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View Full Version : Mistakes you've made as an author



kelliewallace
01-24-2015, 02:41 AM
As I fall into my fifth year of submitting my novels, it occurred to me I have made some shocking mistakes over the years: submitting half finished chapters, no chapter headings, sending a generic email to agents (we've all done it) but I think my doozy is when I was first starting out, I didnt know the difference between non-fiction and fiction. Pretty naive and noobie thing to do right?
I thought about this the other day and I realised I probably sent out half a dozen submissions to publishers saying my fiction book was non-fiction! Needless to say I never heard them any of them. Now, I can't seem to envision how on earth I got it wrong. What they say is correct: you learn from your mistakes.
What are some of yours?

Ken
01-24-2015, 02:45 AM
sub'ing to an agent who doesn't rep your genre
that really won't work, except perhaps on rare occasion
stick to ones who do !

Usher
01-24-2015, 02:48 AM
My main one is writing a book that doesn't have a sub genre. Agents have sent me great feedback on the book but usually comes with comment that they don't know how to market.

thothguard51
01-24-2015, 03:48 AM
Going to submissions to agents way to early...

Siri Kirpal
01-24-2015, 04:17 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

The doozy for me was getting a request from a referred agent, telling him I was enclosing an SASE (back in the days when you REALLY needed them)...and not doing it.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Jo Zebedee
01-24-2015, 04:20 AM
sub'ing to an agent who doesn't rep your genre
that really won't work, except perhaps on rare occasion
stick to ones who do !

Yep, this one hurts. I've learned this week.

Um, also, not enjoying the early process, making myself pressurised. To e for that later!

Filigree
01-24-2015, 04:51 AM
Wow, so many, over the years. Pitching a plotted but unwritten MG book to a major publisher, and unearthing their request for a partial in a stack of junk mail five years later. (I never did anything with that book.) Getting the wrong collaborator for a fantasy series, and round-filing nearly everything when that friendship ended. Getting the wrong agent for my work, only he and I didn't realize that for 9 years. Querying too early, way before a mms was polished. Querying too many agents on that mms. Querying a 'suspect' publisher when I knew better - only a rejection letter saved me from a career-damning mistake. Getting into the wrong flame war on AW (why I wrote up Filigree's Rule, to keep out of them now.)

Those are just the big mistakes.

Jamesaritchie
01-24-2015, 07:07 PM
I have no doubt I've made mistakes, but I really can't, at the moment, think of any that matter.

The only one that comes to mind is sending an early, very messy draft with misspelling, typos, and strikeouts to an editor, rather than the final draft. That was long ago, back when I did two separate drafts. It was a silly mistake, but it sold, anyway, so no harm done.

LostGurl
01-24-2015, 11:08 PM
For the people who say their biggest mistake was querying too soon (before a ms was really ready) I have a question: How do you know it was too soon?
Had it not been critiqued/revised yet?
Was it full of errors?
Did you as the author feel that something was unfinished?

I'm sort of at the stage with my ms where it's being critiqued and I'm in the process of revising and trying to figure out next steps, so it would be helpful to know.

Jamesaritchie
01-25-2015, 12:22 AM
For the people who say their biggest mistake was querying too soon (before a ms was really ready) I have a question: How do you know it was too soon?
Had it not been critiqued/revised yet?
Was it full of errors?
Did you as the author feel that something was unfinished?

I'm sort of at the stage with my ms where it's being critiqued and I'm in the process of revising and trying to figure out next steps, so it would be helpful to know.

I've been on the receiving end of writers who queried too soon. I know it's too soon when I can tell teh writer has taelnt, but large parts of teh book are amateurish, and not well thought out. I can tell that even one more draft would have made the novel much better.

Writers I know who have queried too soon often know it from the kind of rejections they receive, and realizing they could have, and should have, done much better.

Read your novel front to back. If you can find anything you think could be changed for the better, change it, then read it again. Make sure the quality is the same front to back. If there's a weak beginning or ending, rewrite it. If the middle sags, unsag it.

Jamesaritchie
01-25-2015, 12:24 AM
One serious mistake I have made is a mistake of omission, rather than commission. I've backed away from promising projects because I convinced myself I didn't have the time, or because I wasn't sure I could carry it off, etc. Every time I do this, it proves to be a mistake.

gothicangel
01-25-2015, 12:46 AM
Spending eight years working on one book before trunking and starting another.

Giving up on submitting too early after only 20 rejections.

Taking so long to realize I didn't really like crime fiction, but that I do love HF.

blacbird
01-25-2015, 07:37 AM
By every bit of evidence available, writing.

caw

Polenth
01-25-2015, 08:07 AM
Following the advice to write what I loved. I wrote a book in a genre on the way out. Now, I pay attention to trends and avoid writing whatever is the current big thing. If I love an idea that much, I can always come back to it when the trend and the dead period are both over.

