Well, I’m not doing much of it these days, but the following thoughts, which I first ran in a 2013 post, are still relevant.
It’s no secret that breaking into book publishing is a difficult endeavor. Hey folks, this is the entertainment business, you know? Even if you’re lucky enough to find an agent and get a book deal, you’re probably not going to become an independently wealthy, bestselling author anytime soon. By the mid-nineties I had published nineteen novels (yes, that’s nineteen, diecinueve, neunzehn), and was still looking for the “big break.” When the only break I seemed to be getting was the long one that occurred between checking account deposits, I switched gears and turned—reluctantly, at first—to teaching university and community college writing classes, private read & critique workshops, and evaluating/editing manuscripts. In other words, exactly what I’ve done for the past quarter-century.
But why reluctantly? Because I wasn’t in the game anymore, and I wondered: if I’m good enough at this to help someone take their writing to the next level, how would I react when that person called me with the news that his/her book had been accepted by a publisher? I mean, that was my favorite part of this, and now I had given it up.
That “test” came rather quickly. One of my talented students, Diane Lee Wilson, had written a wonderful YA novel, I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade. I had connected Diane with her agent, and in short order the agent placed the novel with Orchard Books. Diane was practically screaming when she called me with the news, and you know what? I joined her in a “group scream,” because I was so thrilled for her. Test passed; I’d lost the ego. (Diane, an award-winning novelist, has published many books since then.)
There have been quite a few “group screams” since that time, and never once had I thought, Dang, I wish it were me. I love seeing my writers succeed, and playing some role in that success. Sure, I make a living by doing this work. But when I get to take part in a “group scream” over one of my people landing a top agent or getting a book deal…hey, file that under why I do what I do. Sounds like a win-win to me.