Being a Writer Means Learning the Business

When I was in graduate school, paying quite a bit of money to learn to “be a writer” we spent very little time actually focused on the business of being a writer. We had occasional speakers coming through as part of a series called “Life After the MFA” but we never talked in our classes about things like getting a literary agent, publishing books, or otherwise making any money at all from our work. It’s almost as if the idea of money in connection with writing was viewed as unseemly.

Since I’ve started working as an editor in conjunction with building my own career as a writer, I’ve worked with a lot of people who need to learn more about the business side of writing, and I’ve therefore begun offering an online course about how to navigate the submission process for literary agents and independent presses. If you are working on a full-length book project (fiction or non-fiction) understanding this process is the first step toward pursuing traditional publishing. How do you write a query letter? Where do you find agents? Why do you need an agent? What’s the difference between submitting to an agent and submitting to an indie press? How much of the book do you need completed before you submit? If you can’t answer these questions, then no matter how great your book is, it’s not going to get read.

There are many many online resources out there focused on query letters and submissions, but often these make the entire process seem more complicated than it really is. This isn’t rocket science, but there are some fundamental rules you need to know, and some tricks that can really help. My course provides the rules and the tricks, as well as individual feedback from me and other members of the class on your query letter. While I’ve helped a lot of clients and students with this process, I’m also going through it myself. Thanks to a great query letter, my novel is currently under consideration with 10 literary agents. Hopefully by the time the next section of my course gears up, I’ll have some good news to share! In the meantime, check out the course details, and then take a look at this slush pile for examples of what NOT to do in your own query.