Five Rules To Remember When Breaking Into The Industry

8 Jun

First of all, a huge thank-you to everyone (and my fellow LTWF contributors) for all of your congratulatory wishes! I had an amazing wedding and an awesome honeymoon, and even though I’m bummed to be back from vacation, I’m really glad to be active in LTWF again!

Anyway, I’ve reached a point along my path to publication where I feel like I can give somewhat useful advice. So, I compiled a list of the five most important rules I’ve learned so far! I hope you’ll find them useful, and that you’ll remember them on your own journeys to publication!

Five Rules to Remember When Breaking Into Publishing

By Sarah J. Maas


5. Be patient. This is perhaps the hardest thing to do, but learning to Wait is an essential skill. The waiting never gets better, believe me. Whether you’re waiting for an agent to respond to your query, or for your editor to read your revised manuscript, it always sucks. But this isn’t a lightning-fast industry—things take time.

Your agent and editor are usually juggling multiple projects, all at different stages of publication. No news isn’t necessarily bad news—sometimes no news is just…no news. Learn to distract yourself—try to avoid staring at your inbox for hours on-end. Write another novel, watch TV (I became a Bravo addict while on subs), go to the gym. In short, force yourself to do anything other than refresh your inbox and stalk twitter feeds! Don’t drive yourself crazy while waiting.

4.  Do your research. This isn’t just about researching before you query agents. You should try to keep abreast of what’s happening in the industry: recent sales, what’s hot (and what’s going out of fashion), recent scandals (yes, we have those), and who has drama (especially in the sense that you should learn to avoid such drama). This isn’t to say that you should become a gossip, because no one likes people with big mouths, but keep an eye on what’s happening in the industry. If anything, it gives you things to talk about when you meet other writers.

3. Be kind. And classy. You’d be surprised how far this gets you. In case Rule 4 didn’t convey this, word gets around. Even if you think no one knows who you are, odds are some people have heard of you. Don’t become notorious for starting drama or insulting other authors/agents/editors.

I knew a writer who really damaged their reputation by starting drama—and I was really shocked when I learned that people totally unconnected to that writer had heard of the drama and now thought negatively of said writer. So, be kind—be polite. Authors talk. Not just to each other, but to their agents and editors as well. You might not realize it now, but someday you might be sitting on a panel with the author whose book you slammed on Goodreads, or you might have your work on submission to that editor you whined about in your blog. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

2. Open as many doors as you can for others. This goes hand-in-hand with Rule 3. But I remember once explaining this to another writer, who balked at the idea of helping someone get ahead when she was having so much trouble doing it herself. She was afraid that if she helped out a fellow writer (just by reading/critiquing their query letter) that it would hurt her own chances of getting published and being successful. I found (and still find) that to be ridiculous. Someone once told me that lighting other candles doesn’t diminish the brightness of your own flame, and I couldn’t agree more.

Remembering to reach back is crucial—not because you want to gather a horde of people indebted to you, but because it’s a good thing to pay it forward. It’s good for your soul. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today if my fellow LTWF Contributor, Mandy Hubbard, hadn’t opened a door for me. Not only am I forever grateful for that kindness, but she inspired me to reach back to others, too. Please don’t become someone who shuts doors on people.

1. Don’t give up. Ever. This might seem pretty obvious, but this is the most important thing I’ve learned so far. The only thing/person standing in your way is YOU. Agents and editors might reject you left and right, but if you give up, the blame is on you. It only takes one person to say yes, and one phone call to change your life.

I know a writer who sent out 96 queries to agents. Her now-agent was number 95 on that list. She could have given up at 50 queries, or 60, or 94. But she kept querying, and the 95th agent was the one who said Yes.  If getting published is your dream, then you’ll understand that it’s not how many times you get knocked down—it’s how many times you get back up. Keep getting back up.


I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff I didn’t cover, but I wanted to keep the list as short as I could! Hopefully you guys will find something to take away with you!

What are some rules/things you’ve learned so far in your own writing journeys?


Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her fiancé in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.


43 Responses to “Five Rules To Remember When Breaking Into The Industry”

  1. Chantal June 8, 2010 at 12:12 AM #

    Nice entry SJ~ I’m glad you had a great wedding/honeymoon, but I’m also happy to have you back on LTWF and LJ 😀 All 5 tips cross over to not only the publishing industry, but they’re good lessons for life in general. I’ve always found # 2 and 3 to stand out about you, a nice person all around 😀 Good luck on your latest round of edits!

