Erica Verrillo has written seven books and published five. She doesn't know why anyone with an ounce of self-preservation would ever want to publish. But, if you insist on selling your soul to the devil, learn how to do it right: marketing, literary agents, book contracts, book promotion, editors, rejections, pitching your book, how to get reviews, and ... most important of all ... everything she did wrong.
Years ago, when I was teaching English
to Japanese English teachers (you had to
be there), one of my teacher/students informed me that, in her
school, the students did all the clean-up. “All?” I asked. "Oh,
yes," she informed me. They wiped the blackboards, swept and mopped
the floors, washed the windows. “It builds character,” she said.
Basically, things that build character
are comprised of anything that is disagreeable. For some strange
Calvinistic and/or Japanese reason, character cannot be built by
winning a prize, taking a swim, or eating my delicious apple streusel
One must suffer to have character.
I doubt that this is true in general,
but in specific, as it applies to writers, it is definitely a fact. It
is not necessary for you to fulfill the Romantic ideal: a sensitive,
unshaven (women too), starving creature agonizing in a garret. Yes,
you will eventually get to do all that. But the real suffering, the
real character building comes not in the process of writing - which
is sheer fun and therefore useless for building character - but in the
process of sharing what you've written.
These are the writer's steps to
Step 1: Don't publish too early. You
have written a book. Don't get it out there. Instead, get it
critiqued, as harshly as possible. You must bleed.
Step 2: When you have bled enough,
still don't try to publish. Write another book. Yes, that's what I
said. Write ANOTHER BOOK. What kind of writer do you expect to be if
you can only write one book? Then go back to your first book and
Step 3: Write short stories and
articles. Get them critiqued. Bleed some more.
Step 4: Submit your short stories and
articles to top-ranking magazines and ezines. You will be rejected.
Bleed and revise. Submit again. Each time you get a rejection,
re-read your work and revise.
Step 5: AGH! Somebody published your
story! Your character is destroyed! Sadly, no. Read the published
version. It's amazing how many mistakes you can catch after your
story has been published. Ouch.
Step 6: At this point you have so much
character you need a transfusion. Start submitting your book to
agents. They will reject you. Each time you get a rejection, look at
your query letter and revise it. Submit again.
Step 7: AGGHHH! An agent wants to
represent you! Now, you're cooked. Don't get too comfy. She or he
will want to confiscate your manuscript and change everything in it. You
have to decide what to change and what not to change. You are faced with killing your darlings,Your character
is firming up nicely.
Step 8: You have followed your agent's
suggestions - or not, as the case may be. And NOTHING happens! Not
one single publisher is interested in your book. They say awful
things about it. You have to decide if some of these awful things are
true. They might be. Great character-building technique.
Step 9: AAAGGGGHHH!!! Someone wants to
publish your book!! You are fried!! You thought the agent was harsh.
Wait until you see what an EDITOR does to your manuscript!! It will
be drawn and quartered before your very eyes. They will change your
title. They will slap on a dreadful cover. You will want to die.
Step 10: You now have character. Write
another book. This time it had better be good.
(Repeat steps 1 through 10 as often as