Last weekend, I attended the Colorado Gold Writers’ Conference hosted by The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers group. In addition to amazing workshops, engaging panels, inspiring keynote speakers and great introductions to others in the writing and publishing industry, this conference gave me a lot to think about in terms of my own writing career.
So, what kind of career do I want?
This is such a loaded question because the “general” answer is that I want to write fiction for a living. However, expanding upon that, I know I will need more than just published novels to make a living (at least at first). And honestly, I want to do more than just write. I want to be immersed and involved in the literary world helping aspiring and current authors fulfill their dreams. I am an extrovert and love interacting with others, so attending conferences, speaking on panels, or coaching writing are some ways I could do this. In the short term, I could also see myself editing manuscripts with my Linguistics and English Teacher background.
However, breaking into the industry isn’t easy—ask anyone who’s gotten an MFA. And me, well, I do not have one, nor do I really want one, TBH. But, barring that, the only real credentials I have is my M.A. in Linguistics and my knowledge of English grammar as an ESL teacher (I also have my name on some academic journal articles, but in the world of fiction, that’s not really super relevant). That being said, unofficially, I’ve read and watched a lot of stuff about writing and have been doing so for the better part of (more than) two decades. That has to count for something, right?
Unfortunately, using that to try and convince people in the industry (or even at Cons) is very difficult because I don’t have any officially published work. I had decided to remedy this this year by self-publishing a small steampunk novella, part 1 of a 6-part serial, to see if I could start a fanbase and get some passive income going. Then, I could always say, “I am the author of the Cloudbreaker steampunk serial” which would be enough to get me onto panels at more nerd conventions and maybe give me a reason to get a table too.
Then, I went to this conference, and everything changed. I met someone who’d been an acquiring editor for several magazines and Tor books who recommended that I don’t self-publish anything since I currently have the strength of being an undiscovered author or “debut” author. This anything includes my Cloudbreaker novella serial. So, there’s that.
THEN, I went and pitched In Memoriam (my near-future dystopian sci-fi standalone with “series potential”) to an editor from Saga Press (with Simon & Schuster) who liked it enough to ask me for 25 pages! Editors don’t generally work directly with authors, but with agents, so for her to ask me for pages is a pretty big deal. More of a big deal is that I heard of all the pitches she sat through last weekend, she asked only one person for pages (=me!). So, that’s in the pipeline…my 25 pages will be forthcoming.
Now, I’d had plans to release my cover and a teaser chapter for Cloudbreaker this October at Mile Hi Con. I already have been working with an artist for character art and the cover but….do I do it? Or do I wait?
I also talked with several agents and have been trying to get more feedback on this topic. Most notably, an agent who likes decolonial SFF (which is where Cloudbreaker fits well) seemed interested in my idea, though didn’t ask me for anything. However, he did say that in his opinion, publishing something myself wouldn’t necessarily bar me from getting picked up in the future. And, now I’m thinking that if I wrote Cloudbreaker into a full novel, I could query this agent or someone else. That is…if steampunk is still interesting to people… So…What is a girl to do?
I want a product to make myself legit and be able to start my career as a “writer who knows things” but also, the hope of getting picked up by a publisher is still hovering over my head. Do I keep waiting? Patience is not my strong suit and I’m going a little crazy. I’m ready for my career to start.
So, what are your opinions? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?