We here at the Deb Ball are very committed to helping out other debut authors, and like to provide a venue for them to help get the word out about their novels. But we’re also huge supporters of the many talented writers who haven’t gotten the chance yet to get their books out there. Joanne Levy is one such author. A talented, witty, and dedicate writer who has won plenty of contests and landed not one but two agents over the years, she has worked assiduously to sell her manuscripts, and despite more than her share of frustrations and rejections, she epitomizes the “never give up” spirit that defines the successful author. We’re only too happy to give her a chance to have her say today, fittingly, as this is the week where we draw back the publishing curtain to give you a little view from the shadows. Welcome, Joanne!
First thing, let me say thank you to all the Debs for inviting me to be a guest blogger. I think I might be the only guest who hasn’t sold/been published, which makes me extra delighted and very honored to be here! I’ve also never blogged before, so please be gentle on this blogging virgin!
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 years. I’m on my second agent and have just started my 13th 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.
Anyway, this week’s theme of Publishing Perception vs. Publishing Reality hits close to home, since I have learned SO MUCH over the past seven 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.
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.
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 years with zero pay does not a lucrative job make.
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.
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.
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.