to help them do their job. Treat them w/respect if you expect it in return.

4. Thinking that once you get an agent, you'll have him/her for life, they'll love everything you write, and you will be published within months of signing. This may prove true for some, but I was with my first agent for over two years and while we sent out the MS she signed me for, I wrote three more. My book didn't sell, and she turned down two that I wrote, and wanted me to change the last one (SPLINTERED) so drastically it would've killed my vision for the book. We were on completely different pages for my career. So we parted ways. Lesson learned: Sometimes we don't find our literary soulmates until round 2 or 3 or 4. What's important is to be willing to make changes that resonate, but stay true to your voice and vision. Have the courage to do what's best for your longtime career.

5. Once an agent turns you down, never ever query them again. Refer once more to the long line of rejections above. One of those is actually from my present agent. She doesn't even remember that I sent a query her way for the first book I wrote (some six or so years ago), or even that she read a chapter of it. She turned it down because she didn't love the writing. Thinking that meant she'd never want to see anything else I wrote, I made a point not to query her with my YA. I queried her colleague instead. Had said colleague not sent the MS my agent's way after deciding it wasn't the right fit for her, I wouldn't be where I am today. Lesson learned: An agent's tastes can change over time, just as your writing will. Never be afraid to try an agent again, especially if you have a few more books under your belt. Chances are, one of you has changed enough to make a connection. You certainly won't know unless you try.

I hope you can glean some positive insights out of my ignorance. :) You know what they say about hindsight? It's even better when it's someone else's. I wanted to post this to prove that no matter how many mistakes you make, the only mistake that can keep you from getting published is to quit trying.

I did some stupid things, but the one thing I did right is I hung in there and never stopped writing. Now I'm about to finally see my dream come true. It can be that way for everyone aspiring to be published.

Never give up, and it will be your turn to sit on the shelves one day soon. 

Have a great weekend!


  1. Thanks for the advice. It's very inspiring to know someone can receive hundreds of rejections, and still go on to get an agent and publisher. Also, that an agent who gave a rejection on a previous book may like another one.

  2. Cool brochure. Obviously not for querying, but it's a neat idea! It'd be interesting if bookstores had those for upcoming books.

  3. Anita, I've said it before and I'ma say it again-- I love your twists on blog awards. It was so much fun seeing how you grew as a writer, but mostly I love the moral behind all your lessons: Keep writing.

  4. Loved this post! You are such an inspiration, Anita ;o) I'm so glad you never gave up and stayed true to yourself. It can be very tempting at times to do otherwise . . . especially when you want something so badly. Thanks for sharing your humble beginnings with us (hehehe) ;o)

    Oh, and congrats on your awards!

  5. Wow, these are FANTASTIC. They're all things an aspiring writer should know. Thank you so much for sharing <3 I'm so happy you're back, Anita!

  6. These are all great tips/advice you have shared. As I have started querying they are very apt for me. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. This post just made me feel all warm and fuzzy-like inside :) It's really hard to open up your inner most secrets and let people gaze into your chest cavity, but it's so inspiring.

    Thank you for being brave enough to keep pushing on AND thank you for continuing to be brave and share your learning curve with us :)

    ((((((INTERWEB HUGS)))))))))))

    Also, YAYYYYYYYY for you being back! We misssssed youuuuuu. <3 <3

  8. CD~ Hey there! I wish I could've laid out all of the rejections. If it wasn't always so windy outside, I could've used my driveway. :) I guess I could've just showed you the stack. It makes a very impressive mountain. LOL. And YES, never write off an agent, unless they're rude to you, or specifically ask you not to send anything else their way (both of which almost never happen).

    Rain~ What a great idea! I hadn't even thought of that. :) so maybe I DID come up w/something unique after all. Hee

    Sophia~ Ah, thanks Goblin Sistah. And yep, that keep on keeping on is what ends up sorting out the will be's from the wanna be's. ;)

    Angela~ Hey cutie! Thank you! You're welcome. Hee. I have to admit, it was a wee bit embarrassing. Eeps! But I really think others can learn from my mistakes.

    Lori~ Why thank you, lovely lady! And you're welcome. Feels pretty good to be back. Whew. And congrats once again on your fab news!

    Rachna~ You're welcome, and I'm so glad they were helpful. :) Good luck on the queries!

    Kerri~ Hey there twinkle twink. Hee. It was nerve-wracking laying out these skeletons, but at the same time liberating. Now no one can ever blackmail me. HA! ((((HUGS RIGHT BACK)))). And I missed you guys, too!

