Publishing is a complicated business that takes time and experience to fully grasp. However, even with these tools, one has to be able to adapt. The market changes often as do the writers and literature that emerge.
Because of this, and the recent discussions on twitter about the lack of listening to teen voices, I decided to open up the door to teens to freely ask any questions they have about publishing. The response has been fantastic and thus I have my first blog post on the issue.
Q1: What should you major/study in college if you want to have a career in publishing?
A: For publishing, I would highly advise a B.A. in English or Creative Writing. When you apply for jobs, these degrees are often the baseline education requirement alongside experience (internships, summer programs you may have taken, previous jobs etc). There is some leeway here. You can major in other arts/humanities courses, but what publishers look for in a potential employee is the ability to write well, analyze and critique a piece of writing, pay attention to detail, and know your way around a computer. What is greatly important, and if anything the number one thing to bring to a job interview, is your passion for the industry. Do you like to read a lot? Have you taken interest in books and research in school? Have you kept up with the market? Even the blog you run can make you stand out. Competition is high for publishing jobs and unfortunately, they’re often centered in major cities. Freelance and remote opportunities do pop up, but the same rules as above apply.
I advise to keep in mind that this answer does not stay the same for what major do you need if you want to be a writer. That question is a little trickier for the answer is anything you want. What you need to be a writer is passion, patience, the desire to work hard, understanding rejection and critique, as well as wanting to learn. These skills do not link up side by side with any major. They are about you and what you want out of your writing. If you want to be published, great! If you don’t, that’s fine too. Success is not merely measured in publication.
Q2: How do you break through and be successful in such a competitive industry like publishing?
A: Following from my answer above, it comes down to what makes you stand out. With the growth of social media, I strongly recommend getting an account on Twitter. This is the number one marketing site for writers. It’s quick, fairly easy to learn, and the writing community is only growing larger. Make connections with others. Hear about their journeys and what they have done. Share what you’re working on. Everyone’s publishing road will be different, but it is important to stay connected and have a presence. You never know what will happen from there.
Q3: How do you find a critique partner around your age and a mentor?
A: I would definitely utilize the twitter community here. There are lots of wonderful people offering to be critique partners or mentors.
For teens, I recommend the following hashtags to find critique partners:
#Teenpit *This happens certain times out of the year, but it is definitely a good way to connect and find other writers, agents, and editors who are willing to help teens.*
Note: For the latter, it is not catered for teens, but it is a spot where people post about their WIPs and connect in all things writing related. If I find others, I will definitely add them here!
Another way is to simply post if anyone wants to exchange stories. Most of these posts get a handful of responses as everyone is looking/needs another pair of eyes on their story.
As with any exchange, especially writing, make sure you check out the person beforehand and make sure you’re comfortable with sharing your work. If anything seems off or questionable, don’t follow through or check in with trusted friends/peers.
Q4: Do you know about getting published as a teenager – if it dramatically lowers your chances of getting an agent, if you should disclose that you’re underage in your query? Also, what are the legal requirements for getting published underage?
A: I haven’t had too much experience with agents, but I did do some research on the matter. Putting your age in your query is up to your discretion. If you do get a publishing contract, I would prepare yourself for the work it brings and the steps you’ll need in order to get from your draft to a completed book. I would also research one’s background before you sign with an agent. Unfortunately, there are some who are inexperienced or looking to take advantage of those who are not familiar with the industry.
I can’t entirely say if placing your age into a query will lower your chances. I feel like that would vary by agent and publisher – some not minding/encouraging a younger author while others would shy away from it.
You will have to disclose your age if an agent expresses interest and ultimately decides to represent you. This is important because if you’re under 18, you will likely need a parent or guardian to cosign a contract.
If I find out any more information, I will definitely update this!
Q5: How long does each phase of writing and publishing take?
A: Writing will always vary based on the individual. Some are able to writer faster than others. Some may need to rethink their plot. Some may have to rework their entire story. There will never be a specific amount of time for any of these stages.
In terms of when you’re signed, you will likely be given a due date for your edits and your final manuscript. Your editor will read them over, give their comments, and you will once again be given edits to complete until the final draft. These will likely take a few weeks to a few months.
I can’t give a specific date for how long the whole process takes, but writing a book is very much a long term gratification experience. You won’t see your book by the end of the week after you submit your manuscript, but in a year, maybe even two, it will be there. If you’re willing to wait and put in the work, it will be worth it.
Q6: What if your manuscript is always rejected?
A: Rejections are probably the hardest part of the writing process, especially when you put so much work into your story only to see the same email over and over again. There are several things that can be done in this situation.
- Keep trying. Sometimes, you need to find the right agent or the right publisher to represent you. Even famous authors received hundreds of rejections before success found them. I know that sounds daunting, but trust me, keep trying.
- Find beta readers and critique partners. Maybe something in your story isn’t working. Have another set or sets of eyes read over your manuscript. Do the same for your query letter and synopsis. A simple rewording could make all the difference.
- Make sure you’re following guidelines when submitting. A handful of publishers and agents will not read your work if it is not properly formatted nor fits the mold of what books they’re searching for.
- Step away from the story. If you constantly work on the same piece, you may be overthinking it and have to take a breather. Come back to the story in a while with a clearer head. You may notice something you hadn’t before and be able to strengthen your story.
- Your story may be rejected by publishers and agents due to their schedule or inability to give your story the attention and detail it needs. Don’t take it personally. Not all rejections are about your writing or about you. I can’t stress this enough. Sometimes, it just can’t work out.
- Don’t stop writing. This story may not be the one picked up by publishers, but it doesn’t mean your next one will follow the same direction. Write the story you need. Write what feels right. Just keep doing it.
Q6: How much should we write each day?
A: There is no correct amount of words to write per day nor is there a correct way to write. Me personally, I don’t write everyday. I used to as a teen, but life and stubborn muse got in the way so now I write when I can and often in large chunks. This is my method, but you most certainly have to find your own as a writer.
I definitely enforce getting into the habit of writing often, even if it’s not everyday. It’ll keep your thoughts and motivation fresh, but I also understand why this can’t always happen. As long as you’re moving towards your goal, I think that is important.
I would also mention taking into account achievements that may not be writing. For example, reading a good book or watching a movie that inspired you. Taking a long walk through a park or simply having a passionate conversation with a friend or family member. Each of these things can build up to writing and push it forward. Take rewards in both the big and small and finish whatever story you have in your head.
This is the first in what I hope to be more blog posts on this issue. If this has helped you, or you think it would be beneficial to someone else, please share this. It is greatly appreciated. If you’re a teen and have questions, feel free to message or tweet me and I’ll get to your questions in the next post!