Thursday, June 24

Be Prepared to Be Published

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I was watching The Next Food Network Star once, and one of the challenges was a great example for writers wanting to get published.

The contestant chefs had to present themselves and their food in 60 seconds on-camera and give their culinary perspective. In a way, this is a lot like an elevator pitch where you describe your book in one or two sentences. You have to know your story and be able to convey it clearly and quickly.

Some chefs did great, others fell flat on their faces.

The NFNS has been on TV for a while now, and the challenges and things asked of the chefs are fairly similar per season. If you're trying out for that show, I'd imagine you'd want to watch every episode to see what you were getting yourself into and to start thinking about how to deal with it. You'd practice your presentation skills, maybe even film yourself to see what you're doing wrong or how you come across on camera. You know being on camera and talking about yourself and food is going to be part of it, because the whole show is about getting your own show on the Food Network.

I'm always shocked at how many folks seem utterly surprised when asked to present on camera. They know they have to do this. They know they need a culinary point of view for the show, because that's what their show will be about if they win. Yet they go into it blind, and act like "I love to cook and I want to be on TV" is enough.

Well, it's not. And it doesn't matter how well you can cook if you can't engage an audience.

This isn't any different from a book "I love to write and I want to be published" isn't good enough. You have to know your story and be able to present it "on camera" so to speak. You need to know the challenges you're going to face and prepare yourselves to beat them.

Like writing a dynamite query letter.

And a synopsis that captures the story perfectly.

Like knowing your genre or market and what's been done.

And have a basic understanding of how publishing works.

Now, you guys are here reading the blog, so odds are you're already preparing yourselves for the challenges. But so are a lot of other writers, and many of them as just as good or better than we are. While we're not competing for one spot, the number of books published every year is limited, so why not do everything you can to better your chances?

I also want to mention that where you are in your writing journey matters, too. If you're actively submitting or close to submitting, start thinking about it as a professional. But if you're thinking about submitting "one day" then this isn't anything you have to worry about yet. Your focus is better spent developing your voice, working on your craft, honing your storytelling skills. Get yourself close to (or at) a professional writing level, then start working on that professional mindset. (Though there's nothing wrong with doing it earlier if you want to. Just don't feel pressured to do so if you're not ready)

Writing is an art, but publishing is a business, and books are a product. Just like the chefs on the NFNS, a little preparation on how to best present yourself and your work, and to do it in a way that says "I'm marketable" goes a long way. While you certainly don't have to know everything, practicing the skills a professional author needs can help you come across as a professional.

And sometimes, that little edge is all you need to win.


  1. Excellent post. I love your perspective.

  2. Love that show, and a great comparison.

  3. A good point. I haven’t seen that particular show, but I've seen similar ones and wonder, "How could they have not been expecting that?" They done it for five seasons?

    I'm one the gets tongue-tied, always have. It has been said I'm a wee bit shy as well. What happen to the hermit sigma?

  4. Thanks for the reminder that this is a business (a creative business, but business nontheless). I'm not quite to that point yet, but hope to be ready to hit the ground skipping (I don't like to run) when I am.

  5. Great comparison. Funny how other parts of life teach us things about our writing.

  6. Great advice and how interesting that they have the NFNS contestants do that! An elevator pitch for my MS is something I definitely need to work on. It's always good to have that ready.

  7. I've had this "I'll need to be prepped for this by the time I'm ready to submit a novel to agents" attitude for awhile. I've been nudging myself out of that future tense and into the present, but I may have to kick myself in the behind.

    Fortunately, I'm the type of writer who actively talks about what I'm writing when asked (it doesn't stymie me), so I've already gotten to play with potential elevator pitches... and learned thereby that most people don't understand the term for what one narrator is, so then I have to go back and explain it. >_<

    I get shocked myself by all the folk who assume you have to pay to get published. ...Wait. You have to buy supplies if you're making, say, crochet booties for resale. Maybe people deem the expense of producing the hard copy book as supplies? Hrm.

  8. Great analogy -- I love analogies like this.

    One thought I had was that while it is nearly unforgivable for contestants on that show to be surprised when asked to present on camera -- as in, how could they not have known? It's a TV show? --- there are always those producers out there who don't tell their contestants fully what's going on. I liken that to unscrupulous agents or POD publishers.

    But your point is doubly valid in those cases. If you're entering into any kind of venture, research it yourself and don't rely on being told what is what by people.

  9. I love how you've applied something from one endeavor into another. It is very similar. I've noticed how people seem unprepared, though I've done that a bit in a job interview because my mind went blank and forgot my coherent reasons for wanting the library job. "I love books." (smacks head)

  10. The most common questions I get when folks hear I published a book are:

    1. Did you self publish?
    2. How much did it cost?
    3. What's it called?

    I think unless you write, you just don't know the business and don't understand it. And with all the self published ads out there, it makes sense that that's the first thing to pop to someone's mind. There's even a self publishing billboard I passed the other day. A billboard! And I live in a somewhat small town.