Wednesday, March 17, 2010

do I really want to be published? (Your Questions continued)

Magolla asks, Why isn't anyone sending you baby animal pics?? I need my fix.

This had indeed become a problem, but as you may have noticed, we rectified much of this last week: many people came to our assistance here.

Without your reminder, though, I wouldn't have thought to ask. So thank you.

And... Do I REALLY want to be published? Sometimes I wonder. . .

Now this is a really good question. I imagine you were asking in jest (or at least partly in jest), but I know it's a concern that weighs on authors' minds, and I will answer you seriously. My answer isn't for you, Magolla. It's for the several people reading right now who I know need to hear it. I hope when they read it they realize that I really, really wish them the best, and am saying this for their own good.

I have a very particular friend who is on the Submission Train right now. I've read this person's work, and it's pretty awesome. I'm 100% sure things will work out. However, the Submissions Train causes great anxiety in all those who get on board. I've seen my friend panic about non-responses, wonder if s/he should submit directly to publishers instead, wonder if s/he should self-publish, etc. This in spite of all my excellent advice (and my advice is very excellent!). My friend knows intellectually I'm correct, and looking out for his/her best interests, but that doesn't stop the panic of the Submissions Train. As an author, you have to wrestle down those crazy emotions. Otherwise, you will make silly decisions in your hurry and panic.

This is hard news to swallow, so I'm going to type it in boldface. It's better not to be published at all than to get published in an inferior way. Doors begin to close if you try to take shortcuts. Instead, take your time to do things right. Accept no compromises. You will be much unhappier with a published book that has gone awry than with an unpublished book that still has potential. I linked to this article recently, but I'm linking to it again--this is Aprilynne Pike's essay on why taking your time toward first publication is worthwhile (she knows, because she made good decisions--her debut hit #1 on the NYT bestseller list). So I'm not the only one who says this.

In short, your writing must not be contingent upon your getting published. Book publication is affected by many factors. A book may deserve to get published, but the market may be wrong. A book idea may be wonderful, but the execution may not be really up to snuff and need more work. The author may be a fantastic writer, but maybe this particular manuscript isn't the best book on its own, or maybe it's a good book but not a good debut. In all of these cases, if the author pushes, pushes, pushes for publication no matter what, they will damage both their future career as a writer and their relationship with their art.

"I must get published" fever hurts a lot of people. It causes people to do things in desperation that will hurt or limit their long-term options. My recommendation to authors--and I know this sounds much easier than it actually is--is to try to develop zen about your books. You write because you love to write. You continue to work on your projects, whatever they may be, because you want them to continue to improve. Some projects, however good they are, never need to see the light of day, because they've been stepping-stones on your road to self-development. They are what will train you to write the book that really matters.

So do you really want to be published? Only if you're published right. This means taking your time, being patient during all the long processes, and, above all, continuing to write no matter what. When the timing is right for you, it will be clear. As my mom says, if it's meant to be, it will be. In the meantime, I hope you're writing because it makes you happy.

47 comments:

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

I agree with this 100%. I dream about being a good writer first, published second.

Kate Evangelista said...

Thank you. I was stumbling my way through blog and found yours. I'm glad I did.

Jane Steen said...

Moonrat, you're such a darling. I'm 32,000 words into my first attempt at writing fiction for publication and you're telling me exactly what I need to hear.

I'm glad I'm writing "for publication" because it's different from any other writing I've done before. Knowing that one day I might want to submit the piece is making me pay way more attention to what I'm doing and listen to all the wonderful advice of published writers and publishing industry people like yourself.

But like Simon, I want it to be good. Unlike the copy I write for other people, this is going out in MY name. Now I'm very meticulous about the work I do for others because I really dislike sending in anything I don't think is spot on. So if it's going to be under my name I know I'm going to be 300% more meticulous. The first piece of copy I ever wrote probably wasn't all that good, and I've improved with practice. I tell myself the same applies to fiction - my first try is just that, and may well not sell. Thanks for the reassurance that this is normal and perfectly OK!

Candyland said...