Mr Flibble
01-25-2015, 08:33 AM
I have a habit of writing books that no one knows how to market...

BenPanced
01-25-2015, 11:47 AM
-- Realizing I didn't include the requested pages the very second I clicked "send".

-- Like others, sending out a manuscript that needed at least two more passes. In this case, I got a revise & resubmit request with three specific areas to address. As I went over the manuscript, I was horrified at the shape it was in and have never been so humiliated in my entire life. I need to look at the guidelines this week and get it back to the editor who'd responded.

Siri Kirpal
01-25-2015, 10:04 PM
I have a habit of writing books that no one knows how to market...

Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Ditto.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Jamesaritchie
01-26-2015, 12:54 AM
Following the advice to write what I loved. I wrote a book in a genre on the way out. Now, I pay attention to trends and avoid writing whatever is the current big thing. If I love an idea that much, I can always come back to it when the trend and the dead period are both over.

There is no better advice that to write what you most love to read. There is no such thing a as dead genre, there's only the lack of really good novels to keep it healthy. One good novel can revive any cold genre.

PeteMC
01-27-2015, 08:14 PM
Wiring all three books in a trilogy before I started querying the first one. Now I have three novels in the trunk instead of just one.

JustSarah
01-28-2015, 06:18 AM
Subbing to a magazine without knowing their theme list, though they curiously don't release their theme list.

Shadow_Ferret
01-28-2015, 06:37 AM
I've made all of them. And if there are any more, I'll probably make them, too.
By every bit of evidence available, writing.

caw
This.


Following the advice to write what I loved. I wrote a book in a genre on the way out. Now, I pay attention to trends and avoid writing whatever is the current big thing. If I love an idea that much, I can always come back to it when the trend and the dead period are both over.I don't understand this. I only write what I love. That was the point of becoming a writer.

Channy
01-28-2015, 06:48 AM
Before coming to AW and learning (even what a query letter was), I submitted an email to one of my top fav agents, providing a summary, asking questions, if it had potential, also mentioning it was half finished... surprisingly enough, they responded very kindly! But I look back on that email and hang my head in shame.

WriterBN
01-29-2015, 01:11 AM
Writing for a fraction of a percentage of the market. And I still haven't learned from that one.

Roxxsmom
01-29-2015, 01:14 AM
Almost sent off a query with a blank subject line yesterday.

Caught it right before I hit send, thankfully. I was so caught up in checking and double checking the formatting, spelling and so on of the content of the e-mail, I almost forgot the first thing the agent will see is the subject line.

I'm still too new to this to be able to look back and know what else I might be screwing up now.


Writing for a fraction of a percentage of the market. And I still haven't learned from that one.

If you actually know what the market breakdown is (percentage wise) within each genre, you're way ahead of me :(

Chris P
01-29-2015, 01:15 AM
My greatest mistake has been impatience. I've twice signed contracts with publishers because they were "easy" without doing proper research about whether or not they're a good fit, or even decent publishers.

WriterBN
01-29-2015, 06:53 PM
If you actually know what the market breakdown is (percentage wise) within each genre, you're way ahead of me :(

Some of it is extrapolation, but I mostly go by Hugh Howey's data on Amazon sales, because that's pretty much my market at the moment.

Roxxsmom
02-14-2015, 07:52 AM
Yep, this one hurts. I've learned this week.

Um, also, not enjoying the early process, making myself pressurised. To e for that later!

Not that there's any point in submitting to the wrong agents. I mean, it's a waste of time for all concerned, and if they don't have fantasy on their list I don't bother, but I'd say it actually hurts less if I accidentally submit to an agent who is looking for cozy mysteries and women's fiction forms rejects my fantasy novel than if an agent who loves fantasy and reps a couple of my favorite authors does.

One frustrating mistake I just discovered is sending the wrong kind of query to an agent who evidently likes the style of querying many advice sites say to avoid like the plague.

Note to self, read everything on an agency's web page before submitting, not just the submission guidelines and information about the agent you want to submit to.

So their slush reader probably curled his or her lip and said, "Another one of those idiots who thinks we care about some stupid 175 word summary that shows off their voice and explains what the character wants, what stands in their way, and what the stakes are! What's with these people? It's like there's a website out there telling them how to write bad queries or something."

CathleenT
02-15-2015, 10:19 AM
This is a highly specific mistake, but one that could be costly.

I sent out about twenty queries. The attached pages looked fine to me.

But the smart quotes feature turned all my quotation marks and apostrophes into strings of characters which made my sample almost unreadable. AWers kindly set me straight. (I believe one was Roxxsmom).

