40. When THE Nalo Hopkinson Gave Me Writing Advice

During my last year in college, I took a course called Black Women in Speculative Fiction. I read books such as Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison's Beloved. I was also introduced to Nalo Hopkinson with the novel Brown Girl in the Ring.

 One of the books I read by Nalo Hopkinson. Click on the pic to purchase through Amazon.

One of the books I read by Nalo Hopkinson. Click on the pic to purchase through Amazon.

Six years later, the author whose book I analyzed in essays and class discussions gifted me with advice. When Hopkinson tweeted a link from the Writer's Digest titled "Agent Pet Peeves: Review These 34 Submission No-No’s Before You Query" I received a response that solidified the feeling I had in my gut:

Regardless of outcome, give traditional publishing a shot.


Here are the nuggets of wisdom she sent to me in its totality:

While you wait [to be published], you write new books and short stories. The latter sell quicker. I see traditional publishing as better odds, almost no cost, plus it provides imprimatur, quality control (as much as one can reliably assess quality in an endeavor so subjective as art). It’s the thing so often missing when people enter self-publishing. Often they’re not strong on craft yet and haven’t learned to assess the quality of their own work or the vast effort needed to succeed in self-publishing. People who’ve done both can succeed in self-publishing if they have a following. Starting with traditional publishing is one way to get that following and has much better odds than doing self-publishing ineptly and failing and losing all that money.
— Nalo Hopkinson

Words cannot describe how grateful I am for those words, especially since I've struggled between those two types of publishing.* From reading various blogs and watching YouTube videos of self-publishing success stories, I was blinded by exceptions instead of being mindful of the odds. 

Traditional publishing, especially for a new author, is all about ACCESS. 

Access to industry experts, built-in teams, visibility in media, print distribution, connections to Scholastic, etc. Self-publishing requires a huge learning curve (which I'm fine with if it's my last resort), however, gaining access to the industry means seeing my books in stores, libraries, and in media. With that said, my next step moving forward is querying literary agents. That means research is up ahead.

I am prepared to do the work and exercise patience.


(The only reason I don't reference hybrid publishing -- self and traditional publishing simultaneously -- is because I'm brand spanking new, looking to wiggle my way into the industry).