Wednesday, September 26, 2012

If only I knew then what I know now...

When I first learned I was going to be published, the things I didn't know about the industry were many.

Truth be told, they still are.

But what surprised me most?

It's still a job.

A great job to be sure, one that I absolutely love. Everything else I've ever done for money (snicker) pales in comparison. But publishing is a business my pretties, and just having product isn't enough.

For all the solitary structure of writing (and yes I mean the part where you sit your ass in the 'disturb me and you die' chair long enough and repeatedly enough to compose a thoughful, entertaining story of novel length--actual time may vary depending on the mileage your ass gets), from time to time authors still have to deal with real live people who just might be--gasp!--assholes.

Sure, it's normal if naive (hey, I've been there) to think "I'm getting published! I'm getting published! I'm getting published! Everything will be perfect from here on out." Part of the dream of achieving that goal is the Easy Street address surely to follow. But reality is (except for the damn soul-selling few--JOKE!), as with any other job, there are pros (ha ha, prose, get it? Good writing is prose?), and there are cons (as in Kirk's frustrated shout, "Khaaaaaaaaaaaaan!"). *Equal duality kudos go out for the double meanings of pros as "professionals" and the cons as the "con-artists out to prey upon newbies." **I digress but, meh. I'm not just a word-whore. I'm a word-geek.

Some of those things that didn't surprise me include getting professional help (snicker again, and no I don't mean psychiatric help) from your publisher/editor and others at the publishing house. It can be the folks you meet at signings, other authors, booksellers, cover artists and their artwork, reviewers, fans, supportive friends who tell everyone how awesome you are, bloggers, your local library employees.

Some of those things that DID surprise me are: being ignored by the professionals at your publisher/editor and others at the publishing house. It can be the folks you meet at signings who just want to tell you about their fantastic unpublished novel thereby hogging your table time even though they aren't really interested in your subject matter or genre let alone buying an actual book from you, other authors who won't give you the time of day, rude booksellers (even when you're there to do a pre-arranged signing/talk), cover artists who didn't bother to read a description of characters in your novel, reviewers who hate your story, fans who don't speak their mind when someone puts down your work, jealous friends who stop talking to you over stupid shit, bloggers who seem to promote everyone else, your local library employees who don't seem to think that letting you talk to local kids about the writing business is any kind of a good idea.   **many of these are NOT pertinent to me (I have liked my editors and covers, most of my reviews have been positive, and in my experience smaller bookstores have had classier interaction with authors, etc.) but I've heard so many author horror stories over the last few years...

Bottom line is, being published isn't some golden hall pass. (Insert xylophone trill and angelic voices here.) You still have shit to deal with and endless random complications and things not going exactly how you'd prefer them to like you would with any other job. You still have to roll the dice and deal with the portion of the public in general that you come in contact with. Think of it like working retail during an unending holiday season. If you've ever worked retail in the last months of the year, join me in the eyerolling and groaning now.
Sidenote: I think the zombie apocalypse will actually start with cashiers/associates who've been accosted by Black Friday crowds and then endured a month of general customer snobbery that included them touching/handling the merchandise waaaay too much which will a.) need refolded/put back where it truly goes, and b.) likely infect said cashier with some horrible form of influenza which will cause them to miss work, reduce pay, and ultimately cause a stress-related chemical breakdown in the brain which will cause them to need to ingest the minds of the public-at-large, digest those minds, thereby turning them into the stuff the cashier thought they were in the first place.

You're still with me after that sarcasm-laden rant?
Aw, shucks! Thanks!

If anything, getting your first published credit is such a gauntlet because you have to prove yourself up to the challenge of what comes after. (It is not set up this way by the industry, it just IS a tough business to break into. All that YOU go through to achieve the dream proves to YOU that YOU really want this and that YOU can learn from rejection and criticism and not be crushed by either.)

Points in case:

* Unattended signings are ego-killers.

* Trying to tackle the myriad outlets to maximize free exposure and then vying for a spot amid the sea of other very talented and eager authors all while writing your next novel and living your life is not for feint of heart.

* Realizing that your new release has just come out at the same time as 50+ other nifty-sounding books with great covers in your same genre can make some people lose sleep, hair, car keys, or even their sanity.

This business chews people up and spits them out fast. Some people sell one or two books and you never hear from them again. Some of the big names have used several psuedonyms as they made their determined upward climb--that also surprised me.

If this writing roller coaster is for you,
nothing will stop you.
If it isn't, this ride has exits all over the place,
and you'll find them when you need them.


  1. If I'd read this post 8 years ago, I would've run screaming the other way. Okay, not really. I probably would've gotten scared and kept writing anyway. Because, ya know, it's an addiction and I can't stop any time I want.

    Great post, though, Linda. I'm ready to be chewed up any time they're ready to try. But I won't let them spit me out. ;o)

  2. That's the attitude! It means sooo much to write, to get published and noticed--but it's not an earth-shattering, day-ruining, tantrum inducing thing if you get a bad review or someone calls you book "utter shit" or if assholes try to taint your dream with their poo-flinging tactics. At the end of the day, if you still want to tell stories, still put you ass in the chair and make it happen, YOU win. :)