    – C

    • Sarah J. Maas June 8, 2010 at 2:12 AM #

      Awww, thanks so much, Chantal! 🙂 You’re so sweet!

  2. Julie Eshbaugh June 8, 2010 at 12:15 AM #

    Sarah, this is all such wonderful advice! I, too, received selfless advice and assistance from LTWFer Mandy Hubbard. And there was another writer, someone I hardly knew at all, and she took the time to listen to me when I really needed the wisdom of a more-experienced writer. Her name is Sarah J Maas! Thanks for this great advice and for “practicing what you preach.” 🙂

    • Sarah J. Maas June 8, 2010 at 2:13 AM #

      Thank you!!! lol, I was more than happy to help out! I’m here whenever you need me. 🙂

      And isn’t Mandy the best?!

  3. Jules June 8, 2010 at 12:19 AM #

    Great tips! They’re general, but sometimes the broad reminders are the ones that inspire the specific.

    Where would you suggest we go to keep up with the publishing business? Is there a particularly savvy blog, or should we stalk publishing websites? Perhaps I’m just clueless, but I’m unsure where to start.

    Thank you!

    • Sarah J. Maas June 8, 2010 at 2:22 AM #

      Thank you!

      I’d definitely set up a Google Reader account (if you have gmail)–it allows you to keep track of all your daily blog reading on one easy site. I’d just start adding the blogs of authors, agents, and editors that you like, and add some group blogs (YA Highway is a great one if you’re into YA) as well. Most people involved in the industry will link to other blogs they enjoy (which is how I’ve found a lot of my favorite blogs), so be on the lookout for those when you visit blogs.

      Getting a twitter account is also a great way to keep up-to-date on stuff–some authors/agents/editors already have GREAT lists of who they’re following on twitter, which you can easily subscribe to.

    • svonnah June 8, 2010 at 8:08 AM # is also a good one.

  4. Tymcon June 8, 2010 at 6:18 AM #

    This is a fairly obvious one but im just going to say it: Just because you write a story dosn’t mean people will read it.
    And this might be me just personally but I used to read books and get very disheartened because they were better. Alot better, word usage, description everything. Then like a year later I realised I was comparing those books to my first draft. I found out that the particular authors i were reading sometimes had to rewrite their stories 5 or 6 times. Do you know Brandon Sanderson who took over the wheel of time? He had to make 18 diffrent drafts for the gathering storm! So youre story is the foundation, editing is the upper (and most important) levels.
    Learn your creative limit. Some people can write brilliantly for days, some for an hour. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just your creative limit. I can only write for an hour or two before I have to take a break, and get back to it. If i kept writing it would be drivel. Horrible, Horrible drivel. So you shouldn’t really force yourself to write.
    Get out there. Don’t be shy. Put your blog on your url an dcomment on author blogs, podcasts e.t.c. Youd be suprised how many editors pop in to these things. And i fyou ever meet an editor in person don’t mumble or be shy. It’s a mutual bussines relationship. They’re not doing it out of charity. Thruthfully if your story sells you’re helping thme as much as they’re helping you.

    • Sarah J. Maas June 8, 2010 at 2:52 PM #

      That’s fantastic advice!!!! Thank you so much for sharing it!

  5. Olga June 8, 2010 at 9:09 AM #

    Numbers 5 and 1 especially struck home for me. I have a terrible habit of throwing my hands up in defeat when stories aren’t coming along nicely. It’s why I have dozens of half-started projects littering my desk, computer, and mind. Thank you. 🙂 I also have an AWESOME CP (two, actually!!) but I’m not sure I’m good enough yet to be one myself!

    • Sarah J. Maas June 8, 2010 at 2:54 PM #

      🙂 I’m so glad you found this useful! Best of luck with your writing–and YAY for awesome CPs!!! 🙂

  6. Rowenna June 8, 2010 at 9:30 AM #

    First, condolences on the end of your vacation. 🙂 Second, great post! I think I needed a kick in the pants this week–too many excuses piling up on why I shouldn’t try as hard as I absolutely can. Thanks!

    • Sarah J. Maas June 8, 2010 at 2:54 PM #

      Thank you!!! 🙂 So glad to be of service!

  7. svonnah June 8, 2010 at 9:38 AM #

    Fabulous article, as always 🙂 I particularly like the bit about paying it forward, and appreciate how you used real-life examples.

  8. Kat Zhang June 8, 2010 at 12:22 PM #

    Wonderful advice, Sarah. These rules could be applied well to just about every kind of work, I think–or even life in general! I’m glad you had a great time in Costa Rica, and I’m happy to have you back!

