I had a pretty good opening to my publishing class last night. I started by introducing myself, talked about some of the books I’ve worked on, and then said my current project is a three-book deal with Fulcrum editing a series of anthologies about Colonial New England and the Mid-Atlantic region. I said there’ll be around 75 stories between the three volumes which’ll require 75 writers, of which I only filled about 30 slots.
And then I asked people to introduce themselves and give some background on what they’re working on and their past experiences trying to get stuff published.
We went around the room and all ten students talked about their books (and even some non-fiction books!) and the difficulties they’ve had getting editors or agents to notice them and when it got back to me I said, “So…here’s the problem - not a single one of you told me you’ve had some interest in doing something about Benjamin Franklin or about some little bit of Virginia history or anything like that. I literally placed an opportunity to pitch an editor with a real, paying gig for a real publisher on a silver platter and not a single one of you took advantage of that.”
I then went on to talk about how so many people say getting published is being at the right place at the right time, but the important thing is recognizing you’re at the right place at the right time. Taking advantage of opportunities and never saying “no.” You should be able to hint to an editor that you can do anything, and then go home, do your research, and prove to them that you can.
Basically, my theory is that for every person who’s at the right place at the right time and gets a book deal, there’re a thousand people who happen to be at a bar and overhear some editor saying he simply can’t acquire YA fantasy novels fast enough and saying, “You’re an editor? I have this great book about trains.”