So you should always make sure your original Word document doesn't use 'curly quotes' but rather straight quotation marks, which don't curl in toward the dialog.

Pisco Sour
02-15-2015, 12:22 PM
My greatest mistake has been impatience. I've twice signed contracts with publishers because they were "easy" without doing proper research about whether or not they're a good fit, or even decent publishers.

This, except to compound my mistake, I DID research the publisher. The authors had great things to say, but after I signed I found it was due to the 'cult' culture of the house, and that some of these authors were also the editors. My gut had told me not to sign the contract, but I was impatient to get my hard-sell book out there (I, too, have a habit of writing genre-confused books) and I signed. A huge mistake, and though I now have my rights back it's going to be difficult to re-sell this book. I've learned my lesson, but it's been costly.

Putputt
02-15-2015, 12:36 PM
When I received offers for my YA fantasy, I narrowed it down to two agents: 1 was a big-ish agency with branches in NY, London, and Paris, the other was a small US agency which focuses on YA books. I went for the first agency even though they only have 1 YA book on their list. I thought, hey, they have a wonderful record of selling adult books, and it's basically the same, is it not?

No. It is not the same.

In hindsight, I should have gone for the smaller agency which has a better track record of selling YA. Ah well. You live and learn.

Layla Nahar
02-18-2015, 01:06 AM
agent who evidently likes the style of querying many advice sites say to avoid like the plague.


So, I'm guessing this agent wouldn't like something that would shop well on QLH... What kind of query did they like? Just curious.

Maze Runner
02-18-2015, 04:40 AM
I spent too much time writing the first book. I was so determined to make it great that I edited and edited and reimagined and revoiced and cut and pasted and, and, oh, just the thought of it now tires me out. It ended up, I think, good, but even though I'd suspected that I had long passed the point of diminishing returns, I kept going and going, thinking that that was just the process, just what it took to write a memorable book.

rwm4768
02-18-2015, 05:34 AM
One frustrating mistake I just discovered is sending the wrong kind of query to an agent who evidently likes the style of querying many advice sites say to avoid like the plague.

Note to self, read everything on an agency's web page before submitting, not just the submission guidelines and information about the agent you want to submit to.

So their slush reader probably curled his or her lip and said, "Another one of those idiots who thinks we care about some stupid 175 word summary that shows off their voice and explains what the character wants, what stands in their way, and what the stakes are! What's with these people? It's like there's a website out there telling them how to write bad queries or something."

Was it someone at Liza Dawson Associates? I noticed something like that when I was looking at their guidelines. The type of query they want is not the type that most agents seem to want.

Of course, I noticed that after sending.

So I'll have to make that same not to myself.

Coconut
02-18-2015, 09:40 PM
I tend to get too excited and send off a query letter a day or 2 after writing it, instead of getting it critiqued and rewriting it a few times first...that always fails. Same thing for synopsis requests.

NinjaFingers
02-18-2015, 09:43 PM
I once sent a story to Damien Broderick and forgot the attachment. He was very, very nice and asked me to send it again.

Then bought the story and sent me back the contract.

...and forgot the attachment.

KokkieH
02-19-2015, 03:20 PM
Lying in bed last night I finally figured out how to start the short story I've been struggling with. I didn't get up to write it down. This morning, it's gone.

So we learn, right?

Cathy C
02-19-2015, 03:48 PM
For the people who say their biggest mistake was querying too soon (before a ms was really ready) I have a question: How do you know it was too soon?
Had it not been critiqued/revised yet?
Was it full of errors?
Did you as the author feel that something was unfinished?

I'm sort of at the stage with my ms where it's being critiqued and I'm in the process of revising and trying to figure out next steps, so it would be helpful to know.

My version of querying too soon was my first novel. I had a total of three chapters done and sent them off, unedited, with a query. The publisher not only loved the pages, they had a slot open in their spring line and wanted to hand it to me on a platter! But ONLY if I got the manuscript to them by the end of the month. :eek:

It was (and still is) a reputable small pub who specialized in my specific type of historical fiction, meaning it wasn't a joke. I took a week off work and typed until my fingers were swollen. Did I finish? Yes, but it wasn't pretty and there were edits galore to be done.

I don't recommend subbing too early. :scared:

Parametric
02-19-2015, 04:21 PM
Getting emotionally involved in things that are outside of my control. Which is pretty much everything in writing and publishing.

Manuel Royal
02-19-2015, 05:11 PM
Signing a contract with AOL.

Oh, and taking a quarter century off to think about things.

DadofSnorf
02-19-2015, 10:04 PM
Querying too early and giving up on a project too early. I am a serial trunker.