Surviving the Publishing Industry

Walter Mosley

Lesson time 10:33 min

The publishing industry can be daunting. Walter provides tips on how to get the most out of your connections, face the prejudices, and come out on top.

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Topics include: Writers’ Workshops and Finding Agents · Don’t Let Labels in the Industry Define You · Accept That It May Take Years · Finding Your Path and Following Your Heart


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Well, I wrote a novel, "Gone Fishin'," and I said, well, I want to get it published. I sent it to a whole bunch of agents and some publishers, and everyone said, wonderful writing, wonderful characterisation, but it's not commercial. Can't publish it. Can't represent it. I later on realized-- this was in 1987, '88-- I realized that they were saying that the two main characters are young Black men in the deep South, not necessarily educated. There are Black women in it, but they're not major characters in it. There's only one white person in it, and she's crazy. And they said to me, well, white people don't want to read about Black people, Black women don't like Black men, and Black men don't read, so who's going to buy your book? That was basically the concept. I met a guy once who wanted to be a boxer. And so he was working at it. He was working out in the gym. He was sparring with people. And he got in the ring one day with a guy who hit him in the liver. Now, in boxing, if you hit somebody in the liver, it hurts. A lot. And he hit him, and the guy was complaining, man, that hurt! That hurt! I could feel that! That hurt! And the guy who was working with him said, look, this is boxing. If you're boxing, you're going to get hit. If you don't want to get hit, you shouldn't be in boxing. Maybe you should get into some new sport called hitting, because it's not going to work, you boxing and not getting hit. Now, there are all kinds of critics in fiction. There are all kinds of prejudices in fiction. There are all kinds of people saying, I never read women, I never read men, I never read Black people, I never read white people, I don't read science fiction, I don't read mysteries. They have no idea what that means, like all mysteries are the same, all science fiction's the same. And you run into these problems-- everybody runs into these problems. So what do you do about it? You live with it. You say, oh, yeah. You get hit. And that's it. You accept that. [MUSIC PLAYING] Three ways that are good ways to learn to be a better writer is, one, to write every day, every day, every day, never stopping. No holidays, no vacations, nothing. Every day. The second thing is to read your work out loud so you can hear it, so that you can understand the dialogue, so you can understand the sentences, so maybe you can see where it is not working and where it is working. And of course, the other thing is that social part of it, maybe to be in a workshop, maybe just to have some person that you share back and forth with, some way to work with others, to actually hear somebody reading your work. Some people just want to work by themselves alone, work on their book. OK, let's put that person aside from the minute. If I were writing, I would try to find a writers' workshop somewhere. That makes some sense. They're in every city. Not these big universities that charge you $50,000, but a place that costs you $200, $300 a...

About the Instructor

Walter Mosley, bestselling author and recipient of the National Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement Medal, has written more than 60 books over his 30-year career and is celebrated for fiction that addresses our culture’s racial divides. Now he’s sharing the elements of storytelling that have helped him along the way. Learn how to choose the right words, structure, genre, and characters to create the novel that’s in you.

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Walter Mosley

In his MasterClass, Walter Mosley teaches you how to rethink genres and the “rules” of fiction and how to approach writing your own novel.

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