I am a high school student who has tracked the publishing industry for the past few years. I'm planning to write a how-to guide, and I'd love to hear your comments.
1. I helped co-found a teen writing website called Teens Writing For Teens.
I want to write a writing manual for people my age, but I'm not sure if
my platform is big enough. I've won a Scholastic Award for writing, but
I've never been published before.
Your site looks very professional. If that's you who has an agent, as
one of the articles on the site says, the agent should know whether any
publishers would be interested in your writing manual for teens.
Publishers mainly care whether they can make lots of money to help pay not only the expenses
of editing and proofreading and printing books and designing covers and shipping the books to bookstores, but also stuff that has nothing to do with your book like paying the
ridiculous salary of the CEO and tipping the guy who delivers my daily cheese danishes from Andre's Hungarian. If they don't think they can unload at least five or ten thousand copies of your book, they can't be bothered. The good news is that if your site has hundreds of loyal readers who think you're the cat's meow, you could print up 50 or 100 copies and maybe they'll buy them. The bad news is that you've just turned 20, and your teen readers now consider you old and out of touch.
2. I'm competing with professors and adults who've
gotten MFA's. Believe me--my experience querying previous manuscripts
leaves me with no illusions about how competitive the industry can get
(I've been a reader of your blog since I was twelve years old, by the
way). However, I'm writing from a unique point of view. Shouldn't that
count for something?
It might, but the query and sample pages you or your agent prepares had better show how unique your point of view is. Even those writing manuals by professors and MFA snobs don't sell like Harry Potter and the Spell Book of Scorpio will when it comes out next year. (Oops, I wasn't supposed to reveal that yet.) In fact, with the exceptions of Evil Editor's Why You Don't Get Published, vols. 1 & 2, no writing manual has ever been read start to finish, and few have sold more than 50 copies. If I were your agent I'd suggest that you self-publish the writing manual and start work on a paranormal YA novel now, while you still remember what it's like to be a YA. But I'm not your agent, so I recommend trusting her rather than me.