The best way to get publishing advice from another author

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world for material to help other writers. Today I discuss blog post about how to get better publishing advice….

Have the fates ever tempted you to ask a successful author for some publishing advice?

They tempted author Elisa Bernickbefore she released her book, Departure Stories — and she tells the story in an instructive and cringe-inducing post on Jane Friedman’s blog, under the headline, “The Right Way to Ask a Published Writer for Publishing Advice.”

Here’s a summary of her excellent advice:

  • Be a serious writer. Published writers don’t have the time to speak with dabblers. Write several drafts of your book before you ask questions.
  • Ask specific rather than general questions. Specific questions show you’ve put some thought into the process. And, as a bonus, will also get you specific answers.
  • Write a book proposal, first. This proposal will allow you to get into the nitty-gritty details of publishing with the author.
  • Make sure the author is a good match for you. If you’re writing fiction, approach only fiction authors. On the other hand, if you’re writing non-fiction, approach only non-fiction writers. If you want to be published by one of the Big Five, approach a writer who has been similarly published. If you’re seeking a small or independent publisher, look for authors who have done the same.
  • Buy the author’s book. Here’s how Bernick puts it: “Understand that publishing is transactional—not only in terms of money but in feedback and camaraderie. If you want me to be interested in your publishing journey, please take an interest in mine. Buying my (or another published writer’s) book before asking them for advice is both a strategic move and, more importantly, a respectful thing to do.”

Read her whole post — it’s top notch — and be sure to follow her advice.

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