What shall I talk about? I know. This could also be titled "be careful what you wish for you just may get it..."
I have many people email me asking for writing, agenting, and publishing help. Generally they want me to read their manuscript and offer it to my agent or editor. Sometimes they want writing help or advice. Sometimes they want me to share the secret of getting published...hey if I told them it wouldn't be a secret anymore. I took an oath yanno.
The thing is...there are rules.
1. Authors don't have very much time. They have to stare at their blank computer screen, pet their cats, organize their desk, oh and write. If they read your manuscript then they don't have as much time to do all that.
2. If you want a favor from me AT LEAST READ MY FRIGGING BOOK...Okay? And I mean BUY A COPY!! Don't tell me you intend to read it or you are going to check it out of the library. And if you are going to lie at least get your facts straight. "I loved LOTTERY because I thought it was scary - especially when they stoned her to death."
If you say that I know that you have me and Shirley Jackson mixed up. HINT: My book LOTTERY does not have cliff notes yet.
3. So you want advice. And if something in your letter resonates with me and I happen to have a couple minutes I might give you some. Like...write everyday... find good beta readers WHO ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS. If you choose to use an editor then find a good one with PUBLISHING experience if you need help with your manuscript. Attend writers conferences and retreats. Find a writers group.
4. If you ask me what I did then I will tell you. I will be honest. I attended the Hawaii Writers Retreat and Conference. I kept writing. I found readers and editor who were NOT MY FRIENDS and I took criticism happily, readily,with good humor, and not defensively...(Thank you sir may I have another?)
5. FEEDBACK: All feedback is useful. I repeat. ALL FEEDBACK IS USEFUL.
Why? Writing is subjective. What resonates with one person will not resonate with another but listen to it. Know when to implement feedback and when to set it aside.
DON'T say it wasn't what I had in mind. Or is was a bag of twat. Sometimes twat is what is needed to make a story pop (okay that was deco-speak but you know what I mean).
6. If you really want me to help you then get to know me, comment on my blog, post on my facebook page. Let me know that you enjoy what I have to offer and aren't just interested in using me then moving on...If you wonder why authors sometimes are a bit gun shy then that's why. They meet another interesting writer and then BAM!!!! (think Emeril)the writer moves on when we say we can't read their manuscript.
I hope this doesn't sound harsh. It's not meant to be. I can't help but draw parallels between being an author and my father's lottery win. It changes people's attitudes, changes their opinion of you and suddenly you're a cynic.
As a published writer, I'd like to pay it forward, but in a perfect world, there's no such thing as free lunch. Oftentimes, as I'm eager to help or mentor new writers, my feeding hand tends to get bitten, or sometimes I feel like I'm being taken advantage of. Just like what Patricia said, if a writer's so inclined to ask for advice, suggestions, or a critique, "buy my frigging book!" Not just "I may buy it later" or "I may check it out at the library." Buy the fraking book -- we authors don't live on good vibes or "I may buy your book." We live on royalties. If nobody buys our books we probably wouldn't be writing. So support your authors, especially if you think they're good enough to give you writing advice.
It's just common courtesy, I think. I would never think of asking a writer for help if I have no intention of buying or reading his or her books. Personally, I do think it's rude. In the past, I had writers asking me all kinds of questions from writing to editing to publishing, and they have not read a single word of my novel, nor were they planning on doing so. So what gives, people? How do you know I'm a good writer worthy to give you advice if you don't want to read my work?
Also, be my friend or at least get to know me. I really, really, really hate it when writers come to me, ask for advice or a crit, then either after I helped them, or refused, they split. Never hear from them again. WTF? Seriously, nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- likes to feel used. That's why I now have a policy: I won't read or critique your work if I don't know you. It's harsh. It's probably a bit rude on my part, but I don't have a lot of time to offer to someone who just wants to use me. I'll do anything for a good friend. But I'm no loser for users.