"FUIMUS - We Have Been"

"FUIMUS - We Have Been!" motto of Clan Bruce


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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

WRITER'S DREAM; Piggy-Backing; Don't Do It!

Since I first began publishing my work I have come across a certain scenario over and over again.  Being a published writer is one of the few  jobs where complete strangers, even close friends, will tell you straight out to your face that they want your job and expect you to be flattered by their presumption that they can do it just as well as you do. They ignore the years of hard work (and rejection) any writer has put in to actually getting published and see only the end result of a successful, professional author being paid to write.  

At any social event or within any circle of friends there is always at least one person who wants to write and who sees fit to ambush the local author.  This type of 'corner the author' behavior is actually quite commonplace and one of the reasons authors are far too busy to attend parties!    What do such people hope to gain by monopolizing an author in this way? The nicest folk are simply looking to chat to someone who is of a like mind and who understands the struggle to get published, or to get past writer's block; in short they want free professional advice. Fair enough.  Others, however, are looking for a fast track to publication by pumping the author for editors names and contact details, which of course the author is not at liberty to divulge.  Still others are looking for a leg up into the industry via introductions to agents and editors.  This is an uncomfortable situation for any author to be in - we cannot simply hand out professional contact details of direct lines and personal email addresses - I would be appalled if an editor divulged MY contacts details to anyone who asked, and such editorial information is just as confidential.  This is easy enough to point out with no hard feelings when the conversation is honest and above board, but there have been occasions when I have been chatting in a social situation and I have not immediately realized that I am actually being pumped for information regarding my publishers and editors...this has only come to light later on when an editor has contacted me to inform me of a proposal from an unpublished writer who has dropped my name into their proposal letter. Very Badly Done!  If you are acquainted with a author and make use of their name when approaching one of their editors, said author will hear about it. You will also be marked out as a PIGGY-BACKER.  The editorial response to Piggy-Backing is  Delete & Ignore.

It is quite natural for someone who wants to write, to read something and think to themselves "I could do that!" and subsequently pick up a pen and give it a go.  Emulating successful authors is how new writers learn; it is an apprenticeship. However it is not the path to publication.  Emulation or fan fiction is a fun pass time; but it is not the way to build a career in the publishing world.  This is true of any genre including Mind, Body, Spirit.

Some time ago I was cornered by a wannabe writer at a belly-dancing class who said straight out that she would like my professional advice.  Fair enough.  I am happy to help new writers, especially when they ask honestly for my assistance as she did - it is the cloak and dagger approach which really gets my goat!
So this woman was chatting away telling me that she was two thousand words into writing a novel and she was hoping to publish - so far so good - until I asked what her novel was about.  Apparently she was writing a book about a boy wizard, his two mates and their magical adventures in school.  My appalled expression must have given me away for she then said "It's completely different to Harry Potter!"   I kid you not, this actually  happened. I could not have made it up - it was a priceless moment!

When I gently pointed out that she was indulging in a spot of fan fiction, which is swiftly side-stepped by reputable publishers as a plagiarism suit waiting to happen, she was offended.  When I asked her to tell me how her novel differed from JK Rowling's books, she said nothing and drew a complete blank, before puffing out her chest and declaring she was going to join Soc and NUJ.  I replied that the requirements for joining Soc is publication, while NUJ demand a body of published work as their terms of membership, plus one needs to be proposed and seconded by existing Members.  Ms Fan Fiction wasn't happy at all; I tried to explain that these trade unions are professional bodies - to join, one must be working within the profession they represent - and that she wouldn't expect to join the NUT if she wasn't a qualified teacher, or the NUN is she wasn't a trained nurse.  Needless to say, I didn't make a new friend that day!  I gave her my professional advice, just as she'd asked me to; but that wasn't really what she wanted to hear.

Piggy-backing is frowned upon within the publishing and music industries.  Publishers are fully aware that every writer they publish has acquaintances who will want to try to emulate that success by name dropping and riding on coat-tails.  This means that if you make such an approach the industry will recognize it as piggy-backing and will field you away to the rejection pile.   The author whose coat-tails you are trying to ride upon will also be made aware of it.

Bottom line?  The only short-cut to publication is self-publication.  The only self-publishing I have ever done is here on this blog.  I know nothing of self-publishing books via self-publishing companies as I have never done it, but this road is always available to those who want to give it a go.

There is no short cut to publishing via an established reputable and traditional publishing house or magazine.  Piggy-Backing is the best way to ruin your chances of ever being published. Don't try this at home!

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