Welcome to Ask Me Editing, where I solve all your problems, as long as they vaguely relate to books.
Q: Sweet, sweet fantasy baby
Do you have any advice for aspiring fantasy authors (or genre fiction authors in general) on how to build up a folio of published work or get noticed by publishers/agents? It seems in the Australian industry most journals/awards are focused on literary fiction, and not genre fiction so much. What opportunities are out there for genre writers?
Yes, you’re very correct that most journals and awards in Australia are literary focused. There are a few around that are genre based, or at least genre inclusive, but as a whole, the pickings are slim. That said, that’s also reflected higher up – there’s not a lot of big publishers taking fantasy fiction in Australia at the moment. The market just isn’t there in Australia. I’m going to focus on fantasy with this, because romance and crime have their own rules. YA is still getting some interest, but classic fantasy really isn’t. So, while publishing in journals and winning awards are a way (success? Maybe, maybe not) of attracting the attention of publishers and agents, they’re not an incredibly useful tool for fantasy and sci-fi authors. I’m not saying it’s useless to publish fantasy short stories etc, there’s all sorts of subsidiary goals, such as practicing your craft and interacting with the community and building a decent following. But honestly, with fantasy I recommend writing a book and trying to garner interest with your manuscript, as that’s really what interests publishers and agents.
Q: Fame, what’s your name?
Hi Patrick! I'm a young woman trying to make a name for myself in writing, and it seems like the only kind of stories editors are interested in right now are personal essays and opinion pieces. I'm of two minds about trying to sell too many opinions in order to carve a career for myself. I'm worried that I will make people angry, and worse, that those opinions will be online forever and ever and might embarrass me one day. Please help!
Ah, this one is very relevant to me at the moment. In fact, so relevant it could be some very subtle and carefully worded shade thrown at me. Anyway – my instinct is to say that if you’re worried that you might be embarrassed some day by your opinions and writing, then you probably aren’t ready to publish that kind of stuff. When I first started publishing stuff other than my fiction, I did tend to steer away from anything that wasn’t entirely comedic and absurd, because I thought ‘who the hell am I to write something about anything important, I’m a hot mess of a man’. However, as time went on, I either grew in wisdom, or became cantankerous and opinionated and realized that if people didn’t agree with me, I’d happily throw them in the lake. Hot tip, it’s the second option, I am still a hot mess.
But I will say that while it’s fine to pace yourself, writers need to be confident about their writing above all else.
I don’t want to sound mystical, but the different between a technically good piece of writing and a great piece of writing comes from the author’s belief in the work, if not in themselves.
It’s why ego can be so difficult to extract from writing – if you second guess yourself, you’re going to write something halfhearted and faltering. Furthermore, with opinion writing in particular, there does have to be a conviction in what you say, and you also need to be aware that you could write an article about how sandwiches are ‘mostly pretty good’ and you’ll have people angry with you. And then, considering that you’re a woman, you need to be wary of the fact that if your opinions are veering into political topics, feminism, computer games, ghostbusters, child raising, etc, you’ll probably be abused by fedora wearing MRA’s on the internet, which can be incredibly confronting and wearying.
Only you can know what you’re comfortable doing, and if you decide that it’s not your style to share yourself like that for writing, you need to find and work towards a different option.
Q: Let’s spork about Facebook pages baby
Hi Patrick! I finally made a Facebook author page under orders from my publisher. How can I tend to it without wanting to carve my shame into a rusty spork and gouge my own eyes out with it?
Great! Really simple answer – do what you would like to see on a Facebook page. If you find it annoying when people over-promote, don’t over-promote. Do you think it’s cringey when people share inspirational memes? Then don’t do that. But know that you have to do something to keep it maintained. Have fun with it, do something weird. Keep an updated diary of weird shit that you’ve seen birds carrying – whatever, the goal is to 1. Be genuine in your engagement, so people feel like they have a window into the author’s mind and 2. Promote a sense of community so that when you say ‘I GOT A GODDAMN BOOK HERE’ people are invested enough in your and your writing that it serves as a cool reminder, and not an unwanted ad.
Patrick Lenton is your NEW PROFESSIONAL AGONY UNCLE. If he doesn't know it, he'll go and find out. ASK HIM ANYTHING! Send your questions to Patrick care of firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to us, and he'll respond with FREE professional advice.
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Patrick Lenton is an author, works for Momentum books and runs Town Crier, a social media and digital marketing consultancy for authors.