Don’t Be Like Ted

The magnificent ocelot

As a favor to a mutual friend, I agreed to meet with an aspiring writer to talk about the business over a long supper. We’ll call him Ted.

Ted had no writing background or experience but was sure he could toss some stories together; get published (easy-peasy, right?); and then kick back as the mega-money piled high. Usually those of us who dream of writing books are acutely insecure and our own most virulent critic. But Dude was confident, pathologically confident. And a waste of my time.

Nonetheless, I shared a list of online resources and gave him recommendations on what to do next. I even tried to impart some hard-won wisdom–the stuff I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. But he just fluffed his hair back and kept gazing lovingly into the nearby mirror (no lie).

He did ask about how he could get a literary agent. I explained the process in detail, and I swear he suppressed a yawn. Then Ted divulged the real reason for writing his book: he wanted funds to enable him to observe ocelots in South American rainforests for six months. OCELOTS. RAINFORESTS. His book was merely a means to an end. He had zero passion for writing.

I was outraged. For myself and all the other storytellers who spend long years, sometimes decades, before becoming published. For the true writers who amass more than 100 rejections from agents and keep on going. For those of us who adore language and the music of words and yearn and labor to bring a proper paragraph to life.

As it turned out, he listened to nothing I said. He dashed off a manuscript that yowled like an ocelot–for editing and proofreading help. He self-published with the first predatory vanity press that stroked his ego and sold him lies. His sole marketing effort was to post excruciatingly lengthy excerpts on Facebook.

He didn’t bother with trying to learn craft or the business–and he certainly was not interested in supporting any other writer. All he could see was himself in that mirror.

The moral of this woeful tale: don’t be like Ted unless you just want your opus to molder in oblivion. 


-Become a member of the Atlanta Writers Club, the premier writers’ organization in the Southeast. Consider bringing some of what they do to your local club.

-Subscribe to Publishers Marketplace to see a daily report of book deals and the agents and editors affiliated with those deals. A monthly $25 subscription unlocks access to information you cannot get anywhere else. You can cancel the subscription at any time.

-Don’t neglect your marketing. It is not too soon to promote your stories and yourself. Publishers need to see that you’ve been working hard to build an audience even before your work is complete. 

-Research your options (self-publishing vs. traditional publishing). Here’s a helpful article about self-publishing with Amazon.