Friday, January 21, 2011

Don't Forget to Pay it Forward

I hope this post doesn’t make you think I’m a tremendous *&#^(#*. I’m not, I promise. Okay, most of the time I’m not a tremendous #*)&#%&#.

I’m lucky. Very, very lucky. I have a great agent, a great editor and publisher, and lots of 
great writing friends.

When I started querying my first book, I didn’t quite know what I was doing. I wrote a query letter that is absolutely terrible and didn’t get much attention from agents, even though people had read and enjoyed my book.

So I started studying. I went to like a billion agents’ websites and learned what to do and what not to do. I bought Guide to Literary Agents and devoured the entire book.

I basically got a PhD in query writing.

Then I rewrote my letter and started talking to a couple published authors I know through friends. These are not small authors by any means. One is huge in the non-fiction world, and the other is truly a god of steampunk and sci-fi.

They both agreed to read my letter and give me feedback.

Both authors RIPPED my query apart. I felt lower than plankton. For about five minutes. Then I re-read their critiques, decided what advice I agreed with, and decided what changes to make.

But first – I THANKED both authors for their time. Profusely thanked them.

After I got an agent, I started agreeing to look at query letters and sample pages, because I wanted to pay it forward. I wanted to give back, because other people had helped me.
I wouldn’t be where I was today without the help of friends, critique partners, beta readers, etc.

I really don’t mind critiquing work. I love helping people out. But if I spend an hour or two (or more) reading people’s work and critiquing it (I give honest, constructive advice), it would be great to get a thank you. Or even a response.

So basically all I’m saying is, even if you don’t agree with something someone says about your work, please make the time to thank them for theirs.

We all start somewhere.


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