Monday, February 22, 2010

The Bare Minimum

AN ANGLER IN A POLDER LANDSCAPE--Willem Bastiaan Tholen I get a lot of emails for different organizations that I either volunteer for or belong to. Sometimes I want to get out my highlighter and mark the information I need.

Frequently I’ll get a page-long email with only one sentence that was actually important.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with information overload.
On one hand, it’s wonderful to have so many writing resources and tips online.  When I was starting to seriously write (seven years ago), there wasn’t enough information online.  Now there’s so much that it can be hard to know where to start. 

The basics you should cover if you’re about to submit a finished manuscript:

Going pro?  You need to check out those agents and publishers before you submit.  There are some really wicked people out there that prey on writers (who are sometimes more creative than they are business-headed.) 

If you are submitting (and you’ve checked out your agent and editor and done your homework there), you really do need to make sure your manuscript has been proofed by a separate set of eyes.  You could go several ways with that: the free route (a really objective-minded friend or family member), a critique group (you can find them online if you’d rather say at home or have time constraints), or you can even pass it by a professional editor that you pay yourself.  You want your manuscript to be as clean as it can possibly be.

Review those industry guidelines:  You need to be really sure that you’re following agent and publisher guidelines when you submit. You can easily find guidelines online these days.  You’ll want to make sure you don’t send your thriller to a romance publisher, or make similar mistakes.

Have an email address.   I’m always surprised at who doesn’t have a professional email address. You can get one that’s separate from your family email through a free provider (Google Mail, Hotmail, Yahoo.)  Try a professional-sounding address like Your Name

Personal website or a blog that functions as your home base.  I could be argued out of the notion that this is a basic…but I really do believe it is. Even one page that  introduces you in a basic, professional way to an editor or agent works fine.   Blogger, through Google, offers free blogging, as do some other providers.  You could also go through WordPress, which can provide you with a blog that’s also a website (with a home page and other tabs.)  I have a separate website from my blog— I bought my domain name from GoDaddy (they have silly commercials, but they do have good deals). I designed my site with their program, “Website Tonite.”

What information should your website or blog contain? How to contact you (email), your genre, and what you’re working on now is probably good enough.  You can put up a friendly looking picture of yourself or an image related to your book and call yourself done.

What basic tips do you have to add that I’ve forgotten or left out?