Friday, 20 July 2012

Dear silly writer

At least once a week, I get an email from someone asking for free advice. I don't just mean someone asking a favour; or someone asking a simple question; I mean someone saying, for example, "Hi! I've written a book. Can you give me some advice about getting published?" Bearing in mind that this blog and my books are FULL of such advice, my internal responses to these emails are not really fit for publication. My actual response is usually something hopelessly mild, usually written after half an hour of redrafting so that I don't upset the irritating person.

These people make me crabbit.

This is a message for all of them, specifically the one who just emailed me.

Dear Silly Person Who Really Has Not Thought,
Thank you for your rambling email telling me the inspiration for your book of poems (complete with 79 photos) and for so fully appraising me of your life story. You ask whether I have any advice for you about getting published.

In fact, yes, I do. I have this blog, where, for well over three years, I have slaved and sweated, bringing advice about every single aspect of publishing and writing. All the advice is free. I have written Write to be Published, over which I slaved and sweated for more hours than you can imagine and for which I received no advance. The price is £8.99 but you can even get it cheaper than that in certain places, and nine months later I will receive around 35p. I have also written Write a Great Synopsis, although frankly it does not sound as though you are quite at that stage yet. And in a couple of weeks you will even be able to buy Dear Agent, which will give you even more detail about approaching agents and publishers.

Oh, you mean, of course, that you want individual advice? Advice that will take me several hours to prepare, not including reading your waffly email before we even get started.

The thing is, you are entirely wrapped up in yourself. You have not properly looked at my blog, although I know that's how you found me. You have not taken the trouble to discover how phenomenally busy I am. You have not stopped to consider how exactly I am supposed to give you my individual time and my knowledge and not be paid.

And more importantly than that, you have not realised that the world will not stop spinning if your book never gets published. The world won't stop spinning if my next book never gets published, either. We are all dispensible. There are plenty more writers where you and I came from. Being published is not a right.

Wake up and smell the coffee.

Go away and read and write and think and engage your brain. The advice is all here for you.

And leave me alone. I'm trying to write and I'm trying to help sensible people.

20 comments:

catdownunder said...

I would seriously advise anyone who has to write anything to read "Write to be published". This afternoon I told a final year school student to go and read it if he wants to pass his written English course. I will almost certainly end up telling more students to do the same thing.

JO said...

How very restrained! I'd love to read the uncensored version.

Alison Percival said...

Bravo! And very measured and restrained.

nicolaslade said...

I don't do many workshops or write about How To... so I don't get much of that but I do have people (almost always men over 50) asking me 'and what do you do with your time, my dear' - this is usually at parties or weddings. Instead of snarling or biting my tongue, I smile sweetly and say, 'I kill people for a living.'

Kate Paice said...

Gonk: Ooh, you're an editor! Can I send you my children's book?
Me: Sure. Just redraft it five or six times, maybe get critiques from a writing group, then get an agent, or alternatively ensure you have a really strong selling point to set you apart as well as a brilliantly written MS, and then send it to my company, and if it's good enough I'll definitely look at it.

I don't tend to make new friends at parties, for some reason.

Pernille Hughes said...

Youch, but completely fair.

And now, relaaax. Only 6 hours and five minutes 'til Happy Hour...

Sally Zigmond said...

The bone-headedness and total non-self-awareness of some people never ceases to amaze me.

The trouble is, Nicola, this person and others like him won't bother to read this blog post and if they do won't apply it to themselves.

Deniz Bevan said...

Hear hear!
Agents ought to have form letters for these questions too :-)

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks, all. Sorry I can't reply to each comment but I'm away and with no wifi and patchy mobile. But I'm glad you understand by crabbititude!

Dan Holloway said...

I was performing poetry last night and got talking to one of my friends who's just sending her novel out to beta readers. I wished her luck and asked when she was sending it out. She wasn't sure but she did say "I've got a really useful book on getting published - I don't know if you've ever come across Nicola Morgan". That's another sensible writer you're helping!

Philip C James said...

I think you gave them too much of the benefit of the doubt when you titled this 'Dear silly writer'. It would probably be more truthful to replace 'writer' with 'person'.

What's the professional author/agent/publisher's equivalent of the GP who, accosted by drunks at parties and presented with a list of intimate symptoms and a request for an immediate diagnosis, finds it best to reply:

"Well take off all your clothes and pop yourself up on the table and we'll see..."?

Janice Horton said...

Ooooh - and you get this once a week? No wonder you are so crabbit. Yes, the uncensored version would have been fun Friday night reading!

Vanessa Harbour said...

Great post as ever! I understand your attitude totally. I seem to have similar conversation/emails sometimes with students and sometimes with people who find out I lecture in creative writing. It apparently means I have loads of time to read and give advice on their work. But then there are the sarcastic comments about the fact that I lecture in creative writing....'why do you do that? Everyone can write!' But then you know all that too don't you, *sigh* don't think it is going to change either.

Cameron Writes said...

Crabbit? Hopping mad I'd think. It's nearly as irritating as the ones who respond to hearing that you HAVE been published with "Oh yes, I'm writing a book too" with the full assumption that they will sail into publication immediately. No, I just say, go find out for yourself like I did ... and I do give this blog's name too if I'm not spitting out teeth.

womagwriter said...

Not surprised it makes you mad. I get emails like that too - mine are along the lines of "I've written a story, where should I send it?" Or, "here's my story I think is suitable for Woman's Weekly, please will you publish it?"

I generally want to reply - RTFB!

Nicola Morgan said...

You know how I said i was away and without wifi - apparently not. I have discovered that my parents *do* have wifi. They didn't realise they had it.... I envisage them spending the last five years wondering what "that strange box" was. ;)

Womag, Cameron, Vanessa et al - so, not just me?!

Philip - ;(0)

Jaxbee said...

The sad thing is, the people who SHOULD read your post, won't as they'll be too busy looking at their rather large navels. If you were as crabbity as you like to pretend you are, you would simply reply with a link to this post telling them that everything they needed to know was included there. But I suspect you won't...
Thanks for the smile!

Megan McGay said...

Loved that post!! Nicola, just discovered your blog, but I'll be back. Nothing like a bit of crabitude to level one's self out!

Nicola Morgan said...

Megan - thanks! And welcome here.

Jaxbee - I know ;(

Ebony McKenna. said...

Oh, you got one of *those* emails, where the writer doesn't have time to read general advice, but wants you to drop everything and give them specific advice.

bangs head against wall . . .