Below you’ll find links for various things writing related. Please note that I don’t address self-publishing; I’ve spent much of my career following the traditional publishing path, so my experience with self-publishing is very limited. Other authors such as Konrath and Hockings know far more about that aspect of publishing than do and I recommend reading their blogs for that kind of information.
If you’re just thinking about writing that first story you’ve been bouncing around in your head or you’ve written a few stories, it’s never too early to start learning some basic stuff about the professional business of writing. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people out there just waiting to take advantage of a new writer’s innocence, and nothing will jade a hopeful writer quicker than a scammer looking to part him/her from their money. A good, basic mantra to always keep in mind is “money always flows to the writer, not away”. Below are some good places to go to learn about how the writing business works so you can start your journey informed and armed against scammers.
- Writer Beware – run by Victoria Strauss and A. C. Crispin, this service, supported by the Science Fiction and Fantasy writers of America (SFWA) provides information on publishers and agents, with a particularly sharp focus on questionable agent and publisher practices. There is also a WB blog at Crispin’s website.
- Preditors and Editors – informational website dedicated to tracking the practices and reputations of those working in publishing. They keep listings for both agents and publishers.
- Absolute Write Water Cooler – a forum to share information on all kinds of things writing related. Their Bewares, Recommendations and Background Checks forum is an unparalleled source of information on publishers and agents of all kinds.
For Those Looking to Take their Writing to the Next Level
The best way to get better at your writing is to get feedback, and there are a number of websites, programs, and online classes out there that can help you learn how to improve your writing. I’ve participated in some in each category and found each one invaluable in my growth as a writer. In the late 90’s, I was a member of the now-defunct Zoetrope: All-Story online critique website, and in 2002, I attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle. I’ve also taken online classes on specific topics through professional writers associations and found them very useful and they helped me overcome things I was struggling with.
- Critters – I haven’t personally used this free critiquing website, but I’ve heard very good things from those who have. It works on a reciprocation processes, with users having to write a certain number of quality critiques before they can submit their own work for critique, so that avoids the issue of the drive-by critique which was so frustrating for me when I was using other critiquing sites.
- Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror – this one is a paid service (at one time it was free and that’s when I used it, back when it first started). A number of professional writers have used this website over the years as they were building their careers.
- Formal, in-person workshops: Clarion, Clarion West, Viable Paradise, Taos Toolbox, and Odyssey – these workshops have an application process each year for a limited number of slots, so students can study writing under the tutelage of one or more professional, working SF/F writers. They varying in length from 2 to 6 weeks and are intended for writers who have advanced beyond the beginner stage and are on the cusp of breaking through to professional. They can be pricey, and you may have to travel out of state (or out of your country) to attend, but if you can do it, there is no more intense and challenging experience.
- RWA University – not everyone can (or wants) to give up 6 weeks of their life to attend a workshop, but the Romance Writers of America offer a variety of really useful and specialized online courses to help you. The local chapters also offer their own online courses for small fees (scroll down past the contests), and even before I started writing romance, I found their classes tremendously helpful.
- Here’s a post on my own experience going to Clarion West back in 2002.
For Those Pursuing Publication
So you’ve finished your first novel or have a handful of short stories you’d like to try to publish. Congratulations! But where do you send your short stories, or how do you go about selling your novel? If you haven’t already read through the beginner’s links, do so now; don’t send anything at all out without first familiarizing yourself with what separates the scammers from the legitimate agents, editors, and publishers. If you’ve already done that, then head into the below links. And remember, always follow the guidelines as found on the publisher/agent website. Do that and you’re already one step ahead of most people in the slush pile.
Most short fiction is bought unsolicited through the slush pile, and you can submit your manuscript yourself. There are a number of market listings out there that can help you identify where to send your work and hopefully sell it.
- Ralan’s Specfic and Humor Webstravaganza – this market list has been around a very long time and I used it a lot when I was still writing short fiction. Ralan keeps it pretty well updated and you can receive monthly emails that let you know exactly what changes have been made in the last month.
- Duotrope – another market list, but this one you have to pay to use. For your monthly fee, you get access to submission/rejection/acceptance data submitted by other users and can track your submission on their website. They used to be a free service relying on donations but had to go pay to afford to continue operating. I loved Duotrope when I was still writing short fiction. You can also track your novel submission on there.
- The (Submission) Grinder – a free market list with most of the same benefits as Duotrope but offered for free. I haven’t used this service, since it started up after I stopped writing short fiction, but if I were still doing so, I would definitely give this one a try (I’ve heard very good things about it).
Selling a novel is a bit different than selling short fiction; a lot of the major novel publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, and even if they do, you might be waiting a really long time to hear back from them. If you’re interested in traditionally publishing rather than going the indy route, you should at least try to get an agent. Agents can do a lot of things for you that you can’t do on your own, like submit to all the major publishers, guide you through the contract negotiation phase, and help you sell all kinds of secondary rights. Agents aren’t for everyone, and getting one is by no means an automatic in with publishers. Below are some of the best agent-hunting resources I’ve found, in addition to those pointed out in the beginner’s section.
- QueryTracker – I love this website; it’s a kind of market list similar to Duotrope and Submission Grinder, but for agents, and it’s free. But for a small yearly fee ($25), you can have access to the raw data submitted by other users.
- AgentQuery – another listing of agents and publishers, but it doesn’t offer a submission tracking option. Still very useful to use in conjunction with QueryTracker, Preditors and Editors, and Absolute Write Water Cooler.
- I did a series of posts on my own experience agent hunting a while back, which readers might find useful. Start here then follow the link at the bottom of the post to go to the next one in the series.