Someone once told me that PBS was making a documentary on the life of Emily Dickinson and my first thought was what a yawn that would be. Legend has it that Emily spent most of her life alone in her attic. I love her work, but wouldn’t ever want to watch her life story…or live her life.
Same with the Bronte sisters. In college I studied in depth the Emily Bronte’s poems and I’m a huge fan. But I certainly don’t envy her lonely life on an English moor.
Gone are the days of the lonely artist, scribbling in her attic or slowly withering away on a moor. Even my early dreams of writerhood have taken a dramatic turn. I had thought that I would write a story, send it to an adoring editor polish it up (just a little) and send it out into the world. I would live in peace with my family of numerous children and dogs on my apple farm in the wilds of Washington writing stories.
I did have numerous children and I do have a dog, but I don’t have a farm in Washington. I buy my apples at Costco. I do have an editor, but I’m pretty sure that I adore her more than she loves me. This is the schism in the writer myth. Writers today aren’t allowed the luxury of wallowing in their art all by their lonesome selves. Just like no man is an island—no writer today can afford to stay cloistered in an attic.
Even when you’re like me and pick up the reins to steer your own writing career you need a team. I know this is true when you work with a traditional publisher, but it’s especially true when you self publish. I suppose it’s possible to “self” publish without involving another soul, but I don’t think I could do it. I wouldn’t want to.
Here’s a brief intro to my team:
Critique partners—a pair of talented writers to read with on a weekly basis
A writers’ group—a gaggle of writers to read and laugh with
Beta readers—who get your sense of humor and read in your genre
A cover designer—who has a good eye and shares your vision
An editor—who is a grammar stickler and likes your voice
A formatting guy
The most important word when trying to cobble a team together is “simpatico.” Each member of your team needs to “get” and appreciate you, your work and what you’re trying to say. The last thing any artist needs is someone rolling their eyes. If someone shows the whites of their eyes—run away. You don’t need that. Helpful criticism yes—scorn no. It’s just that simple.
Only it’s not simple. Sometimes it’s hard to find a good fit—until it’s not. Stay in the game and people will come to you. My formatter approached me and did my second book for free. I’ve used him (and paid him) ever since. I’ve been approached by many editors and beta readers. It took me a lot of trial and error to assemble my team. I’ve used three different formatters and I’ve had five different editors. . Hang tight and good things will come your way.
That’s the book producing team. There’s a whole slew of people involved in book marketing. And that’s another post, because it’s a whole other ballgame and involves different sorts of players. But the exciting part of today’s technological world is no one has to sit on the bench.