Review by Bonnie Cehovet
As a "wanna be" writer, I am always on the lookout for any information that will help me to get published. There is definitely a labyrinth to go through before you reach the stage when anyone is even taking your work seriously, much less offering you a contract. Richard Webster is a published author with years of experience both as an author and as an editor, and he shares insights in this book from both sides of the road.
Webster takes the reader through the whole process of evaluating markets, choosing a topic, writing a book, contacting a publisher, submitting your book, understanding the productions process (which held some surprises for me!), and promoting your book.
One thing that is evident from the moment that you pick this book up is that Webster is an established author (over twenty-five books) with Llewellyn Worldwide, the publisher for this book. It is up to the reader to decide if this is simply part of the author's background, or if the material was intended to be skewed in Llewellyn's direction.
In his introduction, Webster defines the New Age publishing world, and presents a fairly comprehensive list of New Age related topics that potential authors could consider writing about. While it is not intended to be considered a comprehensive list, there is enough information here to open the mind of the reader to a world of possibilities. Webster also suggests that you have a passion for what you are writing about, so that you are fully involved in the process not only of writing but doing research and reading New Age books.
As far as the New Age market goes, Webster indicates that there is a greater chance of getting published if an author chooses to write in the nonfiction (as opposed to the fiction) genre. Choosing a topic and defining your prospective audience comes next. Webster also states that a prospective author should have significant knowledge about the area in which he or she is writing (hands on knowledge, not limited research knowledge), and should have some kind of credentials (not necessarily degrees, but proof of hands on working experience). Also, there should be a need for a proposed book, rather than trying to publish a book that says nothing new, and really does nothing new.
Webster also looks at things like why a wanna be author is writing their book, which sounds silly at first, but it is actually grounding to look at why you want to write, and what you are expecting from your writing. If you think it will make you rich overnight, perhaps you need to take another look at things. Also - are you standing in your own way? From fear of failure to fear of success, this is an important section!
Quite an interesting section of this book is the one that addresses what Webster terms "modeling" - that is, framing our work after another author's that we admire. From his own perspective, he discusses Jack London and Earl Stanley Gardner - how they worked, and what he learned from them. He also discusses what he terms "Master Mind" groups - that is, small groups of people that meet regularly to achieve a specific purpose. Webster's group has writing as its common interest.
One of the most important issues in reference to writing is doing the actual writing, and this is addressed in depth, from developing a personal writing style (finding your own voice), to developing an outline and writing on a regular basis. Examples are given on how to develop an outline that will work for you, and allow your writing to flow.
Something that surprised me was that Webster recommends choosing the right publisher at the beginning of the writing process. Things to take into consideration here are the genre that the publisher is focused on, and the publishers submission guidelines. Having researched this myself, I can attest to the fact that there are specific guidelines for submission to all publishers, and that they vary a great deal from publisher to publisher. Do your homework here!
How to develop and submit a book proposal is another thing that prospective authors need to pay attention to. Each author needs to be able to present their own credentials, define their audience, and do a market analysis.
Webster covers writing your book in depth, from the first sentence, to finding the time to write, to writer's block, to dealing with issues like boredom and interruptions (from family friends, pets, the phone, and the ever present e-mail phenomenon.
Once written, your book needs to be edited and revised. I like what Webster suggests here - printing out your book, reading straight through it without making any changes, and then going back through it to make your changes and get it into shape for submission for publication. An interesting thing here is that he also recommends reading your book out loud, so you really hear how your story reads. I do this with shorter articles, but I never thought about doing this with full length material.
I was shocked when I was reading Webster's section on the process of how a manuscript is dealt with once it reaches a publishing house. I do have rejection slips, and they did come fast enough that I know they never got very far past the front door. That wasn't what shocked me - what shocked me was that publishing houses use an external review - freelance people that are experts in specific fields to review material that has been submitted and make recommendations on whether the material is a good fit for that publishing house, as well as the quality of the writing, and how much editing might be needed.
Webster also addresses the New Age fiction market, why writing articles can be beneficial for a writer, and how an author can best market their material.
I recommend this book to anyone that wants to be a writer. Through sharing his own stories, his experiences as both an author and editor, and real life examples, Webster plots a clear path through what can be a veritable jungle!
© June 2007
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.