Excellent! I'm totally re-thinking my desire to be published now!
(clutching the computer so hard it may burst)

Tim Koch said...

Extremely therapeutic. I kinda wish I had read this yesterday morning, though. Oh well. Thanks.

mapelba said...

Well, while I disagree with your mother, I agree with your advice. Thank you. Great post.

Camille said...

VERY wise advice. I encourage any as-yet-unpublished writers to print this out and post it on the wall over their computers, because I sure would have (though it would have pained me, oh yes).

JanAnn said...

I found your blog the week I decided to stop pushing myself to the point of insanity. I've decided my current WIP is going to be my training manual. It may never see the light of day, and I'm OK with that.

LurkerMonkey said...

Yay! I'm one of those people who's been at this a while and has more than one or three unpublished novels in my drawer. Lately, it seems the self-pubbing, e-book voices have been growing louder, but I'm just ... not ... interested. I try to be interested, but I'm not. So just last week, I wrote my crit partner to ask a simple question: "Am I crazy, or is there a difference between being merely published and being published well?"

Thanks for saying this!

Merry Monteleone said...

Thanks, moonie. Sound advice and at the perfect time.

Susan Adrian said...

Thanks, moonie! Every writer needs to hear this repeated occasionally, because it's easy to forget.

KFran said...

I am totally almost there. I am going to keep writing. I am going to hide all those books that aren't there yet in a bottom drawer. But, I might take them out again when I have published a few dozen books and self publish them like Joe Konrath did. He's my hero.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/03/ja-konrath-kindle-sales-30k-ebooks-in.html

Irene said...

Great post, Moonrat! Do you think that a publisher's commitment to marketing should play a role in whether you "really want to be published"?

Chris Stovell said...

That is very full of wisdomosity.

Steve Edwards said...

Ok, wow, all the phases I'm feeling... is it possible you're psychic? :-D Thanks, this article is a great reminder to not stress, keep writing, and be patient.

Perle said...

Thanks - I totally agree. As with books so with essays or anything. I had an essay accepted by Victoria Magazine in 08 and they sent me a 'Work for Hire' contract. Arrrrgh. I did not sign. I, with atty friend help, edited/rewrote the contract. I then contacted the editor with the changed contract and guess what? They signed my contract and I was published 'the right way.' Hope I can do as well when my book is in final draft later this year.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think you make a very good point here. It's like the wine thing. You have to let your work mature to a certain level before getting published is going to benefit you over the long run.

However, I don't really believe that "if it's meant to be, it will be." Luck is such a huge factor and it doesn't care much about talent, although talent certainly doesn't hurt.

Valerie Geary said...

You are a sage! Thank you for your continued wisdom.

That Rebel with a Blog said...

Found you from the world of Twitter and, omg, thank you!

Linked over to Aprilynne's blog and thank you for her words, too. I'll definitely be back for more, you rock!!

Shane Stewart said...

Thanks for the BOLD reminder.

Anonymous said...

*bookmarks this post*

Thanks. I'm going to send this that well-meaning-but-naive person who keeps telling me to "light a fire under [my] agent's butt" because my last book didn't sell.

Um. No. She did her job; it just wasn't the right time, and I know that..

Julianne said...

Thanks again for a great post. I really needed to hear this again.

CKHB said...

Thanks, moonrat! I'm having a DEAR GOD I JUST WANT CLOSURE day over here, and this is a nice reminder to hang in there.

Christa said...

Absolutely wonderful advice Moonrat! You have stated what I have been preaching to myself the past 4 years.

I love to write. I also love the story I'm writing. I love the creative process and the way the story seems to be telling itself and morphing into areas I hadn't imagined. The plot has sharpened, the writing still improving and my characters are growing and expanding.

I continue to refine and edit my novel. Each pass has proved better than the last. I will continue this process until I cannot make it any better. Only then will I start looking for an agent.

As has been noted in many other avenues of American society, we have become addicted to instant gratification. They want to get published "now." Working and waiting for several years before making an attempt seems counter-intuitive to them.

