Preserve your sanity; try something new

stack of books

Those who know me understand that sitting around talking about obstacles is enough to put me through the roof. The only way to make progress and reach a solution is to learn what has failed, gather the resources available, and try something new.

As I’m sure you do, I occasionally wish for a particular strategy that would make life and learning easier and demolish old bureaucracies. Within six months, my wish is often granted when someone else experiencing the same frustration starts providing an online service—and not always at a premium. In fact, while many consumers continue to spend their money for expert consultation, software, marketing, news, and entertainment, all of those things are rapidly becoming available on the Web at no charge.

Admittedly, the Web isn’t free without access to a computer and the Internet, but universal connectivity is being addressed around the world. For a decade, local libraries in Columbus, Ohio, and other U.S. cities have been offering classes to introduce new users to the Internet. Where there’s a willingness to learn, the way can be found.

Author-agent resources

Until very recently, the only commonly accessible directories with extensive lists of literary agencies were books—readily available at local libraries. Reading through their listings was tedious, because although the books were carefully organized, they were as hefty as printed telephone directories. In spite of the possibility of being outdated by the time they went to press, the literary agency guidebooks improved on legendary Rolodex files or word of mouth.

Several Web startups now offer user-friendly literary agency listings for free. These online databases have the obvious advantage of being searchable by keywords. Search features make it exponentially easier to locate agents seeking specific types of work, such as science fiction or parenting advice.

To learn more about literary agents, follow the links in the Wikipedia entry.

Links to two databases, Agent Query and LitMatch AuthorAdvance [CLOSED], were added here (see Links in the column to the right) as soon as I discovered them. Not long after, one of the staff at Agent Query posted a link to this blog in one of AQ’s forums, because I’d written a series of publicity tips for authors. Naturally, that put a smile on my face, flattered my ego, and increased traffic to the blog. It also caused me to pay more attention to Agent Query, which has been expanding into a network well worth visiting.

I have no idea who owns or staffs Agent Query. I wish it were more transparent, and I might pry a little after writing this. Its hosting company is Leverage Software, a four-year-old white-label social networking service based in San Francisco, California, which is referred to by its CEO, Mike Walsh, as “Facebook in a box>.”

Writing and critique groups

One of Agent Query’s newest features is AQ Connect, which helps users to form networks, exchange information, arrange meetups, and critique each other’s writing. I’ve talked to a number of writers seeking local critique groups to provide crucial feedback and help troubleshoot their manuscripts. Agent Query is one means of locating writers with similar interests and areas of expertise willing to trade those kinds of services.

Reciprocity is crucial. When you ask another writer to provide money-saving advice, be prepared to return the favor by critiquing that individual’s work or offering another type of assistance in exchange. Assuming it’s the reader’s privilege to be given first glance at your writing is a no-no, unless you’re already a megawatt celebrity and the reader is an agent who’ll be receiving 10-15% of your sales.

An abundance of information is as close as the Web. If you’re bored with inaction, losing traction, or simply eager to join the brouhaha, look online. Chances are you’ll find another writer who will be happy to offer directions, suggestions, warnings, or a critique that’ll make you wince.

You can sit around and plan the raid in meticulous detail, but sooner or later you need to get out there and kick down some doors.

2 Replies to “Preserve your sanity; try something new”

  1. Kick down some doors, indeed! I went on the Meet-Up site you recommended and recently signed up for a writing group, which scares the $*** out of me but should add some propulsion to moving my writing to a more progressive level…

    Thanks for the boot camp in a post! :)

  2. I can’t wait to hear all about the writing group. Do we really want you to get even more progressive? But seriously, if you find a good group dedicated to helping each other, you can avoid reinventing the wheel.

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