Kate McKean’s Rules
Let the arguing begin
Last week, Twitter (i.e. New York media Twitter) was all aflutter about this article in The Cut, a vertical of New York magazine that laid out the rules for…everything. How to tip, how to seat famous people at your dinner parties (lol), etc etc etc. It was wonderfully distracting and as Rusty called it in Today in Tabs (highly recommended newsletter!) “a transparent and massively successful bid for group-chat virality.” I talked about it in my group chat and at home and on Twitter. Fun! Engaging! The rules themselves are at least half bullshit and half absolutely correct (but which half varies from person to person). Fantastic. I love it. More media like this, please!
So, what else can I do a full week after the news cycle has run its course? Post my own take on it! Herewith are Kate McKean’s Rules. Keep in mind, these are mine and may not be yours. They all won’t apply to you! That’s the point!
There are no emergencies in publishing.
Your heart might be racing because there’s a typo in your query or book or whatever. Or the celebrity (’s handler) who requested a copy of your galley has now waited 76 hours for the book and still doesn’t have it—but these are not emergencies. They are not reasons to lose sleep or text your agent/editor at 1am. (Not that you would anyway, right???) Outside of maybe getting the actual book to the printer on time (because that affects the publication date and that can be important, but still not life or death!) there are no actual emergencies in the making of books. I promise. Take a breath.
Don’t leave bad reviews. Don’t tag authors in bad reviews on social media.
Some people don’t agree with me here! That’s fine! But I M H O no review is more effective than a bad review when it comes to telling the world what you thought of a book. Many times your “bad” review says more about you than it does the book! Either way, ABSOLUTELY do not tag an author in a bad review online. How would you like it if someone tagged you on a post of a picture of your baby and said “wow this baby is ugly.” That’s what it feels like when you snitchtag an author in a bad review.
Don’t correct other people’s tyops.
I don’t care if it’s in this newsletter, the New York Times, a <gasp> published book or in some tweet. Typos happen. They’re fine. They do not signal that something is low-quality, unimportant, or unattended to. It just means it was made by humans. And these days, isn’t that comforting????
Spend more time revising than writing.
Listen, I’m still learning this one myself. Whether you’re a fast drafter or not, I think you should spend the same if not more (ideally more) time editing as you do writing. Editing is writing. Editing is polishing your gem. It sucks sucks sucks and I know don’t want to do it, and maybe don’t even know how to do it, but you didn’t really know how to write a book until you did it either, and you’ll learn this part, too.
Your cousin the divorce attorney doesn’t know shit about your book contract, just like your dentist doesn’t know shit about your gallstones.
All contracts are not the same. All people who have been trained (barely!) in the art of contracts are not familiar with the ins and out and industry standards of book contracts. You might not need an agent, but if you’re looking for someone to legally vet your book contract, make sure it’s some who’s actually done it before. And in the last five years.
If your kid is not in elementary school, don’t send out that picture book query yet. You haven’t read enough picture books to know if yours is any good.
This is another one I have fallen prey to myself! Several times! I know it is tempting to try your hand at picture books after you’ve read a few dozen to your kid/niefling/friend’s kid/etc but RESIST THIS URGE. Read several hundred more picture books. I mean it. Hundreds!!! (They’re short and there are thousands at the library.) Everyone and their uncle is trying to write picture book (I am included here!!!!!) and everyone thinks they can do it easily because they are short and meant for (I guess less discerning????) children, but guess what? It is the hardest genre to write and publish in, hands down. Agents, editors, librarians, and parents are incredibly picky about what they bring into their client lists and publishing houses and libraries and homes. The bar is HIGH. Be prepared to work hard on your text if you want to publish a picture book. It’s not just a lesson conveyed in rhyming couplets.
Absolutely bitch about how slow, unfair, clueless, and out of touch agents are—just not TO us. Save it for the group chat.
Like, honestly. (And yes, this does happen. I know you are shocked, but it does!) If you must do this in public, just like with bad reviews, don’t tag us in your tweets or whatever. Don’t respond to our rejections with how much we’re going to REGRET passing on your book. Maybe we will!!!! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ That’s on us! Go complain to your friends and colleagues. I’m sure they have their complaints of their own. What you think of me is none of my business.
Always admit it if you haven’t read it. Whatever it is.
I have not read Moby Dick, Infinite Jest, Pride and Prejudice, Pachinko, any George RR Martin, most of Harry Potter, Tinkers, or Colleen Hoover. There are a lot of books! No one expects you to have read it all.
There is likely no ONE thing that will get your work rejected. There is no ONE thing that will get it accepted.
It’s never one thing. Try not to excavate your rejection, digging for that one thing you can point to or fix that will lead to success next time. Accept it and move on. There’s never one thing and you can almost never know exactly why someone passed on your work. It’s ok. It’s true for everyone.
If you loved a book, tell someone about it.
Online, in person, in a review, at the library, to the person holding that book on the subway. TELL SOMEONE. This is the #1 way to support books you love and books in general. Word of mouth is the single most effective form of marketing. If you’re trying to market your own book, tell people what other books you liked, and people with similar tastes will gravitate toward you and click your links and be like Hmmmm, maybe I would like her book too……
Don’t ask your agent/editor friend to read your book without making your expectations clear.
Do you secretly hope they will deem you a genius and roll out the publishing red carpet? Do you want honest and thorough feedback? Do you want support and congrats for actually finishing it, nothing else? Don’t be coy. Don’t use a friend as a shortcut.
No one got your book deal. No one is being successful AT you. (And mute/unfollow that person whose success makes you bitter.)
No one “deserves” a book deal, no matter how hard they work. It’s not a meritocracy! It’s not fair! It’s a business! No one is getting the thing that was/should have been earmarked for you. That said, if there’s someone out there who makes you seethe with rage because of what they got, mute or unfollow them! Avoid them at parties! You don’t have to invite that into your life! Go forth blissfully unaware of their book deals and get back to your own work. Because…
You still have to write it. Go write it.
You have to write it. There’s no way around it. You don’t get published without writing it. Close this email. Go write. Nothing happens without doing that. Go.
tell people about the books you love for sure!!!
this is the *best* dose of reality i've seen in a bit!!