  9. Myra June 8, 2010 at 12:25 PM #

    This is really good advice, especially about patience! Haha. I’d add networking, but then, you don’t have to do it–though if you do it certainly makes the journey more fun. You meet so many great people that way. 🙂 Which reminds me–I really ought to start using Twitter. My Blackberry has an app for it, I just need to figure out how to use it. Heh.

    Paying it forward is SUCH great advice, though. The first person who told me I could write, when I thought it could never ever happen, was Holly Lisle. I thought writing was nothing but a pipe dream–something akin to becoming a Hollywood actress (another dream of mine when I was growing up). I gave up acting, but I continued to write. Why? Because one person–only one person–told me I could do it when a million others said no. One authors’ kindness made me realise I could do anything–even the “impossible”…

    So, really, I want to extend thank you to everyone who reaches out to pay it forward–including everyone here at LTWF. You guys rock. Some people wouldn’t be here today without that advice. 🙂

    • Sarah J. Maas June 8, 2010 at 2:57 PM #


      Networking is also SO important! Get your Twitter working on your blackberry! It makes everything so much easier! 🙂

      Isn’t it wonderful how just one person can change your life, and give you so much hope? 🙂

      Thanks again!

      • Vanessa June 8, 2010 at 2:58 PM #

        I need Twitter on my blackberry!!!

  10. Vanessa June 8, 2010 at 12:50 PM #

    This was such a great article, Sarah!

    I absolutely 100% agree with helping others. You never know where it can lead you, and you can improve so much yourself! I think that’s one of the reasons why being a critique partner is great: you’re able to help someone else succeed and improve themselves. And along the way, you’ll not only make a great friend who understands your frustrations and desires, but improve your editorial skills as well! Which can benefit a person when they start revisions.

    And patience is SO key! I couldn’t agree more!


    • Sarah J. Maas June 8, 2010 at 2:58 PM #

      Thank youuu!

      I think patience has been the hardest thing for me to learn, actually. I still have days where I just stare at my gmail, and refresh it a million times (even when I know gmail will automatically do it)!

  11. Amanda J. June 8, 2010 at 1:18 PM #

    This is a fantastic post. So great that I’d like to link to it tomorrow on my own blog to share the awesome. I know a lot of writers who could benefit from this as much as I just did.

    Thank you! 🙂

    • Sarah J. Maas June 8, 2010 at 2:59 PM #

      Thank you!! 🙂 And thanks in advance for giving it a shout-out on your blog tomorrow! 🙂 I feel so honored!

  12. Mac_V June 8, 2010 at 2:43 PM #

    A lot of these really are common sense, but it’s so true that they need to be said. It’s good to be reminded of things that are so obvious sometimes. I especially agree with if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. A lot of people could use a reminder of that!

    Thanks for the great tips and I’m glad you had an amazing wedding and honeymoon! 😀


    • Sarah J. Maas June 8, 2010 at 3:00 PM #

      Thank you!

      And yeah, you’d be surprised by how often we forget the simple stuff. I still have to remind myself to be patient, lol! And yeah–LOTS of people don’t know how to behave properly online–I’ve seen a lot of authors destroy their reputations because of their poor online behavior. It’s sad, really.

  13. Biljana June 8, 2010 at 4:08 PM #

    Great article, and great advice. Being classy is a BIG one, cus it affects your reputation in the eyes of people you’ve never even talked to.

    And Number 2 is basically what you did for me when I first started talking to you. So yeah, thanks for that :).

    • Sarah J. Maas June 8, 2010 at 4:10 PM #

      Awww! 🙂 Thank YOU. ❤ ❤

  14. Gabriela da Silva June 8, 2010 at 6:16 PM #

    Ahahahah, number 2 can give me troubles, I admit. I can do patience (not easily, but I can do it), I can research, and I was pretty much trained to be classy from the moment I learned to speak.

    But it’s sometimes hard to help others.
    Maybe that makes me sound like an awful person (which I’m kind of ok with being, it’s always fun to change people’s minds) but it’s the truth. I, too, have the feeling that everyone I help might/will steal “territory” from me in the future.

    It’s a silly notion – it makes _me_ go LOLwut?, I can only imagine what other people think when they read it.

    So I try to help even as I think GRAAH NO! That’s ENEMY!!1
    Because, to quote the Beatles, “In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
    The one’s you help might/will help in the future, and even if they don’t, good karma is good karma.

    So yeah, TL;DR version: I’m trying not to let my paranoid side control me and instead help when people ask.

