This weekend I had the opportunity to meet Brandon Sanderson and ask him some questions about writing and publishing. For those of you who don’t know who he is, be sure to check out Brandon Sanderson’s site. The short answer is this, he’s the author of many different fantasy books, and most recently, was asked to complete the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. So, he’s kinda a big deal. You can download one of his books online for free, and as someone who has read Warbreaker, I’d recommend it. Click on ‘Get the current version’.
Here’s something interesting about Brandon: he wrote 13 books before he published one. That’s right. He also alerted me to a startling statistic: on average, authors write 6 books before getting one published. Yikes! What he said made sense though, “You have to learn what is bad writing before you can write something good.” (Don’t quote me on the quote though, this is all coming from memory.) He talked about a concert pianist, who has to sound horrible while practicing before they can effortlessly play a masterpiece. Everyone always thinks it will be as easy as it was for Stephenie Meyer to write the Twilight saga, but this is a rare occurrence. To those who don’t believe me, check out this article about ‘How Stephenie Meyer Cramps My Style‘.
When I asked him, “What was one thing you wish you had known about publishing before getting into it?” He responded, “I wish I had known that editors are people too.” Apart from making me laugh out loud, this comment made me think. He said that he once thought of editors as big scary people, but once he learned that they were people too, he could relate to them more and have a better relationship with them. As any author will tell you, he added that “It’s all about networking.” And he steered me in the direction of some great writer’s conferences.
He also gave me one tip that I had never heard from anyone else before. He said to check out which editors were editing which books, and in essence “spy” to determine which books they were more likely to pick up. (I added the part about spying). Whether it surprises you or not, I’ll admit that I haven’t actually looked too much at the editor page of any given novel. Instead, I’ve been doing so much research on agents, that I sort of forgot about the editor step. But if you do it retroactively like this, then you can see which editors like to work with which agents, and determine which agents are looking for pieces like yours. It’s worth considering.
Meeting and talking to Brandon one-on-one was a great experience for me. I’m now much more likely to go to more book signings and conferences, especially as I learned a lot. I underestimated how talking to someone ‘in the know’ could really bolster your ambition and help you know more of what you are doing. Have you ever experienced that in your field?
Also, I should add that the picture I’ve included about The Gathering Storm is the UK artwork. But I really hate the US covers, and I think they’re ugly. So there. Are you more likely to judge a book by the cover?