A seasoned writer offers advice on “the professionalization of creativity.”
Novelist and founder of the learning collaborative The Cabins, Maum (Costalegre, 2019, etc.) mines her own experiences as an author, as well as advice and anecdotes from editors, publicists, literary agents, and other writers, to offer a sensible and brightly encouraging guide to publishing. Maum covers just about everything a first-time author needs to know: how to make time to write, learn to revise, deal with rejection, find an agent, choose a publisher, and juggle the many tasks involved in promotion. With warmth and candor, she addresses the emotional stresses and “existential ups and downs” that buffet many writers and responds to myriad questions that novice writers ask, from whether to go to book parties to whether to enroll in an MFA program. What about multiple submissions? Or self-publishing? Or deciding if an advance is fair? How crucial is it to have an agent? “It is very, very hard to get a book published,” admits the author, but getting a contract is not the end of the process: There are editorial revisions to consider, a publishing team (designer, publicist, copy editor, sales and marketing departments) to work with, blurbs to request, social media connections to make, and a publicity campaign to get rolling. Maum offers useful information about the different kinds of publishing houses, including micropresses, nonprofit independent presses, for-profit independent houses, midhouse publishers, and the Big Five. “Many writers—myself included,” Maum writes, “toggle between commercial and independent houses based on the nature of the book that’s up to bat.” Once a book is published, pressures don’t abate. For example, anticipating and reading reviews can generate "elation, doubt, despair, pervasive unease, and bolts of white-hot pride." Maum cautions writers to tamp down their expectations of having a “break out” book that sells tens of thousands of copies. Most debuts, she reveals, perform conservatively (under 5,000 copies). She also advises authors to read only professional reviews, not “the reviews of overcaffeinated strangers who just want to vent online.”
A valuable companion for aspiring writers.