No Writer is an Island

Though I have often read that writing is a solitary enterprise, I’ve never really understood that sentiment. After all, the simplest story must have at least two participants, the storyteller and the audience. Even when we perform through the written word, that minimum duality is maintained. However, I found it is incredibly rare for that one on one relationship to exist. Readers have made their opinion known to the publishing community through numerous market research studies and through their spending habits. Our audience has discerning tastes, and often their buying decisions are made based on the perceived quality of the product.

Before the work even starts, writers will often turn to a group of friends or family to help them brainstorm and plan. Furthermore, most of the writers I know will use beta readers during the initial drafting process to help guide their words and work. This ensures that the first draft is the best it can be. Once the completed manuscript is in hand, there is still a long way to go to reach the finished book.

Most writers have neither the skills, nor the distance to edit their books in isolation. This means having an editor go through the manuscript in order to give objective advice. Sometimes several times. After the manuscript has been polished, someone needs to proofread, typeset, designed the cover, create production files, market the book, work with the printers, and arrange for distribution. If you cannot do all this by yourself, you must hire out. “But,” you may say, “I don’t need to know how to do all that! I sold my work to a large New York publisher.” Precisely. What do you think happens in New York after you hand your manuscript to the editor?

The publishing industry is a small community, where everybody knows just about everybody. It’s a community based on relationships. After all, when you have two manuscripts on your desk and only one publishing slot to fill, who do you choose? Someone you know and like, or a complete stranger? So then, I always follow Rebecca Moesta’s advice. Never, ever, be a jerk. You never know when your career may depend on someone else’s opinion of you.

No writer is an island. If you spend any time in the community, you will start developing a network of industry professionals who can help you bring a book from a concept to a finished product. If you are very lucky, many of these people will also be your friends. This was the first and most important lesson that I learned from the Superstars Writing Seminar. It is important to get out and meet the people you’ll be working with. Share a beer with them, a meal, or even just a laugh. These people are the community you will be spending the rest of your life with, the people you’ll be bumping into at conventions, and the people who can make your life either easy and pleasant or miserable and nearly impossible.


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