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Says Who? A Word about Advice

A question came up this weekend about internet advice. Now, I realize that I’m one of many purveyors of said advice, at least on the topic of publishing, but I think it bears repeating (and repeating, and repeating) that you should always be aware of WHERE your advice comes from. Say, for instance, you have a question about a query letter. You can go to some of your favorite publishing sites, maybe revisit the blogs of several agents who spend all day looking at query letters, check out the SCBWI boards, etc. You may also post a question about queries on another message board, or a local writing group, or even google your question. And yes, all of these are options, and you may very well get some answers.

Will they be good answers? Will they be true for you? Maybe, maybe not.

If you’re asking about one specific agent’s policies on query letters, and what they want to see, and you check out their website, then yes, you’re likely to get a pretty straightforward answer. But then again, you may find another aspiring writer’s page who queried the agent, who shared their letter. And maybe they think it’s the greatest query letter in the world, and are prepared to tell everyone about it. Does that mean it’s the right query form for you? Not necessarily.

Same with other topics of advice. You may stumble across a writer’s blog and because you see that she has a publishing deal, you assume that every bit of advice she offers is gospel. Ummmm… no. A publishing deal means nothing more than that her book is well written or tells a great story, not that she went about seeking publication in the best way, or that she knows anything more about the publishing process than what is directly related to her own title. Don’t assume a signed contract conveys any kind of expertise.

I’m not saying that you should only get advice from board certified advice-givers. For one thing, there’s no such thing. Just be aware that anyone can say whatever they want on the internet, and just because it’s up here, doesn’t mean it’s true. This is one of the many reasons I’m happy to answer any questions you want to send me. Not because I’m the smartest person in the world as it relates to publishing, but that I have 12 years of experience in this field, and if I don’t have an answer, I will tell you, not make something up or guess. And if I know someone who’ll be able to give a better response than I, I’ll get them to answer you.

In fact, I’m having lunch today with an editor. The first person who emails me with an appropriate question about YA publishing will get their reply posted from an experienced editor’s perspective. Go!