Monday, December 1, 2014

Brother can you lend a hand?

We've all been there.

Every last writer who decided to get serious about it (That means actually writing and editing as opposed to talking about it) has, at some point or another, been obligated to look toward others fro help.

The lucky ones run across someone who is willing to take the time.

I've made it a point to help out, but always within reason.

And now that I've said that, I suppose I should justify it.

How does one help out? There are a million different ways.

You can recommend a good publisher that is a good fit for a manuscript.

You can read a manuscript by an unknown and, if you have the time, you can give a few pointers.

You can warn newcomers away from the predators. You know, the "Publishing houses" that will, for a fee ranging from 500 to, oh, 5,000 dollars or so, help a writer get published and depending on the ads used become a best seller. Maybe that last one sounds like a joke. I wish it were.

You can make introductions at conventions. I do that one a lot. Usually I do it, then leave the writer floundering and struggling for the right words to say to the editor I just introduced them to. Sometimes they thank me, sometimes they hate me. I'm good either way, because now they have a contact they didn't have before and because, if they are paying attention, I warned them that I was going to introduce them and that they should have a fast pitch ready.

Oh, and you can introduce the newcomers to the fine art of the fast pitch.

A fast pitch is exactly what it sounds like, by the way. One or two sentences to get the editor's attention. Make them good, or at least good enough.

You can remind the writer who just survived the fast pitch to breathe.

Exactly who helpful I've been over the years is not for me to decide, by the way.

So, about that mention I made of "Within Reason...."

Here's a few comments I've and over the years that, to the people making them, probably seemed perfectly reasonable. They were not and I will explain as I go.

"Hey, can you read my manuscript for me?"

No. First, I seldom read manuscripts. Second, I do it for people I know and like. Third, even when I intend to do so, I normally fail, because, I have my own deadlines. This month, for example, I have these articles, I have a short story, I have to finish a novel with a co-author and then I have to write an entire novel. This, by the way, while working a full time job.

"Hey, can you introduce me to your agent?"

No. I'd love to, really, but my agent is busy. Also, as you just introduced yourself to me in the elevator, no. Included in this is: "Can you read my manuscript and then give it to your agent with a suggestion that he/she read it?"

No. See above.

"Hey, can you write the manuscript for me, and then we can split the money?"

No. No. No. Write your own manuscripts. There are no shortcuts. Even if there are, and even if I MIGHT have ghost written a few things in the past, there were extenuating circumstances and I had the spare time. I don't have the spare time these days and even if your idea is the most awesome thing ever, write it yourself.

"Can you read this and blurb/review it?"

Maybe. It depends. While I might gladly offer a little encouragement, I'm not going to suggest a book I can;t honestly get behind, and I am not going to lie about having the time to read everything. I have over 200 books in my To Be Read pile and about half of that is stuff I have every intention of reading and possibly blurbing. Every intention. Success is not guaranteed. I have a simple policy: If I like the book I'll say nice things. I make no promises of being timely on that part, but I'll try. If I don't like the book. I won't say much of anything.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I like helping out other writers. I mean that. But I also like taking care of my own career and my own life. When I can spare the time I am glad to, but as much as I wish there were more I could do a lot of it comes down to timing.

I try to help where I can. I also have a cadre of writers who return the favor for me.

On the lighter side: My latest short story is directly linked to Seven Forges and The Blasted Lands. I had a great time writing it and it comes out sometime in January. The story is called "What Gods Demand," and it's coming out in Ragnarok Publications' newest anthology BLACKGUARDS. The core is pretty, so I'm throwing that down here because I like it. If you want to read more about the anthology from my perspective you can fine a link right here.


  1. Wise words Jim. And yet another cover to love!

  2. I'm with Alexia, that is a great cover! I'm glad you're growing the Fellein world!

  3. Ooo, pretty cover!

    And I totally hear that about doing what you can, but only when you can. I'd like to be able to help whenever a writer friend asked, but I have to know when to say 'sorry, I can't' because the work has to come first.