  9. Great post! I know I've made most of the same mistakes (except for the, uh, ambitiously colored brochure). It's nice to know that I'm not forever screwed just bc I was silly when I first started querying :P

    Oh, and YAY!!! for you being back online! :) Missed ya!

  10. ^Ethx is my hubby's gmail account name. Oops!

  11. ETHX (aka OWLGOAT)~ Snicker. It's a good thing you told me that or I would've just thought I had a new fan. HEE. Thanks girlie. And yes, I was nothing if not ambitious. HA

    It's nice to be online again, too, thank you! :)

  12. This is great! I've missed you, I thought blogger was being stupid or something cuz I've been missing a whole bunch of blogs from my reader, and I was so excited to see a post!

    And I think I made those mistakes too, not the query brochure, but I did write a big long flowery query that basically sucked up to the agent before I even got to the premise of my story. *hangs head in shame*

  13. These are amazing tips!! Thank you for sharing them and your journey. It means a lot to those of us who are afraid to query ;) Awesome, awesome post!

  14. Great advices, Anita. I'd had to never, ever give up.

  15. Cassie~ Hi! Thanks so much for missing me. Hee. And I don't think many people pulled off my floundering brochure mistake, but it's good to hear you've made your own down the line. I don't feel so alone that way. :) And never be ashamed! That's how we learn, and it's how others learn from us, right? It's those hard learned lessons that seem to stick w/us the most.

    J.A.~ Hey there! You're welcome! I'm so glad they helped you. :) And I hope you find your courage and get out there in the query trenches. It's the only way to get your story heard. Good luck, and #goatwub.

    Anne~ Thanks! And your writing is wonderful, so DON'T ever give up. BTW, I've finally started reading again! Hope to have some feedback for you after Christmas. :)

  16. Welcome back & great post. I’m particularly fond of the brochure. *giggle* I’m thinking of faux finishing one of the walls in my office with the first batch of query rejections – my own little performance art, “An Homage to Eagerness.” So glad to have you back in Blogville!

  17. Kathryn~ I'm SO ashamed of my ignorance. LOL. It took a LOT of psyching myself up to share that brochure faux pas. HA! I think that office decor sounds FAB. Heehee. Make sure you post a picture on your blog for all to see. ANd thanks for the welcome wagon! :)

  18. All I want for Christmas is that fold-out brochure. ROTFLMAO!! You make my heart SING, dear friend. Oh, that just made my whole day. :)

    And thank you for the lovely award. To share that honor w/my pal Phresh is truly a gift!!

  19. Rookstar~ Careful what you wish for ... you might just get it in the mail. HEH. You're welcome for the award!

  20. I love posts like this. We all make mistakes and hopefully we all learn something from them, and it sounds like you're exactly where you need to be now, even if the journey had some bumps along the way. Thanks for being so candid and sharing your insight!

  21. Oh my goodness, the last part of this post is seriously inspirational. Maybe you can guest blog it on my blog sometime. And LOL on the pamphlet. I'm somehow not surprised you went there, Miss Creative. :-) Thank you for sharing this part of your journey! There's nothing humiliating about it. It's a blessing for those who maybe didn't know these things until reading your post. ;-)

  22. Sarah~ Aw, you're welcome! And you're right. I really feel like I found my book's dream home. :) Someone who GETS my story and my writing. It was so worth all of those stumbles on the way here.

    Jessie~ I would love to guest post it! You just let me know when. :) And thanks for your sweet words! You know, I've always felt that you're pretty inspirational yourself. Oh, but I think I've told you that already--about a hundred or so times. Hee.

  23. Thanks Anita, your humility brought me hope. Thanks and best of luck.

  24. Congratulations on finishing your edits, Anita! Perfect timing with the holidays!!

    I loved reading about your query brochure. I'm so glad you figured out after only five queries that standing out with that particular tactic wasn't the best idea. And I completely understand about sometimes needing to move on to another agent. I've been there myself!

    Enjoy your break from revisions. Happy holidays!

  25. Elizabeth~ Thank you, lady. :) I appreciate that so much!

    Cat~ Oh, yeah. I remember us talking about that a little bit. ANd LOL. Yes, five brochures was more than enough to realize it wasn't the best way to go. In fact, I should've listened to my gut from the get go, because it was telling me all along that might not be the smartest choice... HMMM.;) And thanks! I'm going to take it easy this Christmas.

