The Luck o’ the Writer

Yeah, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna make a St. Patrick’s Day-inspired post.

Around this time of year, I tend to watch Leap Year at least once. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a charming, hilarious movie set in Ireland. The main character Anna, played by the fabulous Amy Adams, is tired of waiting around for her cardiologist boyfriend to propose to her, so she calls upon an ancient Irish tradition that may or may not actually exist: if she proposes to him on Leap Day, he must accept. Well, shenanigans ensue, and without any spoilers, things don’t exactly go as expected. There’s a lot of Anna trying to control her life and her relationship and a lot of the world telling her she can’t.

But that movie, and the only holiday in March, got me thinking. As writers, there are so many things out of our control. So many things based in luck (ah, there’s the rest of the St. Patrick’s Day cliche).

We can control our writing. Our editing. Our interactions with readers and potential readers.

But we can’t control when an agent will read our query. How the market will be when our book is ready. What mood a person is in when they read your book.

All of these things influence the success of our work. It can mean the difference between a shining review and a mediocre review. It can mean the difference between finding an agent or not. It can mean the difference between selling a book or not.

And for a lot of people, especially when they start (though it never gets much easier, from what I can tell, particularly if you’re traditionally published), it’s hard not to be able to control how well your book does. Sure, there are things we can try, there is marketing we can do, and we can independently publish. But we can do all the things right and still not see the success we want to.

Today I just want to remind you that even if your book never sells a single copy, even if you never get an agent, that doesn’t mean your book isn’t valuable and isn’t good. Sometimes the luck isn’t on our side. The wrong agent reads it, or another, bigger book releases on the same day as yours.

Don’t let that stop you. Keep working hard, keep learning, keep doing everything you can, but don’t beat yourself up if things don’t work out right away. Do what’s best for you and your book, and don’t take it personally if it fails. Learn from it. Grow with it. In an industry where we only have so much control, take control of what you can. Give yourself every chance for success.

And whatever else you do, make sure you keep writing.

Translating Writing Jargon

Are you a new writer? Old writer? Somewhere-in-between writer? I don’t know about you, but when I started writing, all the acronyms and writer/publisher-specific terms confused me like nothing else. They would swirl and dance around my head every time I tried to read something new. I’d have to stop and take a break to figure out what the writer was talking about in the first place. And I never did find someone who took the time to sit down and explain it all.

Well, friends who may still be confused, you are in luck. Today, I am giving you a not-comprehensive guide to jargon in writing and publishing for beginners. I am listing off every acronym and writing term I had to learn (that I can think of).

Let’s start with some common acronyms:

  1. WIP: work in progress. This refers to the piece(s) of writing you are currently creating.
  2. POV: point of view. This is the perspective the writing is from, usually referring to a specific character.
  3. MC: main character or protagonist. This is the main person you are writing about.
    1. Along the same lines, FMC and MMC mean “female main character” and “male main character” (thanks to Hannah on Twitter for this!)
  4. OC: original character. This is something I see more commonly online, like on Tumblr, but it may come in handy to know in the future.
  5. CP: critique partner. This is a person you will hand your work to (often in exchange for theirs), typically after a round or two of editing and revising. They will (ideally) provide feedback on the development of your world, characters, and plot, as well as other detailed feedback on your manuscript as a whole.
  6. ARC: advanced reader copy. These are copies of a book that come out ahead of publication and are given to different readers and influencers (like book bloggers) to gain reviews on sales platforms like Amazon and Goodreads. These copies are not to be resold.

Okay, that’s the acronyms. But what about other terms?

  1. Alpha reader: this has been defined many ways, but the way the sticks out in my head is that an alpha reader is a person within the writing profession (a professional) who reads your work, often before you have done extensive editing work on it. They are typically not paid.
  2. Beta reader: this is kind of like an alpha reader, but a common definition is that these are readers in your target audience who read the story ahead of release after many revisions have been completed. They will offer you feedback, depending on what you ask for, and they are not paid.
  3. Advanced reader: this is a person who reads the book ahead of publication for review.
  4. Filter words: these are words that act as middle-men in your writing, such as “thought”, “saw”, “smelled”, etc. They can place a buffer between the reader and the writing (again, thanks to Hannah! She explained it so well!)
  5. Query: this is part of the publishing process in which a writer will compose a “query letter” and send it to an agent or small publishing house. I could go on and on about this, but that’s the gist of it. We’ll save the detail for another post.
  6. Agent (or literary agent): this is a person who works with authors to take their book to publishers. They must be queried, and the agent must accept the work and sign a contract with the author. They should NOT charge you. They may also work with you to continue editing your work, though you should only present them with something you have polished and completed (non-fiction is the exception, but that’s for another day).
  7. Agency: this is a company full of agents.
  8. Publishing house or publisher: this is a company that produces and sells books.
  9. Traditional publishing: this is the type of publishing many people are familiar with in which books are sold to major publishers by an agent and are released to bookstores and online sales platforms.
  10. Indie (or self) publishing: this is the type of publishing in which the author is responsible for taking the book from concept to available for purchase. They may or may employ the help of editors and designers along the way. This may also be known as independent publishing.
  11. Small press: this often refers to the type of publisher who does not require an agent to submit work. Authors can directly query their work to the publisher.
  12. Hybrid publishing: this is when a writer publishes using both an indie and traditional publishing formula. They have multiple books with at least one in each type of publishing.
  13. Freelance writing: this is work that is done for pay in which the author is self-employed or is writing without a long-term commitment to the company or person publishing the work.
  14. Book launch: this is the process of publishing a book. The launch date is the same as the release date, and the book launch is the work and promotions the author (and any other involved party) puts into generating interest and sales for the release, whether it is pre-sales (before the release date) or after release.

And what about social medias? Spend enough time on any of these platforms, and you’ll find plenty of people in these communities:

  1. Bookstagram: this is a hashtag on Instagram where readers post all about books.
  2. Booktube: likewise, this is anyone posting about books on YouTube.
  3. Authortube: and anyone posting about writing or author-related content on YouTube.
  4. Booklr: this is the Tumblr book community.

Whew! That’s a lot of things. But I am sure I didn’t include everything you may have questions about or experience with. So, help me out!

What other author, book, and writing jargon can you think of that I didn’t mention here? What terms did you have to learn when you started writing? Share them in the comments, and tell us what they are! Or, if you have other questions, let me know and I will do my best to answer them!