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The importance of writers' groups

By Marcella Simmons
Editor/Publisher, Cahaba River Literary Journal

firstwriter.com – Tuesday August 20, 2013

About two weeks ago, I submitted a query letter about my romance novel to an agent found online. Three days after submitting the letter, several emails from this agency were in my Inbox – but it was no literary agent at all. It was a "Print on Demand" company who was trying to get me to pay them $4,500+ to print my book. I emailed the company back, declining their offer and letting them know that my book was submitted to several traditional publishers.

That same day, a phone call came in from the agency. The guy, "Tom", was well educated and had his sales pitch intact. He wasn't giving up! But again, I declined his offer and I told him "If my book isn't worthy to be paid for by a traditional publisher then it's not worthy to be paid for out of my pocket."

"You must be part of a writers' group," he said. "They always tell their members not to self-publish. If you're not Oprah Winfrey or Martha Stewart, no traditional publisher will ever read your book, let alone publish it. Writers groups are like 'the blind leading the blind' and my suggestion is to quit these groups – they can't help you," he said. "In order to get published with traditional companies, it's really a matter of who you are or who you know."

I hung the phone up before he could say another word. He has sent me five emails since and I reported him as SPAM.

The very next morning at 8:00 I received an email from Harlequin Books requesting a synopsis and the first three chapters of my book. I emailed "Tom" and said "Well, I'm not Oprah or Martha but looks like you were wrong, Buddy!" They haven't agreed to publish my book yet but they are considering it, and to me, that's a step in the right direction.

My book has been critiqued by several members of my group. Some of the advice I took with a grain of salt yet they caught flaws and typos that I didn't see. I took some advice and made changes on my manuscript that made it better.

My synopsis and the first three chapters are on their way via email and now it's just a matter of waiting on the editor's response.

Writer's groups are support groups – we all lean on each other and learn a lot of valuable information each month. We may be "the blind leading the blind" but that's okay too – there's nothing wrong with gleaning inspiration, encouragement and motivation from others – especially those just like we are.

Every group is different, as are writers. There are Christian writers; romance writers; sports writers; newspaper and magazine writers; there are poets and fiction writers; and children writers; business and technical writers... If there is a group in your area, attend it a couple of times to see if its right for you. If there isn't a group in your community, start one.

I attend several groups and started a Christian writers group in our area. This has been one of the greatest adventures I've ever been on and what I have learned from each group is priceless. It's like taking a writing class every week.

The next time someone refers to my group as "the blind leading the blind", I will invite him to join us because he definitely doesn't know anything about writers' groups!

About the Author

Marcella has over 650 published credits nationwide in hundreds of small press publications and newspapers. She is the Editor/Publisher of Cahaba River Literary Journal at http://cahabariverliteraryjournal.com/.

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