Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Worst Advice Ever: Spoiler Alert--It Involves Pretty Tissue Paper.

Dawn Metcalf, whose debut YA novel, LUMINOUS, is due out next spring, offered up on her blog a terrific post on How NOT to Get Published.  Her "tips" are hilarious and brought back memories of the day I received some really bad advice.

One of Dawn's pointers on Screwing Up Royally: Ignore The Blather. She writes, "You know those helpful bits of information professionals put on their websites or submission pages? Who needs 'em? Certainly, this is put there to weed out the mindless drones who can't think creatively for themselves. Do anything it takes so that *your* piece of genius stands out from the crowd! Perhaps try colored paper with pretty graphics in the margins, purple ink..."

And another: "You want to be remembered? Send chocolate, cookies, balloons, potential swag, buttons, postcards, bookmarks . . . a list of potential actors who can star in the movie..."

Funny thing is, years ago I went to a writing seminar where I was told, "Don't query, stand out!"  The basis of the the Speaker's recommendation?  "James Patterson sends out a beautiful media kit."

I bet he does.
My cheeks burned red, but I raised my hand. "But Nathan Bransford says we have to put together a query letter," I said.  "A synopsis too."
She advised that, instead of a query letter, I should send to each of my Fantasy Agents an 8x10 photo of yours truly with my full manuscript and a biography and cover sheet, printed on--wait for it--pretty colored paper. My mug shot and bio were to be affixed, not with a regular paper clip, but I was to run forsooth to find the most sparkly paper clip at Staples, ideally, a novel star or heart shaped clip.  Lastly, we were to wrap the bundle in colored paper tissue before we sent it off priority mail.

I didn't heed the Speaker's advice, but I knew it all along: write the hook, form an enticing query, craft the synopsis, and if Fantasy Agent requires, affix my most awesome five or ten first pages. Nothing fancy, just good words written well.

Still, I cringe when I picture my four-pound package landing unannounced on Janet Reid's desk.  And the bonfire that would ensue. 

So that's my story.  Tell me, what is the worst writing advise you ever received?


  1. Yeah, that's some pretty bad advice. But I would pay cash money to see Janet Reid's face during a situation like that.

    Worst advice I ever received? Back in 2004, I was told not to waste my time writing paranormal young adult, because it was a hard sell. Instead, I should focus all my energy into writing chick lit, because it was a sure market.

    Yeah. I know.

  2. Elizabeth, oh no, that was horrible advice! But to have a crystal ball in this crazy business...