I'm a big believer in the pay-it-forward concept, and I think the more people getting good info out there perhaps it'll drown out all the misconceptions about publishing and agents. I'm by no means any sort of 'expert' by a long-shot; there are many but I'm not one of them. And though I'm currently unpublished (but 20k from my first finished manuscript, yay!), I've been doing research since November 2008. You notice things after thirteen months of research, and I can definitely say I've learned a great deal in that span of time. So from me to you, here's what I've learned:
-Research is important. Ridiculously important. Everything from knowing what a legitimate agent or publisher looks like to who's selling or publishing what, and everything inbetween. You should get familiar with it. Knowledge is definitely power, and the best way to avoid the pitfalls of the industry is to know what to avoid. You can't do that if you're not aware of them.
-Patience is a virtue. Publishing is a slow business and things take time. Agents will be slow to reply, some you won't hear back from. Taking a book from acceptace for publishing to the publishing date can take roughly a year on average. It's life. And in that vein, be wary of anyone advertising a quicker route. Aside from good self-publishing avenues (Lulu and CreateSpace are good examples) there are no shortcuts.
-There IS a difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing. I bow to the ever-knowledgable Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware for the definitions on that, which you can read in this entry. Bookmark this blog while you're at it; it's one of the many excellent resources all writers should have.
-Very few bashers are 'disgruntled'. Many who speak out warning about bad ventures are people with experience in the industry, and they're worth listening to. Sure, you'll probably come across as 'they suck!!!1!' bashers, but pay attention to who is saying what, not just what they're saying.
-Good intentions don't sell books! In the thirteen months that I've been researching publishing I've seen a disturbing amount of scammers and inexperienced setups that have gone belly up, and Absolute Write has a HUGE list of publishers and agencies that have gone bust years back. 99% of those outfits have either been scammers or people who didn't know what they were doing. And one of the most popular defensive arguements people come up with is that they're well-intentioned. Well that's nice, but it doesn't sell books. Experience wins out every time.
-Promoting isn't marketing. Your publisher markets your book. You help promote it. There are many easy and good ways to help promote, but they'll be worthless unless your publisher is doing their job.
-Networking is good. Lots of agents, editors and publishers blog, and they're an invaluable resource to the new writer. Many of their writers blog too, and the agents and publishers will often link to them on their own blogs. Connect with them, they can be another valuable resource inside the world of publishing.
Book #3 IS OUT!!!
3 hours ago