DIY MFA: Before We Even Get Started (Part One)
Enough people have asked me for this information, and since I am in the somewhat unique position from having published both a non-fiction book and a fiction book based on the strength of my blog (and…er…I guess my writing too), I thought I would set it all out here in a multi-part series for two reasons. (1) It’s good information if you have any aspirations of publishing a book and (2) I can’t write this out over and over again for each person. So now I can just send a link and be done with it.
Shall we begin with your Do-it-Yourself MFA?
I should start out by saying that this has been my experience. My background: I have an MFA in fiction. I published a non-fiction book with Seal Press called Navigating the Land of If in May 2009, and I have a work of fiction being published by BelleBooks for release in December 2010. Other people may have different experiences with publishing that they can add in the comment section below. This information comes from what I’ve gleaned from my MFA program, my agent, other writers, and my own experience.
I should also tell you that unless you are selling movie rights or have royalties coming in from dozens of books at once, it is very hard to support yourself entirely on book publishing. The majority of my income comes from articles and speaking engagements. Very little of it comes from book publishing, but book publishing is unique in that it has a cumulative effect. I do the work now, but I’m paid now and well into the future. Once you have several successful books collecting royalties, it is possible to earn a decent supplemental salary writing books. But most people will need to continue teaching or freelance writing. Sorry if you were going into this to get riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiich. If that’s your reason for wanting to publish a book, you should probably stop reading now.
This is how this DIY MFA program will work: over several posts (outlined below), I will walk you through what you need to do to publish either a work of non-fiction or fiction including what to expect with each leg of the process from idea to holding your book. Others will chime in with their experience in the comment section below and others will ask questions that I’ll answer in the comment section below.
These posts will never close, so even if you are reading this years into the future (hello 2012! Are we still living above ground?), you can leave a legitimate question below and I will answer it. Though since this information is spread out over many posts, please place your question on the appropriate post and if that post hasn’t gone up yet, trust that I will get to that topic in the future (and if I don’t, ask your question then).
Before our first class, you should take a look at this list of terms that I’ll be using as I walk you through the process of having an idea to holding your book in your hands. I’ll be adding terms to this initial list as these posts unfold.
So let’s begin by doing a roll call for this DIY MFA program. Why? Because in the future, I’m going to suggest that you hook up with a few other writers and in order to do that, if you don’t have people in your face-to-face world, you can contact someone below who has a different type of blog from your own.
So, in this roll call, please state your blog name, give the url in the appropriate url space so your name is linked to your blog, and tell us a little bit about what you write (werewolf romance novels, memoir about your year of baking 365 pies, how to book on catching squirrels as pets). Keep it as general as possible, please.
Heads Up: topics that will be covered in future installments (and this is subject to change as questions are asked and information unfolds):
1. THIS POST
2. Getting Started: what is platform, should you even start down this road, what will agents expect from you in order to take you seriously.
3. How to Write a Non-Fiction Book Proposal and Choose Your Chapters
4. Why You Need an Agent
5. How to Find and Sign with a Reputable Agent
6. Querying Agents
7. What Happens Next–Waiting for a Book Sale
8. No Agent? Other Paths to Publication
9. What to Expect After You Sign a Book Deal
10. Be Your Own Publicist
11. A Mishmash of Leftover Questions and Answers
Okay, now go call your own name in the roll call.