When I was just starting out with getting into author-mode a few years ago, I bumped into an old friend of mine who was a little further along the way than me. She was already **gasp** agented, and she graciously offered to beta read for me. And boy oh boy did she poke sticks at my writing; made me cut reams of exposition **sobs** and generally tell it like it is in publishing.
I value this woman’s no-nonsense judgment. I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it weren’t for her. She can say horrible things about my writing at times but I know I deserve it, because good constructive criticism freely offered is worth more than paying an editor to do it for you. By the same measure, she praises, telling me when she can see where I’ve improved. And I feel like I can believe her. To be honest, I’d sooner have honest judgment than vague reassurances that everything’s just hunky dory. ’Cos it’s not. There’s always room for improvement.
What matters now, more than ever before in publishing, is a buddy system. I remember the encouragement I received from the likes of Dave Wolverton, Fiona McIntosh and John Everson, who always replied to my emails with sound advice. Yes, I may still be in awe of these people, but they never lost that essential human touch. They weren’t up on a pedestal.
While I’m nowhere near reaching their stellar heights, I’m already much further along the line than I was when I sold my first novel in 2008. I’ve made an effort to make friends, not only with my fellow authors, but also with the authors for whom I’m now playing editor. We help each other, be it a friendly eye or a guest-blogging slot or review. Hell, sometimes we give the go-ahead for a bit of name-dropping. It all helps. The publishing pond is big enough for everyone and I’m amazed at some of the doors that have opened to me because I haven’t developed an attitude.
And if I develop an attitude, I expect my buddies to slap me upside the head.
A funny thing has started happening now. I’m paying it forward. It’s a weird feeling. Aspiring authors are turning to me now for advice, are looking up to me as someone who's been around the block a bit, and, while part of me wants to shake her head and exclaim what the hell, I’m able to pass on some of the advice I’ve been given.
I can’t tell you how great it feels to see an author take those first toddling steps, get their first contract offered, or start making those sales. Then later I get a quiet email on the side saying, “Hey, I just want to thank you, I’d never have…”
Feck. It feels good. And I’m going to carry on paying it forward. It makes the overall experience better for everyone concerned.