Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saying no graciously

by Kristi Belcamino

One of the challenges of being a newly published author is figuring out how to give back while still maintaining boundaries and protecting valuable writing and personal time.

Let me explain.

I was very lucky to have some writer friends give me blurbs before I had a book deal. I did have an agent, so maybe that helped, but in any case, this is rare. In both instances, these rock star authors offered the blurbs and their help in my publishing journey.

Later on, after I had a book deal, I was told to solicit blurbs, an awful process that our own Alex Segura has written about on this blog. He gives great tips on how to do it graciously and believe me, Alex knows how to be gracious in every situation. So much so, that he was the first author I *asked* to give my book a blurb. He is a class act. Thank you again, Alex.

Along with Alex, I've had many authors help me out on my publishing journey, but before they offered, or before I asked, there was always some type of previous relationship established, even if it was mostly, or entirely, through social media.

I've really been pondering how to pay it forward and yet maintain my boundaries as a published author. I'm hoping this post sparks some conversation about it with other writers, so please chime in if you have any thoughts.

In my case, here are some of the boundary issues, I've come across and the questions they raise:

Writer friends, what are your thoughts on:

* Offering blurbs to writers without agents or book deals

* Reading other writer's manuscripts and offering feedback

* Reviewing other writer's query letters

* Writing your agent or publishers about fellow writers?

* Offering advice on the query process

* Participating in/or writing for fundraising purposes

For most of these questions, my answer depends on two things - my relationship with the writer and the time I have available.

So, I guess the big question for my fellow writers is this: How do you maintain your boundaries as a writer? What do you say yes to? What do you say no to? Is there a way to say no graciously?



6 comments:

Scott Parker said...

Lots of questions and, to date, ones I've never had to answer. However, your two gatekeepers--time and relationship to the writer--would be mine, too. One thing we all ought to keep in mind is that this is a business. Yes, many of of us are friends, but there's still a line to draw. Offering blurbs is probably the most straightforward thing to do. Reading and offering feedback seems like a thing best left to writers' groups. Reviewing query letters might be a good thing in a public setting so that you can do it once and let future writers see your thought process. Writing your agents on behalf about fellow writers seems like a good idea, but mainly if you think of it and not after hounding by them. Fundraising is a good thing and something I'd definitely join, depending on the cause.

Kristi said...

Thanks for weighing in, Scott. Actually the one I say yes to the most - for friends - is the reviewing queries because it doesn't take much time and it is fun.

Steve Weddle said...

* Offering blurbs to writers without agents or book deals

I think this depends on how well you know the author or, you know, WHETHER you know the author. More and more often, you're being asked to get blurbs before the book is even submitted to editors. It's weird. Get a big following and a list of great blurbs and reviews and a guarantee that 50,000 people will buy your book and a publisher might offer you a contract.

* Reading other writer's manuscripts and offering feedback

I do this for a few people I know. I ask this of a few people I know. It's a trust thing as much as a time thing.


* Reviewing other writer's query letters.

Sure. I've done this many times and have asked for help many times. Generally, though, so much of the advice is easily google-able that this part isn't necessary.

* Writing your agent or publishers about fellow writers?
Each Thursday I email my agent a list of about 30 or 40 authors I think she should sign. I like to think that she looks forward to these emails from me and gets to work on them right away, because I've never heard her respond.


* Offering advice on the query process

Sure. And many places, including our pals at LitReactor, offer classes in this.

* Participating in/or writing for fundraising purposes

Sure thing.

Alex Segura said...

My thoughts:

* Offering blurbs to writers without agents or book deals

If I KNOW the writer, then I'm fine - as long as the book is good. As much as a blurb is a favor, I think it's also something you tie to your name and reputation. Maybe I'm overthinking it.

* Reading other writer's manuscripts and offering feedback

My TBR pile is about to topple over, but I try to make time for friends and offer them useful feedback, because many have done that favor for me.

* Reviewing other writer's query letters

Again, if it's an author I consider a friend or know - then I'm happy to help. If it's a cold call, I'd consider politely declining.

* Writing your agent or publishers about fellow writers?

I do this rarely. If it's A) An author I know and consider a pal and, most importantly, B) An author I think has chops, then I'll do it. As context, I've done this once. Maybe I'm a bad person!

* Offering advice on the query process

Happy to share tips to anyone willing to listen.

* Participating in/or writing for fundraising purposes

Sure. Depends on time and fit, but yes.

Alex Segura said...

And Kristi, thanks for the kind words! It was an absolute pleasure to blurb your book. Can't wait to catch up in person next month.

Kristi said...

Thanks Steve and Alex (and again, Scott)
I don't offer feedback on manuscripts anymore because I have a tight knit core group of people I exchange work with in this regard.
I offer people I know a boatload of query advice and review, but not perfect strangers simply for time reasons.
I've only been asked to blurb one author's book and that author didn't have an agent or book deal and I was too afraid to say yes in case I didn't like it because Alex you are right - your name and reputation is tied to that. Authors with agents and book deals have, in a sense, already been vetted so it's a safer bet, right? And Alex you know how hard it was for me to ask for blurbs. Thank GOD you liked my book after I asked you. Phew. I know you took a chance agreeing to read it. But I also considered us friends and that makes a difference, I think. Can't wait to see you in a few days in person!