Dear Author Enabler,
Within the last three months, I’ve written about 40 short stories (flash fiction—less than 1,000 words). Twenty have been published so far in online literary “zines.” My question is, what now? I know a collection would be a hard sell since I haven’t written a best-selling novel. What about an anthology or an agent?
Marian Brooks
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

A collection of short stories is harder to sell than a novel, but then, it isn’t easy to sell any first fiction because editors are unwilling to take risks on unknown authors. There is, however, a path to getting published.

Submit your best individual stories to established magazines and literary journals. Your credibility is enhanced if your work is already published. Also, submit to short story competitions—awards can build both your confidence and your reputation.

Next, submit to one of the smaller publishing houses, which are often more open to printing lesser-known authors. Attend writer conferences and workshops, meet some insiders and work at finding an agent who believes in your work.

Dear Author Enabler,
I have a good story (according to a local published author) based on real individuals, but after two years have hit a wall on finding enough historical details to complete the story (circa 1906-1915). I could create a storyline of what might have occurred, but I’m sure the real story is more interesting. How would I find a “history detective” with a track record in historical nonfiction to collaborate with?
Tallmadge, Ohio

Many writers feel daunted by the research involved in a project, and sometimes collaboration is the answer. But in this case, and in most cases, I think it makes more sense to dig in and do the research yourself, or take advantage of a novelist’s power and make up your own reality.

It may seem both correct and easier to engage another person in your project, but if you do, how are you going to pay them? Who will be the author of the book? And why are you shying away from the role you volunteered for: author?

There is no absolute right or wrong answer here, but my gut tells me that you should dive in and finish this project on your own. Most of the best books are written by one person. Embrace your passion and see where it goes.

Dear Author Enabler,
I recently read
Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay. The plot involved a mentally ill man who witnesses a murder while browsing the web.
I would love to know the outcome of the story but cannot because it is so filled with smut as to be unreadable. My question is, why? A capable author should be able to make his characters come alive without filthy language. If this is something that will not be changed, is it possible to rate books in the same way we do movies, to better enable readers to make more informed choices?
Gail Lipsett
Newton, New Hampshire

We live in a country that allows free speech to a degree unparalleled elsewhere in the world. While this right is central to the strength of our great nation, it also means that readers may encounter writing they find offensive. My advice is, don’t buy anything else written by this author and don’t recommend his writing. However, you must accept that many readers will disagree with you. Certainly that is the case with Linwood Barclay, who is a very popular and respected writer.

As far as ratings go, I believe that there are many readily available ways to determine if a book will be offensive to your sensibilities. My favorite is to stand in a bookstore or library and read a few pages; I can usually tell if a book will work for me. Also, I like to check with readers whose opinions I value, as well as booksellers and librarians. And of course you can always read reviews from trusted sources such as BookPage.

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