Today we talk with Jon McGoran, a crime writer and member of the Liar’s Club. McGoran talks about important organizations for crime writers, social media for writers and ways to find an agent.
When you come to Push to Publish, stop over and say hello to Jon (http://www.philadelphiastories.org/push-publish-2012-strategies-and-techniques-get-your-work-print-and-online)
Wittle: What has been your experience writing in the genre of crime fiction?
McGoran: I enjoy writing in several different genres, mostly in the thriller/crime/mystery spectrum, but also science fiction and other genres. I started out writing science fiction when I was a kid, before turning to a life of crime, so to speak, but I guess I have a hard time letting go of any of these genres. I like to combine aspects of mysteries and crime novels with strong thriller elements, so for me it’s not an either or genre thing, its actually more a spectrum thing, which element does it lean more heavily toward. So while most of my writing has been crime thrillers, I’ve never lost that sci-fi itch, entirely. The D.H. Dublin books, as forensic thrillers, had a scientific edge to them that I really enjoyed writing. My latest book, Drift, along with its sequel, which I am now writing, are both ecological thrillers with a definite mystery and a scientific angle that make them a perfect fit for me,
Wittle: What advice would you give someone looking to find an agent?
McGoran: There is plenty of great advice out there on how to find an agent, but one thing that is often overlooked by writers looking for agents is the importance of looking among the agents who are looking for you. Yes, it is great to approach the agent for the best-selling author who is the top of your genre, and many writers have had great success with that route. But the more successful an agent already is, the less incentive she might have to take a chance on you, and the less likely she is to have room on the roster for one more writer. So another tactic is, in addition to all the other criteria that make an agent a good fit for you, look for the agents who are open to the prospect of taking on someone new. The guides to literary agents are great resources with helpful information about which agents are open to new writers, but it takes a while for a book to come out in print, and often ties by the time it does, it is old news. It can be more fruitful to look for agents who are in some stage of transition: just promoted, just joined an agency, just went out on their own, just left a editorial position to become an agent. Those are the times agents are most likely to be actively looking for writers to represent, and most likely to give you a nice long look. So look at Publishers Marketplace, look at Publishers Weekly, and scour the personnel news. When you see someone promising who is making a move, that’s the best time to make a move of your own.
Wittle: How important is it for a writer to have a social presence when trying to market a book?
McGoran: It is incredibly important for writers to have a strong social presence at every step of the way, before and after they are published. Once you have a book to sell, it’s extremely important to have an established social presence, both personally, through conferences, conventions, and associations, etc., and via social media. Much more of the burden of marketing books falls on the writer these days, and those social connections are vital parts of that marketing effort. But those social connections can also be a vital support network on your way to getting published. Writing is great, but being a writer can kind of suck sometimes: when you just want to chill out, and everyone else is watching TV or sleeping late or going to bed at a reasonable hour. It is not an unreasonable decision to say to heck with it, I just want to chill out and watch TV. But if you want to be a writer, you have to keep writing, and one of the best ways to keep writing is to be in contact with other writers. You get to share knowledge and talk about craft, to commiserate and share horror stories, but you also get energized and reminded that you are not the only person suffering from this unfortunate disease. That kind of support can also help you maintain the momentum to keep working, or to get back to work, to finish what you’re working on and get it published.
Now, the type of support you need once you get published can be very different from the support you needed when you were trying to get there, but it’s a great feeling once you get that deal to know you are not alone, that you already have a network of writers and readers who are your friends and your comrades and that are ready to help make your book a success.
For many writers, this social aspect is hard, and for them, it is especially important. When you finally find yourself with a book to sell, you’re not going to get much of a sales boost by sitting at home alone, so you’d better get out there and practice being sociable now. And once you get over yourself and try it, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is. And not because you have some inner strength you didn’t know you had (although you might), but because book people are awesome – readers, writers, booksellers, reviewers, librarians – they totally rock. Getting to know a lot of them is one of the best perks of being a writer.
Wittle: What organizations do you feel I writer should be a part of?
McGoran: Being a member of The Liars Club has been immensely important to me; it has led to some of the most important friendships in my life and has provided me with many opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had. It’s a small, closed group, so obviously I’m not recommending other people join it, but there is nothing to stop other writers from forming their own groups, mutual support networks. Writing groups are great, but it’s also great to be a part of a group that’s not about the craft, it’s about the business, and about the life. The Liar’s Club’s Writers’ Coffeehouses also provides a great free venue to meet other writers, and learn and build your network. If you’re writing in a genre, or even if you are not, the genre-specific organizations are hugely helpful. I have gotten a lot out of the Mystery Writer Association and International Thriller Writers. Other genres like science fiction and romance also have very robust organizations.
Jonathan McGoran’s Bio:
Jon McGoran is the author of Drift, an ecological thriller coming out Summer 2013 from Tor/Forge. Writing as D. H. Dublin, he is the author of the forensic crime thrillers Freezer Burn, Blood Poison, and Body Trace. His short fiction, nonfiction and satire have appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies. He is a founding member of the Liars Club. As Communications Director at Weavers Way Co-op, he is editor of the monthly newspaper, The Shuttle.