When I saw this week’s theme, it felt very familiar and then I realized, I’ve written this blog post before, just under a different name. In fact, this was my Deb Ball debut as a yet unpublished author back in June of 2008. So, because I’m lazy I think this might be fun, I’m going to kind of re-hash it with updates (in red).
Some of you may know my backstory, but for those of you who don’t, here’s the abridged version. I’ve been writing seriously, with the intent of becoming published, for about seven nine years. I’m on my second fourth agent and have just started my 13th 17th project (this includes a few ‘drawer books’). I won in my category in the 2007 RWA Chicklit Chapter’s Get Your Stiletto in the Door Contest and also finalled in the 2007 Backspace Conference Scholarship Competition. But still no sales. Don’t ask why – I have no idea what the publishing industry has against me. Update:YAY! I sold a book! It’s called SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE and it’s about…Wait, you know about that. Okay, moving on.
Anyway, this week’s theme of Publishing Perception vs. Publishing Reality Mythbusters: the Publishing Edition hits close to home, since I have learned SO MUCH over the past seven nine or so years. A few of the many things I have learned are below.
Publishing Perception: Writing is the hard part.
Publishing Reality: Although I will never say writing is easy, in my own experience (shared by many others – try reading the comments trail on agent blogs) getting an agent and editor (and then promoting the crap out of your work once you get over those hurdles) are much harder in today’s world. The industry is very tight and competition is so fierce that it’s become an enormous bottleneck of aspiring writers trying to get published. The business part of writing for publication forces most writers to become savvy businesspeople and expert salespeople. I still believe this to be very true. Being your own salesperson and head cheerleader is exhausting and very hard for introverts. And ask my mom, I’m a total introvert and would be happy if I almost never had to leave my house.
Publishing Perception: Write a good book and you’ll get published.
Publishing Reality: While I think you need to start with a good book, publishing trends are hugely fickle and timing can work for or against you. In other words, so much of all of this is beyond the control of the author. This has been tough for me, a notorious control freak, to swallow. Very hard. I mean, terribly, horribly hard. It still is and it doesn’t get easier. Buckle up.
Publishing Perception: All authors are rich and bring in huge advances.
Publishing Reality: Most authors still have day jobs, because they HAVE to, either for the income, the benefits or both. Most authors are barely scraping by and many use their entire (often paltry) advances to promote their books. This would scare me a lot if I was in it for the money, which I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I am not. Seven Nine years with zero pay does not a lucrative job make. But I can report that I am at least now a paid author and I did receive an advance for my book, called SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE that comes out this summer (there’s that salesperson thing again, sorry), but it was fairly modest and between that and paying to market that book (and enjoying food) means having a day job is still very necessary.
Publishing Perception: Once you have an agent, you’re as good as published.
Publishing Reality: Nope. This was a huge one for me. After it took almost two years to find my first agent, I thought I was in. I really thought it was just a matter of time before I got THE CALL from my agent saying we had an offer (or – gasp, dare I hope for several offers?). I was wrong. Two books didn’t sell. Then after I parted ways with that agent and got a new one, another book didn’t sell. For those of you keeping track – that’s three books on submission, three books not selling. Uh, and since this post was written, it became six books on submission not selling.
Publishing Perception: It’s glamorous to be an author.
Publishing Reality: My Snoopy pajamas are not glamorous. Neither is the imprint of a keyboard on my forehead. Update: the Snoopy pajamas are long gone, but the keyboard marks are still a major part of the writing life. Some days it feels a lot like this:
Publishing Perception: (well more of a personal one, really) I can stop writing at any time.
Publishing Reality: I can’t. Sometimes I feel like I should, especially when it feels like I’m asking to be rejected over and over and over. But I can’t. I keep on writing. There was one day I remember vividly that I got a particularly harsh rejection, but then found myself at my keyboard, writing through my tears. WTF is that about? Even I look back and think I must be crazy.
Or a writer.
Yeah, I’ve decided that writing is a crazy business and most writers are masochists, I know I must be, after all I’ve been through and keep coming back for more. Why? I don’t know, really, maybe it’s the high of getting a character just right and then falling in love with her because she’s so perfectly flawed and human. Or putting together a story that feels like it could really happen or that people can read and enjoy and say things like, “Seriously? You just made this stuff up in your head? Wow.” Maybe it’s an ego thing, a way for introverts to put themselves out there in a semi-safe way (until the reviews come in, oy). Whatever it is that motivates me to write, I do hope that people enjoy my stories. The first one, SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE comes out from Bloomsbury Kids in June and will soon be available for pre-order. Sorry, I had to get the pitch in. You know I did.