Friday, December 27, 2013

Learning to Trust

I received an interesting text the other day from a budding author who lives in my hometown. She has written a book and wanted to know how to get it published. This is not unusual because I have had a number of acquaintances ask this same question, or versions of it, over the years.

I am not comfortable dispensing here’s-how-to-get-your book-published advice until I have had a chance to look at the manuscript, if possible. So far, the ones I have proofread for others have needed revision. In some cases, a LOT of revision. I do not claim to be a good editor, but I have gained a certain amount of insight based on my own journey and know that a manuscript laden with grammatical and spelling errors, along with POV and plotting problems, will not fly.

Anyway, I texted the young author back and volunteered to proofread her manuscript before proceeding to the next step. Her reply was: I’m not comfortable sending it to you. I’m private about my work. My mother looked it over and now I need to know how to get my book published.

Her response reminded me of my own concerns about someone stealing my work or plagiarizing my story ideas. There was a time I worried a great deal about sending my manuscript off to publishers, only to find my book published under someone else’s name a year later! That never happened, of course. But I’d heard stories.

I texted the young woman with some general advice and concluded with: You are going to have to trust people at some point. Reputable agents and publishers will not steal your ideas, but authors should do their homework in advance and know as much as they can about the agency they are approaching. Checking out editors and publishers online, as well as reading testimonials and endorsements from other authors, can help budding authors avoid certain pitfalls. Having to pay money up front for publication, representation, or a review tells something about the nature of the agency.

Truly, I wish the young woman luck. But where she wouldn’t even let me—a friend and neighbor—look at her work to offer a “professional” opinion, I’m not very hopeful. At some point in her journey toward publication, she is going to have to develop trust.

Do any of you have other advice I could pass along to her?

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. Let me wish you a Happy New Year and the best to you and your loved ones in 2014.



Debby Mayne said...

Darrel, I think your advice was spot on. Maybe she's self-conscious about what she wrote and worries that you won't like it. If that's the case, she'll eventually have to get past that.

Darrel Nelson said...

I suppose we're all self-conscious to some degree or other, aren't we? It's a hard thing to put your work out there and receive negative feedback from some readers. I'm still in the process of developing a "thicker skin" myself.