Friday, April 1, 2011

10 Rules Every Aspiring Author Needs to Know... aka How to get Published and Make Friends

I often get asked for advice for aspiring writers. Today you are in luck. I have compiled my best advice into what can only be described as the next Ten Commandments.

The TEN GOLDEN RULES of Becoming an Author.

1. Writing a book is about intent. Don't stress putting words on Paper.

Everyone wants to write a book. The difference is, those who actually do don't worry about it. If you have to make any sacrifices in your life (housekeeping, family, television), it's not worth it. Maybe it's not meant for you.

Every author I know said writing the book just happened one day, when they weren't paying attention. Just like people finally find love when they stop actively looking for it, your book will get written when you stop thinking about it.

2. Editing your own manuscript is for sissies. 

Seriously, what do you think editors are for? If you revise too much, there will be nothing left for the publisher to do, and therefore they will become obsolete. Do you really want to put editors out of work?

As a related note, critique groups clutter your life. Constructive criticism is just another way to say someone doesn't understand creative genius.

3. Tell everyone about your book. But make sure they know your idea is copyrighted.

Talking about your one-of-a-kind, no-one's-ever-seen-anything-like-this-before story to everyone you encounter is just as important as writing it. In fact, it's more important. Plus, it's really interesting for the person listening, even if that person is a stranger on a bus.

(Have a non-disclosure agreement ready to sign, especially if the person is the type that would steal brilliant ideas.)

4. Acknowledge the stupidity of the books already published in your genre.

It's important to point out the flaws of every other author who's published in your genre, for two reasons:
a- to prove to everyone you are better
b- to educate the author. How else will they know how much they suck if there aren't people like us to inform and enlighten?

5. Make that first query count, because it's probably your only shot.

Find the perfect agent for you, and make sure your query is the best it can be, because if you receive that first rejection, you might as well assume no one will ever like your book, and it's time to throw in the towel.

6. Respond to rejections, preferably within the first ten minutes after receiving the rejection. Don't let the sun go down on your anger.

On the off chance you do receive a rejection, have a rebuttle ready. Agents need a dose of reality. If they're stupid enough to reject your manuscript, they're probably too stupid to live. Point this out. You'd be doing the sad sack a favor.

7. Present your list of demands up front.

Once you do get a phone call from your dream agent, make sure he knows how lucky he is. Think back to rule #2, and steer the conversation accordingly.

Also, make sure the potential agent knows your expectations, which should be as follows:
a. At least a six-figure advance.
b. Simultaneous movie rights.
c. Creative control over the cover. (After all, you did that that one graphic design class in high school.)

If he can't promise these things, red flags should pop up. You could probably do better self-publishing. It's okay to threaten this action on the initial phone call too. 

As a side note, reply to every email with "Remember, you work for me. And I can fire you at any time." In fact, make it your email signature. People in publishing need to know you are someone to take seriously.

If you've made it this far, congratulations. But really, did you expect anything else? It's just proof that someone out there in the publishing world is paying attention to genius.

Moving on to: Submission

8. Immediate submission is the norm.

Once you've decided on an agent, you should plan to submit within 24-hours. Anything longer means your agent is probably lazy. 

Accordingly, once you've submitted to editors, you should expect to hear something within 48 hours. Again, anything longer and your agent isn't doing his job.

9. Revision letters are just another chance for your editor to tell you she loves you.

After you've sold your book in a multi-book million dollar deal, you will get your first revision letter. Revision letters come in three varieties:
a- There's the "I love your book" letter, in which your editor expresses her gratitude for allowing her to buy your book.
b- There's the "Can you come to New York immediately and teach us how to cultivate your brilliance?" This letter is pretty self-explanatory. Remember, the trip will be on the publisher's dime.
c- Finally, there's the "This letter is to inform you we are going directly to print" letter.

If your letter does not fit in one of the above categories, you should assume your editor hates you, and hates your book even more. 

10.  You make the world go around.

As a final piece of advice, never forget that it's all about you. Every morning is a new opportunity to ask yourself, and those around you, "What have you done for me lately?"

If they can't provide a sufficient answer, drop them. You don't need that crap.

If you liked this blog post, feel free to drop me a line. If you didn't, you obviously don't recognize genius.

*In case I need to say this, happy April Fool's Day. Love to you all.


  1. Haha, Brodi, what great advice! Whoever knew that self entitlement was the key to publishing a book?

  2. This is brilliant, and I will follow each and every point to the letter. One of my personal expections of an agent is to provide me with ladies-in-waiting. Too much?

  3. Oh, I totally recognize genius and this is definitely it. I'm still dropping you a line anyway, so apparently, although I can recognize genius, I don't actually possess it myself.

    It was great to see you on Wednesday! Happy April Fools!

    Wait. That makes it sound like the joke was saying it was good to see you. That's not what I meant! See what I mean about lacking genius? I should probably stop typing before I get into more trouble.

  4. Lulabell- It's all about belief in yourself- that you are the smartest person on the planet. :)

    Amanda- I've turned agents down for failure to provide ladies-in-waiting! That's totally not unreasonable.

  5. Jenilyn- ha ha ha! It was soooo good to see you. Happy opposite day! :) love it.

  6. I have written some fabulous books in my head. I plan on selling this idea for oodles of dollars on ebay. I doubt anyone has come up with that idea. I will no longer be a trophy husband when I sell my idea.

  7. Arrived here via Twitter!
    You totally got me!
    I finally got the joke at about the third commandment. I mean, I suspected something when I read that first one. I was thinking "Wait, that doesn't sound right. It sounds like the exact opposite of everything I've ever been told about writing, in fact!" But I wasn't certain until #3 that you were flipping everything on us. Good show!

  8. The first rule confused me. I was mostly trying to figure out what you were saying. After that, I just had a good laugh. Awesome advice! I'm sure we'll all live by it. Of course, only one of us will end up with Rule #10 in the end.

  9. Sam- Where will I get a new trophy husband? Maybe Rafa is available...

    Scott- Thanks for finding the blog! And for finding it funny!

    TJ- I was really worried that someone would get all the way to #10 and not realize I was joking. :)

  10. I love your advice. At first, I thought these things were for real, but by the seventh one, I was down with what you were doing. I'm not slow at all.

  11. Chantele- Thanks for reading!

    Jenni- Only seven? It took Sam all ten!

  12. I totally agree with everything you said here... except the April Fools Day nonsense, what's that about anyway? ;-P

  13. Oh my, awesome post! Thanks for the laughter

  14. I expect next year to read something about the 10 rules for writing a sequel. I hear it's way easier than the first. :) Happy April 1!

  15. See, now it's not nice to tell us that 48 hours from submission to purchase is the norm and then say it's an April Fool's joke, when WE ALL KNOW it happened to you.

    I'll bet you have ladies in waiting, too.

  16. Jenn- I don't know who tacked on that "April Fools" nonsense at the end. I was very serious!

    Jenni- Glad you found it funny!

    Rachel- thanks for reading.

    Debbie- I have heard the sophomore novel is the easiest to write. Is that not true?

    Robin- I didn't think about that part until after I'd read it. :)