The Angry Author on Advice

I’ve always been amused by the various radio and television personalities who do an “angry so and so” segment. Usually it’s a tongue in cheek rant about a semi-serious subject. Today I’m going to write one myself. I call it my “angry author” segment.

I’m a member of several writing communities. From the less organized social media groups, to actual professional organizations. And in all of these groups there is a slew of well-meaning (sarcasm) arm-chair quarterbacks who want to share their knowledge of how the publishing industry works. No, not your mentors and writers who have dealt with publishers and agents, contracts and promotion. Or the writers in the trenches, still submitting, digging their way out of the slush piles, and soldiering on. Not those who really offer good advice (if you have yet to figure out who they are, you will soon, they are those who buy you a glass of wine to celebrate and write you killer reviews out of sheer love for you, not the damn kids you write about).

No, I am referring to the elephant in the room. The writers who, for whatever reason, would rather see someone fail because they themselves have not yet succeeded. As a mostly new to the industry writer,  I continuously find myself wanting to hide on an internet rooftop and snipe away their comments before they reach the impressionable ears and unfortified egos of the writers even newer at this than I am. From this position I bring you today’s Angry Author Segment in the form of this little public service announcement:

A.) You do not have to have an agent to read (and translate/decipher) your contract for you. You really don’t. I know for a fact you can do it yourself. I did. I read multiple contracts. On my first submission and tried not to pee my pants.

B.) You do not have to have an agent to negotiate a contract for you. I am not saying you can’t, just that it  is not a necessity.

C.) You do not have to have an agent to get published. Nope. You don’t. I know. See me as exhibit A. (well, see me in a few months with The Finish Line is released.)

Exception to C: Unless you want to submit to a publisher that only takes agented submissions. Yeah, might need an agent for that.

D.) Right to first refusal on a series does not apply to all your work (in a contract). Just work on that series and it should be worded very obviously that this is so. If you worry about the wording, have someone trusted and knowledgeable look over the contract for you. And if this stops you from signing a contract, check yourself and your ego. Of course the publisher wants the ability to publish you next work in the world and characters they believe in.

E.) Do not SIGN a right to first refusal on all your work. That is ridiculous. Also, from what I can tell, a reputable publisher is not going to ask you to do so.

Exception to E … unless they offer you a stupid amount of money. I mean,  seriously stupid amounts of money. (This could be terrible advice, btw, so I would exercise your right not to take it)

F.) If you have never negotiated a contract, read a contract, or even been offered a contract … don’t talk about contracts to new authors or attempt to offer advice to someone who has been offered a contract. Just, don’t. I don’t care whose workshop you took or what books you’ve read. If you don’t have first hand experience, hush.

The sheer level of a fear mongering and misinformation being fed to new authors can be cruel. I get so frustrated seeing people add to the pile. I’m lucky to be a part of several organizations (and a publishing company) that support and uplift authors. That doesn’t mean I don’t see tons of badly given advice on the daily basis. I’m going to try to remember to always make sure that anything I say to another writer comes from a place of experience and comes with a desire to lift someone up a at least one rung of the ladder of success.

So, this is your angry author, who has been the recipient of bad advice (V, thank you for always straightening me out) signing off for this particular segment. I’ll be back, I’m sure, the next time I’m squinting one-eyed at the computer and wondering where in the world someone got their information.


~ Leslie


16 thoughts on “The Angry Author on Advice”

  1. Fun article. I really enjoyed it. Having been doing this a long time, I know they’re really good points. Plus, not all agents are equal. If they’re not giving you good advice, they can actually cost you.

    1. Yes! Amity, finding the Garden (and my local chapter of RWA) were some of the most refreshing things to happen to me. I was like “Wow, it can be like I though it could be.” As for agents, I agree. A good one can take your career to new levels. However, searching for an agent just to read your contract is nutters. If you are dependent on your agent to read your contract and decipher it, who is going to read and decipher your contract for your agent?

  2. Whoa, yeah, people who don’t know what they’re talking about should keep their opinions to themselves. And even those who do shouldn’t speak unless asked. And then only if they can do it nicely.

    1. I have a very difficult time, waiting until asked of me. However, I always try to keep my mouth shut if I don’t know something or if what I’m going to say doesn’t come from a good place.

  3. I’ve given the same “free” advice to beginning and even published authors. With digital submissions and so many indy publishers (& self-publishing) who do not require agented submissions, an agent is pretty superfluous.

    1. Superfluous. I love that word. You’re very right, it is. Plus, you get to keep that percentage of your royalties. Admittedly, at some point, I’m going to hire an agent. It’s part of my plan. But, I’m still going to read my contracts myself.

  4. Good advice! I think as a general rule of thumb in any area of your life, is if you don’t have personal experience, don’t offer advice. I kept my writing pretty close to the vest before I was published, so I didn’t experience too much of what you’re writing about here. Since I’ve been published, I’ve discovered an amazing, supportive, fabulous group of other authors online. It’s overwhelmed me, as a matter of fact. I expected other authors to snipe and be ultra-competitive, and instead I’ve been met with the attitude “if one of us succeeds, we all succeed”. I guess I’ve been lucky. Well, a squirrely hermit initially, and lucky since I came out of the closet with my writing. Interesting piece–thanks!

    1. Lucky indeed. And don’t get me wrong, I too have been incredibly lucky. I landed the best mentor I could have asked for, got published by a company (TWRP) who wants to help me blossom and make me a better writer, and been a part of several very accepting communities. There is far more good than bad in this instance, the bad just got under my skin this week. lol

  5. Enjoyed this post. There is a load of advice out there…some good, and some bad. It’s very hard to determine into which category advice goes. Thanks for the heads up.

    1. Weeding out the good from the bad can be incredibly difficult. I got super lucky, found an amazing critique partner and mentor, who not only helped get me published but helped me weed out the bad advice. Not every author has that. So if my tongue in cheek rant helps at least one writer, I feel like I’ve done my part.

  6. There are oodles and oodles of sweet, helpful people in the romance writing community. And some petty, envious “me first” ones. Learn to avoid those like a badly cooked piece of fish. This is a tough business. Lifting each other up and whispering in that person’s ear that she’s fab and to hell with everyone else is the best way we can support each other. Writers have fragile egos. It’s part of the creative spirit. There’s no way you can spend months on a book and then handle criticism without your BP shooting up a few points. I don’t care how many books you’ve written. For the critics, get to work on your own books and leave the “doers” alone and your advice to yourself.

    1. Exactly. Some of the bad “advice” I’ve seen this week has come from people I doubt will ever be published, because they’re too busy doling out their advice and opinions to actually write a novel.

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