Just Write a Better Book
So you may recall I asked what I should talk about in my guest blog post for The Debutante Ball, and you answered. You wanted to know what a day in my life was like. So go check it out. Look, I get to show off my fancy linking skills. I don’t know when that pride is going to wear off, but it’s still going pretty strong.
In any case, there you have it.
But I also said I’d blog about something else here from the comments. I can’t believe people still want to hear about queries. I’ll think about it.
In the meantime, I thought this one was interesting. The lovely Arwenbicknell asked:
“An interesting question came up at a writer’s group I attended recently: “How do you bounce back from a bad first book?” That is, if a writer’s first work does poorly, how do agents get publishers and sellers interested enough to take a chance on the next one? The agent who was talking said her best advice was “write a better book,” which seemed a little flip to me. (Because writers set out to produce a sucky manuscript? Because all the people involved in the publishing process rub their hands together maliciously and go, “Mwahaha! That lousy writer! We’ll show HER in the long run!”) Me, I’m still trying to get my first book off the ground, so I have no dog in the fight, but it was definitely something I wondered about once the issue was raised.”
Check me out!! I remembered how to do colors!!
Ok, so I can see where the advice “write a better book” might come across as really flip and, quite honestly, in some cases downright bitchy. But the truth is, I could sort of see myself saying something similar (although I’m sure I would do it with a charming, perhaps a touch rueful, smile).
You may recall that I love going to writers conferences. And I do, I really do. I love to give encouragement and hope and all those rose-colored glasses kind of things. But the truth is, this is a really tough industry. It’s HARD to get a book published. And if you get your book published, it’s HARD to get your book noticed. And if you get your book noticed, it’s still HARD to do it again, and again and stand out from the crowd in that way that feels like a dream to so many writers.
I think the only way to overcome a bad first book is to write not just a better book, but an outstanding next book. Take it however you will.
And that’s why sometimes the query questions and mistakes and making it interesting to a particular person, etc. all sort of miss the point. Write that outstanding book, sum it up in a query letter, and let your manuscript do the talking for you.
I think there’s a difference between writing with the goal of not sucking and writing with the goal of being outstanding. I see a ton of manuscripts that don’t suck. I call them the good but not great ones. When I was dating I called them the “fine” dates. If he calls again, fine. If he doesn’t call, fine.
But I didn’t marry a “fine” date. And I don’t represent the “good but not great” projects.
Perhaps this agent could have worded her thoughts a little more politely, overall, I think I have to agree.