Mythbusters, the Recycling Edition, according to Deb Joanne

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  In fact, this was my Deb Ball debut as a yet unpublished author back in June of 2008.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 obsessed.

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. 


41 Replies to “Mythbusters, the Recycling Edition, according to Deb Joanne”

  1. Wow! That video captures the writing process perfectly! *grin*

    You are a testament to persistence, my dear, and a sterling example to all of us. 🙂

  2. Two great posts, Joanne! It’s a fascinating process, how a book gets from an author’s mind to bookstore shelf. I’m surprised no one has made a reality show about it.

  3. Excellent post, Joanne. And (sigh) all so true. I can really relate to the banging forehead on keyboard bit, and especially the crying (oy, way too much crying). That animation is the icing on the depressing cake. And yet, we pick ourselves up and try again. We must be masochists!

    1. Hi Patricia – I totally think we’re masochists. But there are good parts to all of it, too – having your stuff out there for the world to see(and having some kickass horror stories to tell over a beverage or three) is a pretty good tradeoff, no? 😉

        1. Agreed 100% – the people I’ve met on this journey are amazing. It’s wonderful to meet other people who get it and who are in the same boat. I’ve found writers to be a great community of supportive people.

  4. Okay, I’m calling in sick tomorrow because you covered all the bases with this one, Joanne–nice!

    So many good myths to bust here–I think the one that sticks with me is the agent=book deal myth. I had an agent with a novel a few years ago (a different agent than my current agent) and I was floored when the book didn’t sell–not because I thought it was all that and a bag of chips, but because I, like so many of us, thought the REAL hurdle was getting an agent. The truth is there are hurdles at every turn in this business–which is why the whole never-give-up thing is always relevant…

    1. So true – there is so much pressure and attention on the getting the agent part that once we get there, it’s like “OKAY, I’VE MADE IT – I’LL TAKE MY BOOK DEAL NOW”, but it’s not like that at all. I hate discouraging newbies with these posts, but it really is so much work every step of the way. BUT I also want the newbs to know that the payoffs are so great.

    2. I had that one in a big way — my agent-seeking process was freakishly short (like, a month from sending my first query letter to signing with my agent) so I was like “Oh, this part is EASY! My book will probably be sold TOMORROW!” ….. and then it took more than two years to sell. Of course, the entire economy collapsed in the meantime, so that didn’t help to speed things along!

  5. This is great because it helps me see where I have to go, what the road may be like, and how persistent I need to be…. and that clearly so far I’ve not turned up the heat enough. Very helpful post! Thank you!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing the truth about publishing. In the first writing course I took, the very successful instructor warned that we should expect the road to publication to take at least 10 years, and for me, it took even more. Can’t wait to read your book next June!

  7. Re: Video

    Don’t do that…. that was self-inflicted concussion #1, if you were to swap out the keyboard with the monitor.

    So proud of your process, cuz! Keep it up!

  8. Well what a great post today (but they all are because you are the best). You are definitely stubborn, intervert (no not really, you just think you are).
    Hard work oh yes, staying power oh yes, the best oh yes.Great post today with lots of encouragement to those who are still waiting and trying to get published. Live is what you make of it and dreams do come true with hard work, so all you wonderful published people and for those that are not published yet good luck and keep trying Joanne did and look it worked.
    You hung in and we are so very happy and proud that you did. (Yeah I know who else but your Mother has so much to say)

    1. Thanks, Danielle. And you’ve been there from the first, too – thanks for your support over the years. Like Patricia said above, meeting other writers along the way is one of those great tradeoffs.

  9. I love seeing that you were a guest blogger (and especially a guest blogger without a sold book — love that about The Debutante Ball!) and then one of the regular cast a few years later. The transition illustrates your stubborness/persistence! I feel for us all, and it’s funny because I was thinking just yesterday that I must be a masochist. I get terribly depressed at times, insist to myself that I should quit–but then don’t. (On my second agent now…been at it for a decade…sigh…)

    1. Masochists unite! Thanks for coming out today, Lisa and yes, we all feel this pain at one time or another. It’s a tough road, but you can never say you failed until you quit for good.

  10. Awesome post, Joanne. And SO TRUE. There were a couple of years back there when I thought I’d be able to quit writing. After all, why would you want to keep doing something that mostly leads to frustration, rejection and tears? I honestly still have no idea, but I’m ever so glad I have this compulsive need to do it. Besides realizing the joy of finally getting published the truth is…who would I really be without it?

    1. Thanks, Sarv. And you’re right – it’s a compulsive need, isn’t it? Ah well, without that we wouldn’t be here, right?

  11. What a great post! I love revisiting what I thought before and seeing how much I learned. It’s impressive just how much you knew back then, Joanne. I was SO naive about publishing just two short yearss ago. I believed ALL the myths…. Oh, how quickly we learn!

  12. I’ll state the obvious AGAIN: GREAT POST! I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I’m SO VERY glad that you didn’t give up and that your persistance and dedication to writing has finally paid off. I personally cannot wait to read SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE which is being published by Bloomsbury Kids in June 2012!! As for the “why” you stuck with it despite all the hardship, well you really didn’t have a choice. You didn’t choose to be a writer. You were born a writer. Writing chose you. Your passion for writing is undeniable. We are all just so lucky that you had the courage and tenacity to stick with it through all the hurdles so we can FINALLY enjoy SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE…which did I mention is being published by Bloomsbury Kids in June 2012? Maybe I did. Anyway, you rock and yes, we’re very proud of your accomplishments too!! (see it’s not only mums that can gush. LOL)

    1. Oh Tammy, you’re going to give Bubby Marcia a run for her money when it comes to who is heading up Joanne’s cheerleading team. Thank you for your nice words and it’s going to come so fast, that you and the girls will be able to read SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE (coming next summer by Bloomsbury Kids) before you know it. 😉

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