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  • Ronda Wicks Eller

Trepidation vs. Intrepidation


Dipping your toes into any literary venture can be a befuddling experience. The intrepid person might say "Here's the manuscript you've always been waiting for" while the trepid one, who may have a much higher quality piece of work put together, may whisper "Please, please please, don't reject what took me so long to get the nerve to share with you." But it isn't just a matter of self-confidence vs. egotism, it's an intimidating arena to toss one's self into.

First, there's the most modern question about whether to publish digitally or in a paper format, or both. Then there's the task of learning how to market yourself and this depends on your own abilities and how you choose to publish. If you have no previous marketing experience and you're lucky, you find a publisher interested in your offering (rather than having to consider self-publishing) and they will do much of the marketing for you. Even some of the self-publishing companies available will do marketing on your behalf but how do you know who will do what from among the thousands that are willing to take you by the hand and lead the way? No matter how you look at it, there's definitely a BIG learning curve ahead.

There are questions about how much you're willing to invest monetarily in a self-publishing venture or in contracting a marketing agency and there is the financial consideration of travel to launch books if your work will be rendered in paper format. What if you have physical issues or family considerations that limit how often or how far you travel? Such factors must be assessed in devising your own individual strategy and they can even send an intrepid writer running for the nearest closet.

Well, here are some guidelines I'm sure you may have heard before, but maybe not...

1) Lower your ego if you're the "Intrepid" type. Rushing headlong into ventures is bound to give cause for error and some may seriously impact your reputation for years into the future. You want to keep your name from being associated with any entity that offers substandard material or services, especially in the literary field where all that is written is well-read and often kept. It is a misconceived stereotype that all poets, or writers in general, are egotists; many are not but the truth is, if you rush into the arena like a bull, you're likely to rub elbows and form poor relationships with those who are in the position to mentor, offer insights and even a well-worded endorsement if your material merits it. Each one has stood in your position and care for their art. You will have to show them that you know how to take constructive criticism and use it as a means of self-development.

2) Raise your self-confidence if the thought of being published fills you with terror. You can do this by joining workshop groups on the Internet or in your local area. The Internet is a great start because you can sample the atmosphere of a group for a few days before deciding to actively participate, watch-and-learn or leave. Not every group is suited to everyone's personality or objectives but they all offer exposure and with that, you will easily notice that we're all human after all! ;) Everyone gets rejection slips (some more than others) so don't take it personally.

3) Submit appropriately. Assuming you've subjected your manuscript to some serious scrutiny and editing of your own... and then taken it to trusted friends, a work-shopping group or other associates for their input... and feel satisfied that it is the very best you have to offer, decide on keywords that suit your theme. These will help you choose where to submit for consideration. Some publishers work to specific themes or a specific genre of poetry, others promote all the forms and themes for an intermingling of "flavours". Know your work and where it fits and don't waste time and money sending it where it doesn't belong. This includes making sure you are submitting to a publisher who receives unsolicited material. I've sat on the other side of the desk and can tell you that 8/10 of the manuscripts I received gained little to none of my "headroom" for lack of time and nothing personal was meant by it. That said, I had no issue responding to short email queries regarding whether I was accepting or when I anticipated accepting manuscripts again (especially if a short bio of the writer, 50 words or less followed it, or a website link was provided for my own self-exploration when time availed).

4) Be committed! This means two things: a) Once you submit your work and a publisher accepts it, don't expect to go back and re-edit the work. That should have been done well in advance. Some publishers might work with you on this if your demand on their time is not excessive but others will not - don't expect it. b) Be prepared to avail yourself for promotions such as book launches and readings; it is essential, especially if you are putting out a paper copy. YOU are the writer and the person each purchaser wants to know, even if only through a handshake and an autograph.

The key point is that the literary scene is on a world stage now and it is bigger than it ever was before but it is more elusive and not as straightforward for the author as it used to be - when there was only one way to go about getting published. Sticking to the basics can help keep your feet on the right path regardless of what personality type you own naturally or choose to invoke for the task. It's okay to stop and smell the flowers while you gather your sense of direction, just don't lay down long enough to get covered in the next load of manure. Ask questions and be as dumb about what you don't know as you really are. None of us knows everything; I sure don't!

Be at peace, be one and live in love,

Ronda

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