    Also, LOVE the new layout!!

    • Sarah J. Maas June 9, 2010 at 7:42 PM #

      Wow, thank you so much for your honesty! I’m so impressed! You should definitely not let your paranoia get the better of you–it’s really wonderful to help people!

  15. Jane June 8, 2010 at 9:36 PM #

    Great advice! Such simple things but very hard to put into practice.

    ‘Sarah resides with her fiancé’-Husband now:)


    I LOVE the new layout as well. Professional, pretty and bright! I was pleasantly surprised.

    • Sarah J. Maas June 9, 2010 at 7:43 PM #

      Omg! You’re so right!! YAY! I get to call him my husband now!!! 😀

      So glad you like the new layout!

  16. Vahini June 9, 2010 at 1:31 AM #

    Great post! I’m glad your honey moon was awesome 😀

    And you kind of rock at all this stuff, Sarah. You were so kind and helpful when I wrote my very first suck-y synopsis. And when you listened to me battling over which agent to choose. Mandy was pretty epic in terms of giving advice then, too. I ❤ you guys 😀

    I definitely think this is the sort of business where paying it forward is just essential. It's really good for your soul (kinda like writers' chicken soup :)). I really love helping other writers out, but I don't think I've been doing enough of that lately.

    Remedying that now by giving away free query crits to all and sundry, now. Yay! 🙂

    • Sarah J. Maas June 9, 2010 at 7:44 PM #

      Aww, thanks, Vee! 🙂 I’m so glad to have been a part of your journey to publication! 🙂

      And YAY for free query crits! That’s SO awesome!!!

  17. Hannah June 9, 2010 at 2:02 PM #

    Patience and perseverance are key. That is what I’ve learned. And most importantly, have fun! 🙂 Most of us got into this business because we love writing. It’s good to never forget that.

    • Sarah J. Maas June 9, 2010 at 7:45 PM #

      Definitely!! 🙂 Having fun is SO important!

  18. Marina Richards June 9, 2010 at 5:38 PM #

    Oh my gosh, what a fantastic post, Sarah! Especially the part about patience and not refreshing your inbox and stalking Twitter! I had to laugh–at myself–at this one, as I’m on submission now and fighting every instinct I have to not email my agent and bug her about “What’s happening now?” In fact, I think I’ll hit the treadmill. Thanks for the inspiration and advice. And I will pay it forward, too. I totally believe you give, you get and so on. Thank you. 🙂

    • Sarah J. Maas June 9, 2010 at 7:46 PM #

      Thank you! 🙂 Being on subs is SO tough–I JUMPED every time the phone rang! And I definitely had days where I’d have the urge to pester my agent, even though she promised me to let me know if there was any news! Good luck with subs–I’m sure you’ll get The Call soon! 😀

      • Marina Richards June 10, 2010 at 12:01 AM #

        Thanks, Sarah! I appreciate that! Do you mind if I ask if got The Call quickly, or did it take a while?

        • Sarah J. Maas June 10, 2010 at 12:08 AM #

          Not at all! It’s kind of complex. We went on subs at the end of July of 2009. I found out that they were interested at the end of November/early December, but that they wanted me to submit an outline for the revisions/rewrite they wanted me to do (but I only had to submit an outline before they offered, I didn’t have to touch the ms at all). Then we contacted the remaining editors with the ms, but ultimately decided we were in a great place with Bloomsbury and that we wanted to pursue the outline thing. So, I wrote the outline in January, then it was a series of hoops (getting various departments to say yes, etc.)…I didn’t get The Official Call until mid-March. So, I guess you could say we were on subs officially for around 7 months, but it kinda ended around the 4-month period (when we learned they were very interested in QOG).

          …Really confusing, lol. But the 3 months I was waiting to get an official answer from them were absolute agony.

  19. Marina Richards June 10, 2010 at 12:39 AM #

    Oh, Sarah, thanks so much for your reply. You really earned your wings regarding the hurry up and wait process, didn’t you? Not confusing at all. I understood what you were saying. Wow, that must have been torture, but now you should be so proud of yourself. Well, be proud no matter what, yet having the stamina to endure a long wait only made you stronger, I’ll bet.
    Thanks for this!! 🙂 Bloomsbury is lucky to have you. (I’m on sub there right now, in fact!)

    • Sarah J. Maas June 10, 2010 at 1:52 PM #

      My pleasure! 🙂 Good luck with subs!!! It’d be so awesome if we could be pub sisters! 🙂 Keep me posted!

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