3 Critical Things You Won’t Learn in an MFA Program

The pros and cons of an MFA in creative writing are widely debated: on one hand, such programs offer students the opportunity to work with accomplished authors, whose expertise (and endorsements) could make all the difference in publishing their first book. On the other hand, such programs often come with a hefty price tag, with fully funded options few and far between. But regardless of whether you go for an MFA, some things are critical to establishing a career as an author that you probably don’t know, unless you’ve learned them the hard way (or you’ve worked in publishing).

Source: 3 Critical Things You Won’t Learn in an MFA Program | Jane Friedman\

The important take-aways from this post have little to do with whether or not you’re considering an MFA program or even know any reasons why anyone would sign up for one.

This post is interesting because it shows you that agents and publishers don’t read your manuscript the same way a beta reader, professor, or colleague in a critique group reads it.

Obviously, the agent and publisher want to see if your story will sell and to do that they focus closely on the voice you demonstrate in the opening lines and whether or not the characters and plot develop reasonably throughout the work.

Their view, while narrow and expedient, is often similar to what reviewers and knowing readers bring to a book. Worth looking at, I think.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

Learning from agents (yes, agents still exist)

If you want to learn about the business of books, it helps to be hungry. Not only hungry to learn, as the expression goes, but also just plain hungry, literally—it helps to have an appetite. Or an expense account. Ideally both. Because no matter how much the world of publishing has changed over the past hundred years—and, boy, has it changed since the days of Blanche Knopf, Horace Liveright, and Bennett Cerf—some things remain the same. It is still a business of relationships; it still relies on the professional connections among authors and agents and editors and the mighty web of alliances that help bring a work of literature out of the mind of the writer and onto readers’ screens and shelves. And those relationships are often sparked, deepened, and sustained during that still-sacred rite: the publishing lunch.

Four Lunches and a Breakfast: What I Learned About the Book Business While Breaking Bread With Five Hungry Agents

This is an interesting article by Kevin Larimer on the Poets & Writers website. It’s worth reading, I think, in spite of its length because many aspiring writers who want their books considered by mainstream publishers and reviewers forget that agents still exist. They are your route to big publishing. Yes, I know, in an era of Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, nobody thinks about agents or the standard methods for approaching major publishers.

Yes, publishing is changing, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that if a writer publishes his/her book, s/he will never find it on the New York Times bestseller list or reviewed by Kirkus or in the local Barnes & Noble store. Take that to the bank. So, from time to time, a reality check can be a good thing just to see how you would approach publishing if you seriously wanted a six-figure book deal and more movie options than you could shake a stick at.

Malcolm