1. Breasbooks
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    Breasbooks Member

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    Success Stories

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Breasbooks, Nov 30, 2012.

    Although I am not there yet, I would love to here all your stories of success however you define it. Published a novel? Published an article? Whatever area you are interested in. If you could throw in a little about how you did it too, that would be very helpful.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    back in my old commercial writing years, i had short stories, columns, articles, poems, song lyrics, ad copy, et al. published, while writing pretty much anything you can imagine, for obscenely-high-fee-paying clients...

    how i did it is how most of us do it... by submitting work, networking with influential people in the various industries, establishing a public presence, and so on...
     
  3. Breasbooks
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    Breasbooks Member

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    Thanks for your reply. It is encouraging to me to hear about those that have this all figured out.

    I am having a hard time figuring out where to start. I would love to write an article and get it published, but magazines don't just accept an article from anyone. They have hired journalists now. Also, I would love to publish my first novel, but it seems like it is almost impossible to get an agent unless you have publishing credits. So, I am kind of stuck on what step to take next, besides keep on writing my own books, on my own blog and fantastic sites like this one with like-minded people who are in the same boat. :)
     
  4. Timewalker
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    Timewalker Member

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    Answer to your question: Write short stories. Write a lot of them. Then, give them to magazines. One at a time. Eventually, one will get published. When it does, write another one, and give it to the same magazine. Get it published. Do it again. And again. And again. And again.

    When you have published a lot of them, start writing for a bigger magazine, then another bigger one, and lastly aim for the New Yorker. If a story is good enough to go for the NY, try sending it, if it's accepted, woohoo! Write your novel and send it to the agent. If not, no problem. Still send your novel.

    Oh, and polish it as much as you can, send it to someone you can trust for a review, blah blah, then send it for publishing.

    And don't forget writing short stories! If possible, try to make a short story collection of your stories.

    Of course, this won't be done in a day. It will take months, perhaps years. Have patience and fun!
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm certainly not successful but going by the definition of "publishing", I have technically been "published before". Not by a publisher, not self-published, but by my university magazines and newspapers, and then finally when I worked for a website, where I was in charge of writing student lifestyle articles for a while.

    How I did it? Well, university is easy - pretty much if you're willing, you'll get a chance to do this kinda stuff, and this was what led into the job for the website. In the end I hated my job for the website though and I quit lol. I teach English and am working on my first ever novel, no telling if I'll manage to actually publish or not, but fingers crossed eh :)

    Some ex-colleagues from the website were the official writers, as the website expanded, and these girls had got internships from The Times, The Guardian, The Independent etc (all major newspapers in the UK). When I asked one girl how she managed, she said it was sheer persistence that gave her her first break into The Times - and once she's written even as an intern for one paper, the rest came easily.

    Another acquaintance of mine is a film journalist. She studied film for a degree, then more film for MA, then did an internship at Fox News I think in New York. On top of this she finished a journalism course to be a qualified journalist. English is her second language so as a teenager she watched every film possible and checked out every word she didn't know and now she speaks like a native speaker. Now she's a freelance film journalist who writes film reviews and critique and does interviews with people like Charlize Theron and Robert Patterson and Liam Neeson. Pretty cool huh? :D
     
  6. Breasbooks
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    Breasbooks Member

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    That is very cool. Good for her!

    @Timewalker, thanks for the advice. I have the persistance thing down, just need to work on the patience ;)
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    .
    ...not true... magazines can't afford to keep writers on staff, so most of the work they publish is from freelancers... which means you can get your articles published, if they're well written and on topics the editors want to include in their magazines... that doesn't mean you can get right into the new yorker, or time, or any of the top tiers of magazine publishing, but there are countless lower levels you can submit to, including the jillions of e-zines out there...

    ...also not true... it's definitely very hard to do, but certainly not 'almost impossible'... new writers with no paid credits get agents and are published all the time...

    ...the next steps are: keep reading the best examples of the kinds of things you want to write; keep writing; keep improving your writing; and keep submitting work to appropriate publishing venues/agents...

    ...if you want to see how close/far your work is from publishing quality, you can post brief excerpts here, for review and critique... but you should not be posting any complete articles or stories anywhere on the internet, if you hope to have them published some day...
     
