I’ve been distant lately. Don’t take it personally. It’s me, not you, I swear. I’ve been working really hard on several new contracts (YAY!!) which hasn’t left me much time to play. That said, the aforementioned projects have given me insight into longevity in a publishing career (across several genres) that I’d like to share. I hold these tidbits in mind for new authors, or those in-the-making, though there may be gems for veterans wordphiles, as well. And so:
Dear Enchanting Everyone,
With everything you publish there will be backlash. No matter how straightforward, well-intended, or gently you put your ideas into print, there will be a backlash. Whether it’s a bad review, a thread in which your name is mud, or your friend with a polite yet poignant “WTF?”, your books will get a reaction. Better yet, that reaction will be unexpected. Even if you write taboo or really out-of-the-box books, there will be a wave of response that you never, in all of your mind-spinning til 3am trances never saw coming. Accept the unanticipated. It inspires you.
A bad review will hang its hat on a point you warned the reader about. In the age of free ebooks, people pay little attention to blurbs, and in some cases, even titles. In fact, covers still sell books more than any other descriptive element. So it doesn’t matter if you fully disclose the zombie-banging Great Auntie whores in the title, or elaborate with poetic brevity about self-fellating plot jockeys. Someone somewhere is going to swear s/he had no idea that’s what the book was about and rate it down for being what you said it was. Grit your teeth, laugh, and grab a latte. It. Will. Not. Change. You may as well get some caffeine in that system and get back to writing.
For every literary blemish you attempt to improve in your writing, some other author will profit from it, vastly. You know what I mean. Problem areas in your vocabulary, style, or development that lead you to doggedly commit to eradicating them. Then it happens: Some random indie writer or trad darling churns out page after page resembling your red-cheeked Morning Pages and snatches up a Big 6 contract. So much of publishing is out of your hands, indie, traditional, or whatever hybrid squeezes between. The main ingredient of a wildly successful book is and will always be luck. Whatever promotion you employ (by which I do mean pay out for), however brilliant you (or your editors) are, as dazzling as your cover may be, as wide a platform as you may have, rampantly successful books always have a wildfire factor–that perfect moment, one sizzling endorsement, prominently placed mention that no one foresaw, yet bumps the book to echelons unimagined. So, stick to those Morning Pages, fit the Night Guard, and do your bestly. You’re better for it.
This is what ‘there’ looks like. We all have a mental image of what being well-published looks like, yet the reality of that visual rarely matches how The Writing Life really is. It’s not a winning lottery ticket. Yes, you will make money from it, maybe really good money, maybe only a bill or two a month. People will come to recognize you alongside your books, platform, or however you put yourself forward. The thing is, if you’re publishing as a career, it becomes a job, just like every other job. Yes, you may enjoy it more than other things you’ve done for pay, but it’s still work and a lot of hours. Don’t undermine your success. Just because it doesn’t mesh with your Utopian ideal of pool bois and enormous advances doesn’t mean you aren’t really doing this. Which brings me to…
It doesn’t get easier. Whatever your success in publishing, it remains a tough job. However, you become more resilient, efficient, and knowledgeable. You will find a rhythm of submission, publication, creation. Your hoops will shift from that of eluding the slush pile to managing time better and mastering self-discipline. Everything you know will change, as the industry struggles to gain traction for identity and process in a shifting economic and technical climate. Worry less about what you don’t know, and focus on how well you cope with what you must learn. Above all, remember you choose this, every day, and remind yourself why.
Linger in love,
PS-Stay away from Goodreads.