On November 1st, the publishing industry got a little quieter, all thanks to a month-long “contest” steadily growing in participants and controversy. Writers outline and plan novels in preparation for November aka NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) when they commence writing 50K words towards a novel. And in December, many of them descend on literary agents and publishers with their first draft manuscript, thereby inducing the publishing community to silently close their submissions (or wish they had) until well into the new year.
Is this why there are so many hate letters to NaNoWriMo written by literary agents and editors? Exhibits A and B.
There’s a plethora of tutorials, tips, and pep talks designed for writers to help them prep for, participate in and ideally pull off the incredible feat of 50,000 words in 30 days. But what about the rest of the book people? Authors are our creative collaborators, and around half a million of them are becoming super-writers for a month. It seems like it might be time for publishing folk to get in on this annual hoopla, because really, at the core of this writing project is simply the promotion of creativity, which sounds an awful lot like the intention of copyright law.
So here we go, a 3-step guide to #NaNoWriMo for Publishing Folk:
Connect with authors
Despite the post-WriMo inbox flux, #NaNoWriMo is actually a great filter for connecting with authors. So many writers take this month as a challenge to flex their writing muscle; of course, not every participant will be a winner. Not every manuscript will merit the revision process, and not every author will persevere through the inevitable rejection(s). This is the natural publishing process on steroids. So, let NaNoWriMo run its course, and maybe dispense some motivation to your partners in creativity for good measure.
Share your wisdom
NaNoWriMo “winners” are excited about their success, and ready for the next step. After spending a month at an extreme writing pace, many are likely to jump onto the publishing train at a similarly fast pace, potentially skipping important steps. Take the opportunity this month to manage expectations. “First drafts require second drafts”, and “completed drafts require editing”, and so on. Regardless of whether you’re a publisher, literary agent or freelancer, sharing your experience and knowledge could bring you a new author.
Engage in community
With the slow upheaval in publishing by digital publishing and media, more spaces online and off (like BookMachine) are discussing ideas that further shake up the industry. We talk about the pros and cons of recent innovations, the necessary skills and experience for getting into this industry, and we share our failures that result in lessons learned. So, let’s learn something from NaNoWriMo. This challenge requires writers to focus their time, energy and creative abilities, but it also provides them a special community to gain insights and support. We could all stand to refocus our work and connect with like-minded colleagues.
This article first appeared on the BookMachine blog.
Bree Weber is a book designer and publishing consultant who loves Oxford commas.
In London, Bree studied for her MA in Publishing Culture, while working for several large publishing houses, including Penguin and MacMillan. This is also where her latte addiction first flourished.
Post-Europe, Bree contributed to NYC boutique presses and literary agencies as a digital marketeer and publishing consultant, until deciding the road was the place for her.
Now, as a digital nomad and founder of The Book Octopus, Bree uses her traditional publishing experience to help indie authors produce, publish and promote their books.
If you want to connect with Bree you can reach out to her on Twitter at
@thebookoctopus and on thebookoctopus.com.