  8. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    Establishing a public presence? Can you elaborate on this? If I'm writing my first novel, am I expected to have a blog or website that is "me as a writer"?
     
  9. swhibs123
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    swhibs123 Active Member

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    Not you "as a writer." Rather, "You!" whatever that might be. I think it doesn't matter so much what you do, so long as you do something. It's my understanding that publishers aren't so much demanding a built in audience for the authors they pickup, just that it helps if you demonstrate a willingness to put yourself out there. So yes, if you have time, start a blog (ETA: or facebook, or tweet, or pintrest, or goodreads, or . . . . anything) - but remember, the best thing you can do as a writer is write books, so try not to get bogged down with social media and forget what your goals as a writer are.

    Good luck!
     
  10. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Why? Books are not the only thing people read, especially not in this modern age. Some writers have made millions of $, literally, by writing blogs. Writers also write for magazines, newspapers, journals, movies, TV shows, games, websites, stage plays. They write essays, think pieces, instruction manuals for vacuum cleaners, speeches, advertising material, reviews, etc. To be a professional writer is not just limited to books. In fact, I believe that most professional writers have nothing to do with novels.
     
  11. swhibs123
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    swhibs123 Active Member

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    Selbbin - I was responding to hippo (evident by the fact that I quoted them) who indicated their desire to be a novelist. Novelists must write books. How many successful novelists do you know who only have one book? Or who found success with their first novel? If you'd like to make a living writing manuals for vacuum cleaners, I wish you all the best!
     
  12. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Just one Novel?

    Harper Lee, Emily Bronte, Oscar Wilde, Anna Sewell, John Kennedy Toole (Kind of), Sylvia Plath, Boris Pasternak, Cyrill Connolly, J D Salinger, Stephen Chbosky...

    Just to name a select famous few. For many of them most of their other work were novellas, poetry, or essays. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of lesser known examples.
     
  13. swhibs123
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    swhibs123 Active Member

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    Selbbin - You're free to criticize my advice, but the fact is most authors don't get published on their first novel. If a writer wants to be a novelist, after they finish their first book the best advice they can get is to write another while their agent pitches their first. Even if you do get your first manuscript published, the odds of establishing a lasting readership with only one book is practically zero. So if a novelist wants to earn a living as a writer, they need to write more novels. It's good advice.
     
  14. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Fine, but if you want to make a living as a writer, it's even better if you don't just focus on novels. It's just a drop in the professional ocean. Very few novelists make a living by just writing novels. That's not advice. That's reality.
     
  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    What have you actually written so far? I don't mean published, just written. What are you most comfortable writing? You mentioned wanting to publish your first novel. Does this mean that you have completed a novel and would like to get it published, or that you would like to write and then publish a novel?

    The reason I ask is that the answers to your initial questions will vary depending on what direction you want to take. It also is helpful to know how far along the road you have already traveled. If you have a novel that you have completed and believe to be of publishable quality, then it would be best to pursue that, rather than spending time trying to get published in magazines. OTOH, if you are just thinking about how cool it would be to publish a novel some day, but have no idea (or only a vague idea) about what, then the conversation changes.

    As Mammamaia says above, publishing a novel by a first-time novelist is not impossible (otherwise, we'd run out of novelists!) but it can become so if you don't approach it intelligently. That means you need to have a quality work to sell (i.e. a good story told well, free of errors and presented in accordance with publishing standards), know the proper means of accessing the market, follow submission guidelines to the letter and, most important, have a thick skin and be persistent. I have completed four novels, of which I tried to get two published. For one I was asked for multiple chapters by an agent, and for the other a full ms by an editor (having gone to him directly). Neither made it any further, but I got excellent advice in both cases, which I have incorporated into my subsequent work. I have very high hopes for my current work in progress.
     
  16. swhibs123
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    swhibs123 Active Member

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    Actually, Selbbin, that's a half truth. Very few people who write a novel earn a living by writing novels. But quite a large number of professionally published novelists earn a living writing novels. That means, if you're good enough to get a publishing contract with a reputable press, and you have multiple novels in you, you have a good shot at earning a living writing books. Is it a sure thing? Of course not. But it's not an anomaly.

