More Advice from VRW, this time from Elaine English

The Virginia Romance Writers’ Christmas party was wonderful as usual, with a delicious potluck lunch, a fun gift exchange—I stole a beautiful red serving platter—and a riveting speaker, Elaine English, who is an attorney and literary agent based in Washington, D.C. is her website, if anyone wants further details about her specialties.

When Elaine first started talking, she apologized for bringing news that might be considered a bit depressing to a Christmas party, but she made sure to stress the bright points in the publishing industry as well.

First the bad news: print sales are dropping drastically, which makes the “legendary” publishers even more conservative. Most large publishing houses will not pick up new authors unless they are perfect in regards to matching current successful trends. And, of course, their manuscripts must be well written and well edited.

Another negative is that agents are opening up shop as publishers, which could be seen as a conflict of interest. If an agent-publisher likes a manuscript, what’s to stop them from publishing a book that might fit better at a different publishing house?

All writers must also become proficient as business managers and advertising executives, which isn’t something many of us care to do. We wouldn’t have become writers—expressing the creativity bursting forth from our souls—if we were interested in getting overly familiar with publishing contracts and branding. Perhaps that’s why the lawyer relationship is just as important as the agent relationship these days, so that reversion of rights and the term “out of print” can be thoroughly understood. (And make sure to find a lawyer who has specific experience in book publishing.) As far as advertising goes, it’s good to “know your brand” and market it well. Establish yourself in the virtual world and figure out how you can make yourself stand out from the crowd … because there is a crowd. Approximately two million new books are published each year nowadays.


Now a positive: there are more books to read, since many more books are published each year. More good—and great—writers have a chance to get their stories read.

But a few words of caution: all writers, no matter how good, need a good editor behind them. So if self-publishing is something you’re thinking about pursuing, be sure to get an editor—one who “gets” your voice—on board. You don’t want to get your book out there, only to discover it’s speckled with flaws.

It’s also important to understand “discoverability.” Writers tend to be introverts, so “social media” is regarded with dread. You have to get over that. Get comfortable with Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and all the rest. The more solid relationships you develop, the more people you’ll know to support you when you announce that you’ve just published a book.


Lucy Balch, author of

Love Trumps Logic

Second Wind Publishing

Also available at



Filed under writing

2 responses to “More Advice from VRW, this time from Elaine English

  1. Lucy, I love your VRW posts! You always bring back such interesting information. The comment about social networking is spot on. Actually, online networking is good for introverts. We can start small, getting to know a few people (either because they comment on your posts or you comment on theirs) and then you build from there. I used to have almost the maximum number of friends facebook allowed, and since I wanted to keep my profile active, I unfriended all the people who were there only to sell me something. Hundreds of motivational speakers, SEO experts, multi-level marketers. I still have way too many “friends,” but I’m spending more time liking and leaving comments. If you “like” a post, it introduces you to the person without a commitment, so it’s a good way for anyone to start.

  2. Lucy

    Thanks for the advice, Pat. I’m not that good at it yet, but hope to get better!

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