In the course of a normal work week—if any of my work weeks can be called “normal”—I get asked a question or two. Or fifty. And, while there are no stupid questions, or so I was told by my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Hoffmann, some questions prompt more illuminating answers than others do. So I’ve picked a few that clients and others have asked recently, along with my answers (cleaned up a bit, probably, to make me sound more polite and knowledgeable this time around), in the hope that they might help someone out there in Writerworld.
The novel I have just started writing requires 4 POV characters to work. Is this a problem, considering I am unpublished?
I don’t think being unpublished has anything to do with it (though, sure, there are some things—like writing in omniscient POV—that I don’t recommend for any but the most accomplished and established writers). But you’re right to ask the question because, unless you’re writing a Russian novel, it’s possible to have too many POV characters. Four could work if you’re careful and skilled—and confident—but I wouldn’t try more than that.
Why should I work hard to get just the right title for my book proposal when the publisher will probably change it anyway?
Well, yes, a publisher may eventually change it; but you can’t shop and sell it without a really strong title (and perhaps subtitle). Remember, you have one chance for your proposal to make an irresistible first impression on an editor. The title is a big part of that.
I just learned there’s another novel soon to release that has several similarities to mine. Is this reason for concern? Should I stop and revamp?
Whatever you do, don’t read it. And don’t worry about the similarities. Your story will be yours. It may (or may not) affect how that book’s publisher receives your proposal but shouldn’t kill your project.
Do I need to steer clear of pitching article ideas that are in the same wheelhouse as the book I plan to pitch?
On the contrary, write and publish all the articles you can in the same wheelhouse (though I don’t suggest compiling a book from your blog posts and articles; that’s a different story). It can actually help your case when you’re ready to pitch a book to be able to mention that you’ve published articles along the same lines as your book idea.
Are you able to explain why Christian publishers—who believe in an afterlife, obviously—cannot fathom ghost-whisperers?
This one made me chuckle. True, Christian publishers do believe in an afterlife. But they tend to be pretty careful about concepts—like ghost-whispering—that ignore, depart from, or conflict with orthodox Christian belief. In general, ghosts and ghost-whisperers would fit that description; and pitching a “ghost-whisperer” book to a Christian publisher suggests that the writer doesn’t fully understand the publisher or the market.
Questions like these remind me that, as a client recently said, “I have so much to learn!” We all do. Writing for publication isn’t for the faint of heart, nor for the person who believes he or she knows everything. Because none of us do. Except maybe my boss.