  26. Beautiful. And perfect timing. Thank you for this.

  27. You are a true inspiration for all of us. Thanks for sharing! And congrats on your awards!! <3

  28. Lisa~ Aw, you're welcome! I'm so glad it could help. :)

    Cherie~ You sweet sparkly lady. Thank you. :)

  29. Great to see you back from the pile of edits :-)

    This is a great post, even more so because it's real, you really went through this. The brochure? Misunderstood genius :-)

  30. I wrote a long response to this last night and then my Interwebs HOSED me and went offline. Graaakkk!

    I found this post incredibly thoughtful and helpful (would we expect any less from you, really?) You are such an inspiration to everyone here. You are my hero!

    And the brochure? Astounding. Can we get a bigger close-up of that, please?

    Thank you for my award! I showed up here without pants, and discovered that Rookie had already arrived and SHE WAS ALSO NOT WEARING PANTS. Talk about embarrassing.

  31. This is a really helpful post, Anita! Points all well taken!

  32. Sarah~ Thanks! Now I just need to get caught up on twitter and everyone else's blogs. Including yours. LOL. And thanks for throwing the misguided genius bone my way. Hee. It wasn't one of my better moments, I assure you. ;)

    Jenny~ Aw, Pony Girl. Thank you so much for your lovely words! And I'm so glad you liked your award. :) You've earned it. Oh, as to the brochure, I think if you click on the pictures, they'll enlarge a bit. Seriously, that's as big as I'm willing to go. LOL. *still chagrinned*

    Nina~ Thank you so much! I'm so glad it's been helpful. I think airing it out has really made me feel better about it all. :)

  33. Ahh--good luck w/those revisions, my friend! And no worries about being MIA! It happens.

    Love your list of "mistakes." Methinks I might be reliving one of your bullet points... ;p <3

  34. Leigh~ Hi lovely lady! Uh-oh, which one of my points are you reliving? Can't be the brochure one. LOL! I'll hop over to your blog in a few days and see what's new w/you. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  35. Very wise tips. When I started writing I put way too many story threads in. I later learned that spare is good. It allows the main characters and story structure to emerge and shine.

  36. What a great post! It's amazing the expectations we come to this ridiculous business with, isn't it? I'm sure I've made some equally entertaining blunders as I tried, too -- though my path's been different, there are certainly similar ones :D

  37. So glad you didn't give up! I'm so proud for you and proud to call you my friend. Great advice and something I've heard over and over too..Never. Give. Up. :) Love you Goat Goddess!

  38. ^I like the new nickname! Goat Goddess, indeed!

  39. Oh LOL! The tri-fold query?! Hilarious! But really, all very good lessons. Seriously, there is no reason why aspiring authors can't learn to avoid most if not all those pitfalls. Not when so many blogs are willing to save you!

    I hope the revisions go well!

  40. Hey there!
    I've been reading many of your posts and I've been enjoying your blog! Thanks!!

    I loved your "lessons" and I wish I could have read them like 3 years ago! lol.
    I just learned lesson #4. But I think you already know that since I saw you on my blog, sending good vibes! Thanks so much for stopping by. It was nice to see you there.

    Also congrats on SPLINTERED and because you seem happy with your agent! <3

    I hope you had a lovely Christmas and I wish you the best for 2012!! <3

  41. Catherine~ That's so true. Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a hefty writer, so second drafts are all about cutting out the fat for me. I just can't seem to write sparse the first time in, no matter how hard I try. LOL

    Katey~ Thank you! And yes, you've taken a very different path. In fact, I'd love to see it all laid out in a post; a lot of aspiring writers would be inspired by your story. :)

    Suzanne~ Aw, thanks little goatling! :) Love right back at ya!

    A.M.~ Hee.

    Liesl~ *so embarrassed* HEH. Problem is, back when I was first starting, there weren't that many blogs to lead you. Thank goodness for the up and comers that there are TONS now! If only I'd had a crystal ball... Hmmm.:)

    Monica~ Hi! Thanks for stopping by! Yeah, I wish I could've read my lessons when I first got started, too. LOL. Like Liesl says though, now there are not only writers' blogs, but agent blogs that can help you make the right choices along the way. Thanks for the congrats (I'm thrilled w/my agent AND my editor). ;) Congrats right back at ya! This should be an exciting new year for you!

  42. Love the inspirational boost I got from reading that. Good job :) Can't wait to read your book. I love YA. Writing a few myself ;) Congrats!

  43. So nice to meet you, Jade! And a fellow YA writer to boot. :) I'm glad this post inspired you. Thank you so much for the words about my book. It's been a pretty exciting past few months!