Finding a publisher: It’s a lot like trick-or-treating

image Welcome to a special Halloween Edition of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing! What makes this week’s NWOW special? In addition to offering writing tips gained from my 15 years as a columnist, I am in Maine this morning dressed as “Pennywise” and waiting in the bushes outside the home of Stephen King!


Because what better way to kick off a special Halloween NWOW than by scaring The Master of Horror® himself! I’ve been working all week on my scary clown voice and borrowed a costume from my neighbor, who, as I discovered, has a whole closet full of costumes. (I didn’t ask why.)

Shhhhh! Here he comes!

“HE-LLOOOO STEVIEEEEE!!… Ummmm, Mr. King?… Sir? oh crap…”

Update: Ok, so that didn’t go as well as I thought. Fortunately, being a firefighter, I know CPR and was able to bring Mr. King — or “The Plaintiff” as I’ve been told to address him — back from a flatline. I was also able to extinguish a small fire I started in the bushes when my “Pennywise” cigar fell out of my mouth and landed in some bark. These are points my lawyer says “Shows you had good intentions, plus could be helpful if we go with ‘insanity’ as our defense…”

But enough accolades!

Finding a publisher is a lot like trick-or-treating. Though you know there are many other vampires roaming the streets going from publishing house to publishing house vying for the same candy, you dress up and go anyway because you know you’re different; There seem to be just as many publishing houses with their lights out as there are with their lights on; When someone does come to the door, you are routinely asked “Who are you supposed to be?” before leaving with a handful of Tums because the real candy was handed out already.

As kids, we don’t let that discourage us. We know the next house could be handing out king-sized Snickers bars. Or that Mrs. Hollins might answer the door wearing her Catwoman costume again. As writers, we have to do the same. And by that I don’t mean dressing as Catwoman; I mean remaining optimistic by remembering to enjoy the process — not just the end result. When we were kids, thinking about and then deciding on our costume, as well as finding all the right components, was as exciting as taking that first step out the door on Halloween night. Even if your vampire fangs immediately filled with drool and felt like wearing someone else’s dentures, there was no stopping the excitement of transforming yourself into something of your own creation and offering it to the world.

We do the same as writers every time we push the “post” button or send an article or manuscript to a publisher or agent. We take what we have transformed from a blank screen or sheet of paper into something of our own creation and offer it to the world. Then, too often, we set our sites on the candy instead of taking time to enjoying what we have created and taking that first step outside.

Just like the excitement that filled us as kids each time we left one door and headed down the street to the next, we need to take time to revel in the anticipation — so that we will remember it when, at some point, Mrs. Hollins hands us that king-sized Snickers.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

33 thoughts on “Finding a publisher: It’s a lot like trick-or-treating”

  1. You are mind-reader scary….how fitting on Halloween!

    I was thinking about posting this as a question…along with many others that have surfaced as I get ready to write my first book (starting tomorrow!!) Agents and queries and platforms-oh my!!!

    I won’t bug you right away…you have Stephen to deal with right now.

    1. I have a feeling both our minds are always a little scary, Michelle 😉

      I’m really excited for you to begin your first book tomorrow! It’s a journey you’ll never regret taking. Like any journey, there will be peaks and valleys — take time to enjoy the view from wherever you are 😉

      I’m looking forward to your question and any chance to help. As long as there’s no climbing involved until after my surgery…

      1. Duly noted! I’m not so much worried about the climb as much as a tumbling fall to the bottom!
        I’ll send you a short note here in a bit.
        In the meantime, hope you are having a great Friday and stay away from the goblins!

  2. I was the morning paper route carrier in my neighborhood – so I always had to disguise myself really well when trick-or-treating. Several times before I figured that out – my customers who had not paid their subscription “current” would suddenly turn out the lights and pull the curtains hoping I had not noticed. Seems like publishers do that to me now……

  3. Reblogged this on The TuneUp Promotions Blog and commented:
    I’m lazy (or busy) again. So here is my Intro to this Re-Blog: I was the morning paper route carrier in my neighborhood – so I always had to disguise myself really well when trick-or-treating. Several times before I figured that out – my customers who had not paid their subscription “current” would suddenly turn out the lights and pull the curtains hoping I had not noticed. Seems like publishers do that to me now……

  4. Given I’m currently querying my second novel, I love your analogy to trick-or-treating. I sure hope I have a treat in my future because the tricks (cleverly called ‘rejections’ to make them sound better) aren’t so fun…

  5. You’re always so generous and prescient in sharing these tips, along with your encouragement and enthusiasm for a process that can be pretty discouraging. I sometimes find it has all too much in common with dating!

    1. I really appreciate that and am glad I can send some encouragement out there. And your comparison to dating is perfect, except for never wanting to sleep with my publisher…

  6. you had me terrified with the picture. clowns are just pure evil. and i like your analogy, sometimes you get the homemade popcorn balls and there’s not much you can do about it, but give them to an unsuspecting younger sibling.

  7. Trick or treating has only recently begun to catch on down here, just as with finding a publisher it’s lean pickings for those who do go out. We do however have a lot of clowns.

  8. Since it was Halloween I couldn’t resist sharing your blog with my writers’ group as a couple of the gals are bleeding from banging their heads against brick walls. I keep telling them to wrap in bubble wrap but they haven’t listened to me yet Thanks for sharing your fun and excellent advice.

      1. They most definitely have hard heads. One gal sent out 10 queries regarding her book. She is looking forward to receiving a gigantic Snickers bar for her efforts! 😉

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