Hello again and welcome to another Author Etiquette.
Being an author is never easy. First you have to learn the rules—you know those pesky things like grammar, punctuation, and spelling that (hopefully) you learned in school. Then you have to understand things like plot arcs, the difference between a protagonist, antagonist and anti-hero, why subplots don’t usually work in a short story and how to tie everything up at the end. And only when you finally understand all of that, you must learn to break the rules, but do it in a way that makes sense in the story you are writing. And all along there’s pressure to be published.
It’s no wonder that people feel like imposters and talk about writer’s block. There’s just so much to this business, that it often overwhelms you. This is why sometimes you need to change gears.
You write stories, send them out, collect a pile of rejections. Then suddenly, you realize you are stuck. Your stories are dull and read like a checklist. Your protagonists are very much the same type. Even your villains seem lack luster.
Or maybe you are doing well in your writing field but want to write something different. Thoughts of how your fans will take the news of you changing gears keeps you up at night. After all, they’re the ones buying your books right?
Perhaps you aren’t worried about those things but want to try something else. Your fondest desire is to work in the gaming industry or write a tie-in book for your favorite TV show. Your focus wanders more and more into a world that isn’t your own.
It may be time to roll the dice and take a really big chance.
Taking a chance is scary. Even established authors are a bit nervous about taking the plunge into a new venue. Whether it’s a new series, working in a different field or working in a different format, everyone gets the jitters, especially when it’s not a sure thing. But there are things you can do to reduce your risks.
First of all research your new venture. Don’t jump in blind. If you are changing gears from writing hard science fiction to romance, reading that genre would be a great idea. If you want to get into the gaming industry, play some of the games that you’d like to write for. The same with writing tie-in. Watch the programs and get familiar with the world.
These things give you a basis in the worlds you are going to write in. Familiarize yourself with the common tropes and stereotypes. Learn about the fans and what they like or dislike about the genre. Learn more about the companies that produce such works.
Talk With An Author
It’s not difficult to find an author that writes in the field you want to take a chance on and most of them are pretty open about the work they do. They may not be able to talk about specifics (non-disclosure agreements), but they might be able to give you some advice.
Advice from an established author could be insight on the market or what they think the “next big trend” will be. They could drop information on who to work for or not work for and even introduce you to others in the industry. Having an established author vouch for you can sometimes lift your name to the top of a very long list.
Do Your Homework
After you’ve researched and talked with a few authors in the field you want to try out, next you explore the possibilities and find out what the submission requirements are. Changing genres means you need to write a few things in the new genre you are exploring. For game writing you might need to write up a Curriculum Vitæ (CV) to show your writing experience. Tie-in markets might want to see writing samples and question you on how well you know the series.
Seek out several companies and publishers and compare guidelines. Some are by invitation only while others welcome new authors. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to get your foot in the door by doing smaller works before you can move on to larger ones.
Follow the Instructions
This is perhaps the most important step in any writing submission. READ and FOLLOW the instructions. Your submission, CV or writing sample is the only opportunity for you to show editors that you are a professional and can work to specifications. A sloppy submission or writing sample with lots of errors, won’t give you a vote of confidence. Neither will a CV with very little writing experience. Make sure you have the right experiences for the job or are at least heading in the right direction.
Double check your work. Have a fellow author look at what you want to submit. Remember that you won’t catch all of your mistakes, having another set of eyes could catch something embarrassing. Before you submit, recheck to be sure you have included everything requested in your packet. And just to be sure, check it all again before you hit send.
Like everything in publishing, hearing back from your submission could take a while. Your best bet is to continue writing, researching other venues and sending out more work. This will help keep your mind off of decisions you aren’t involved with. Not all companies will have a response time listed so it could be months (if ever) before you hear back. For the most part, don’t send out queries unless you’ve been instructed to.
Don’t Be Angry If You Aren’t Chosen
Even if you’ve done everything right, you might not get accepted. That’s a fact of publishing. Perhaps your work is too similar to someone they’ve already hired. Maybe they’ve filled their writing stable for now. Whatever the reason, don’t be angry about it.
Don’t give up either. There’s plenty of time to learn and grow as a writer. Another company might have an opening that’s perfect for you. Heck, that story you’ve worked on for the past year might be the thing that opens up the doors that seem closed right now.
Every author has at some point taken the plunge and tried something new. Sometimes it’s successful, and sometimes it’s not. But research, following the instructions, and being patient can improve your chances in gaining a spot in another writing field.
Wishing you all the luck in your next venture.