Writing and Publishing Information
Yesterday I was privileged to speak at a meeting of the Idaho Writer’s League, Coeur d’Alene chapter. After my presentation I was asked a number of questions about writing and publishing, which I hopefully answered satisfactorily. Still I get the impression that many expect someone with even a smattering of experience to explain all the ins and outs of the writing and publishing world during a short presentation and an even shorter question and answer session. It is simply not possible to do so.
The field is so vast and varied that those associated with it for years are still learning about it. I’ve spent the better part of the last decade trying to understand the publishing industry, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t know half of it. Learning about publishing is an ongoing and long term evolution. One cannot expect to learn it all in a single session.
At the same time, the advent of the computer, the web, and the internet places a great deal of information and knowledge at our fingertips. It is easy to go on line and find out how we are supposedly supposed to format our manuscripts or how to write successful query letters. There is so much information available that the average person can be overwhelmed if not confused by conflicting advice and dissimilar information.
An individual looking for information about writing and publishing should do so with caution. Visit and evaluate several sources before choosing the one that seems right to you. Ask yourself questions as you look at what the various advice givers tell you. Does the blogger or columnist simply state that that is how it is, or does he (she) explain a little of the reason behind the advice? Does the advice make sense? Does information about standard format mention there are different standards for book length manuscripts, short stories, professional papers, and news articles? Or are these various categories of writing lumped together with a one size fits all attitude?
Realize that everything you read isn’t necessarily industry wide. Often, agencies and publishers want certain things in submissions and hopefully they’ll mention those in their guidelines. If you are submitting to that agency or publisher, by all means follow those rules and provide them with what they want. Just because they want the slug line on the left, the page number on the right, and require the submission to be printed in Calibri doesn’t mean that is industry standard and all agencies and publishers will want it that way. (Most would prefer the page number to be a part of the left positioned slug line, and that you use Times Roman or Courier.) Even though there are standards, the industry is large enough that many variations and personal preferences exist.
Once you have found a source of advice you trust, stick with it, but, don’t be afraid to question it. If something confuses you, ask if you can. If you are continuously hearing information contrary to what your advice giver is telling you, mention it politely. He (she) may be able to explain the difference. You may not only clear things up in your mind, but you might help clarify things for others who rely upon this individual for guidance through the publishing world.