Everybody has talked this week about various aspects of doing research for a story. History, geography, social customs and culture... all of these play an important role when writing a story that draws on factual information.
But what about after the story is written? After you've written your tale, edited it and polished it and you're ready to send it out for publication? Is it time to kick back and take a break?
Oh hell no!
This is the hard truth of writing. The research is never done. At every stage of the story -- before, during, and after the writing -- you have to be ready to go digging for those crucial facts. Not just the ones that determine the setting and costumes, the dialog and plot, but also those that determine the sale and promotion of your work. Let's take a look at just a few things every writer ought to know about, but quite possibly don't.
Let's start with researching available markets. You might think this was pretty obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many writers don't know this. The first thing you need to do before you send your story out for submission is figure out who's actually buying what you're selling. While there are plenty of publishers out there, only so many of them are looking for stories in your particular genre, and those publishers may only publish a specific sub-genre of what you write. For instance, I write sci-fi erotica, but not every erotica publisher wants stories with a sci-fi twist. Do a search online, using the words 'submission guidelines' and your genre to get a list of publishers you can submit to. Learn who wants short stories and who wants full length novels, who's taking poetry and who only wants non-fiction articles. It's not hard, and it'll save you a lot of time on the road to getting published.
Once you've got those guidelines, you might notice that the publisher requires your story be formatted in 10 point Times New Roman, with 1 inch margins all around and double line spacing. Great! But you formatted your story in 12 point Courier, with 3/4 inch margins and single line spacing. Do you know how to change the formating to what the publisher wants? Can you do it in a way that doesn't take twenty hours of your precious time and somehow completely screw up the document in the process? No? Time for a little research. Dig out the user manual that came with your word processor, or go online and see if there are any tutorials available to help you out. Because it would really suck if your wonderful story got rejected for bad or improper formatting.
Okay, you've got a market. You've formatted your story correctly and sent it off. And the publisher loves your work! They're sending you a contract! They want to buy your First North American rights! And there's this clause about a Right of First Refusal... uh, what the hell does all that mean? And how much is a 35% royalty anyway? What does Print On Demand mean? Does that mean the book will actually be available in bookstores, or not? The legalize that shows up in a publishing contract is probably the biggest area where good writers fail to do proper research. Do you know what rights to your work you're signing away? Do you understand what format the book will be published in? Or are you just so happy to have a contract, any contract, that you don't care about any of this stuff? You should care! Bad things happen to authors who don't understand the contracts they sign, so take a few days to research what the various clauses of your contract mean. Read the whole thing. Twice! If you don't understand what the contract says, look it up!
Once you've done your research on your contract, there are further surprises waiting for you. In this day and age of digital publishing, the author takes on the lion's share of promotion. Do you know how to do that? What are the tools available to you to get the word out about your book? Which is going to work better for you - a Live Journal page or a Word Press blog? Have you got a Twitter account? Do you know how to feed it into Facebook? Do you have a Yahoo group or a newsletter? Do you know how to set one up?
You might think I'm going overboard here, but I assure you, I'm not. Ever since I first set out to publish my writing, I've done constant research on all the things I've listed above. I've scoured the net for markets, devoured entire how-to manuals on my word processor, and I'm constantly learning how to deal with this gadget or that widget to help out with my promo. It's a never ending job, researching the business side of writing. But if you're going to be a professional writer, then it's something you need to accept, and even learn to like, to succeed.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I just downloaded some new blogging software, and I need to do some research before I try using it this weekend. And I've got a story I need to look up a few things on, and a contract to look over, and...
Oh, you know.
See ya later };)