    The "very few writers make a living writing books" mantra, is a cousin to the "you have as much shot getting picked up by a major publisher as you do winning the lottery" mantra.
     
  17. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first two novels in my First Civilization's Legacy Series have been released by Gryphonwood Press (Flank Hawk and Blood Sword). I am currently working on the third. In addition, Gryphonwood Press recently released a collection of my previously published short stories titled Genre Shotgun. A really cool thing (I think) is that Flank Hawk has been released as an audiobook and my publisher just signed an agreement with the narrator to produce Blood Sword.

    I have one SF novel that has made it through the slush pile and editor gauntlet to land on the managing editor's desk (queue) at a major publisher for a final decision, but it's been there a while. Nothing moves fast it seems with the bigger houses.

    I'd encourage all members to persevere in their efforts. To write, rewrite, edit and polish and send your works off to find a publisher (or do what it takes to get a manuscript prepared for self-publication if that's the route--but do it right), and in the meantime, continue with another project.
     
  18. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Yep.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    and they're mantras because they're sadly true...
     
  20. swhibs123
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    swhibs123 Active Member

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    Well, in my humble opinion, they're mantras b/c they're frequently repeated, and that repetition makes people think they're true. But they are most certainly NOT true.

    There is nothing lottery-like about signing on with a major publisher, or signing on with a top agent. Yes, top agents get something like 500 queries a week and usually they sign on 1 or 2 new authors a year, but that doesn't mean those 1 or 2 new authors simply "lucked out." It is so much more than that. So much of getting an agent is in the hands of the author. And so much of getting a major publisher is too (since the two are linked).
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry to have to disagree, but in my decades-long experience in the writing world-based opinion, luck does play a major part in snagging an agent or a major publisher...

    if the agent's/publisher's reader is having a bad day, or something in the ms hits her/him wrong, it can be [and often is] tossed, even if it's actually the next' great american novel'...
     
  22. swhibs123
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    swhibs123 Active Member

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    Mammamaia - I am VERY curious about your experience (bolded comment especially). Have you worked as a first reader/slush reader? Because I have and the idea that a reader might have a bad day and just disregard quality stuff, is just .... unlikely - very, very unlikely. Is it possible? Sure, I guess anything is. But it would be a one off. The odds of such a thing happening to the same manuscript at multiple agencies/publishers, it astronomical.

    First readers/slush readers usually pass up (ETA: as in pass up the chain of consideration to an editor) anything that's even passable. The stuff they reject, is stuff that is just so obviously reject-worthy that there is no question it should be tossed.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    my comment is based on having known agents and writers [some quite famous, such as bob ludlum] during the decade and more that i lived in westport, ct and was heavily involved in the local arts council, hearing it 'from the horse's mouth' so to speak... as well as using common sense in re the sheer number of queries/mss that flood agents' and publishers' offices on a daily basis vs how many can realistically be passed along to the agent/editor...

    plus, what i said about readers dumping a query/ms can also be said of the agent/editor her/himself... there needs to be a 'click' for the reader/agent/editor, when a query/ms is read and if there isn't one, that can be the result of a variety of causes... but the lack of a 'click' will often lead to said query/ms being rejected...

    there's also the issue of the size of slush piles and queries/mss being misplaced, or not even reaching the agent/publisher at all...

    all of which = 'luck'!
     
  24. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Absolutely. You need a mix of good product and good fortune. Film is very similar.

    People are people, not robots. Bad days lead to to bad choices. Remember that even Harry Potter was rejected over 40 times (if memory serves me). Is that 'astronomically impossible?' given it has made Billions. What if the 40th had never read it? What if they were too busy to get to it and passed? What if a different reader read it first and rejected it for the same reason as the other 39? It would still be in her desk drawer. Luck. The finding by the right agent of the heavily rejected The Notebook was down to dumb luck. Read up if interested.

    You may not want to invest in the reality that luck is a large factor, because it may crush your 'can-do' spririt, but it is a fact you'll need to deal with eventually.
     
  25. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    The only thing I need to know is, who do I have to sleep with to get my movie treatment sold?

    :p
     

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