Additionally, a vast majority of people seem focused on the act of getting published instead of the act of writing the best novel they possibly can.

I still have at least 2 more years before I'll be satisfied with my manuscript. It could be more, but it could be less. Regardless, I'm in no rush. I love to write. Getting published would be a dream, but writing is my life.

LS Murphy said...

As someone on the "submission train", I must say thanks. Staying calm has been harder (well almost) then getting rejections.

Bethany said...

*slow clap*
*rising to a crescendo*
Thank. You. In the interest of not repeating your words back to you albeit describing my personal motivations, I will leave it at that. Okay, maybe one more slow clap.

Sandra Gail Lambert said...

Ah, Moonrat. Today I received yet another "almost, not quite right, send more" rejection (arghhhhhh). Your post made me feel as if you were patting my head and saying "there, there." Thank you.

worstwriterever said...

I love the name of your blog.

That being said, I would have to agree with your entry with a big fat caveat.

You can't be too relaxed about just writing because you love it.

Or nothing will happen. Ever.

Ulysses said...

"try to develop zen"

Good Lord! You do realize, I hope, that millions of Buddhists have been at that for dozens of lifetimes and STILL haven't quite managed that.

What chance do the rest of us have?

"...about your book." Oh. Of course. Yes. Um. Well, that should be achievable, I think.

JES said...

This may well belong in the Moonrat's Greatest Hits category. (Er, well, the baby animal pix stuff maybe. But what came after, I mean.)

Awesome. Thanks.

Y.F.N. Palindrome aka Hannah said...

Thank you for this.

WendyCinNYC said...

Great post, Moonrat! You are full of smarts.

Kelsey said...

Awesome post. Although, it'd be awfully tough to stare down your first book deal. When I signed with my publisher I was worried that it wasn't a perfect fit, but wasn't in the position (no other offers) to reconsider.

Everything turned out okay and I've had exceptional support from them.

Now I'm turning my insecurities to book #2.

Nicola Morgan said...

Perfect advice - well done. You are the voice of sympathetic common sense.

wonderer said...

Thank you. That was lovely.

I've reached that point of zen -- sort of. I've decided it's okay if the novel I'm editing now doesn't get published, or the one I'm writing, or even the one I'll start when that one's done. I'm (mostly) content to plug away slowly, learning my craft, knowing that each novel I write will be better than the one before.

As Aprilynne Pike says, I don't want to rush in and have my debut novel sink like a stone because it wasn't the one that should have been my debut. At this point, I think I'm actually more scared of that than of not getting published in the first place.

But it's good to have the reminder that patience will continue to be the most important thing...after the love of writing for its own sake, of course.

Sherri said...

Thank you, Moonie. As usual, your message came at just the right time.

Whirlochre said...

If the end result is the consequence of the means employed to get there, I'm with your informed voila...

Tawna Fenske said...

Wonderful blog post! Thank you for saying this.

Tawna

Anonymous said...

I just want to be *read* by people who don't know me. Being published is secondary to that except that it seems to be the holy grail of being read.

That's what I wish wasn't true.

Ashley A. said...

THANK YOU.
really.

Claire Dawn said...

I have so far to go, and I know that. And it's not the easiest to stay motivated on editing and not just send the query in now.

Thanks for the reminder. Patience is not my strong suite.

Lydia Kang said...

So true. A great reminder when I'm freaking about about querying a novel that's not ready yet.

Mike Mullin said...

Your best post yet, despite the lack of baby animal pictures.

Victoria Dixon said...

Thanks, Moonrat, from all of us on the outbound panic train. I kknew this intellectually, but doubted my practice sometimes. It's nice to hear it from someone else.

Gabriele Goldstone said...

Maybe it's like the tree that falls in the forest - if no one hears it fall - does it really make a sound? If I write and I don't get published, am I still a writer? Of course - but I need others to think so, too! Thanks for a great post!

GalaktioNova said...

Thank you so very much!

As a journalist, I'm too used to the fact that I write to be published, so at first, I approached novel writing from the same point. It takes me a long time to write a quality text, and all this time I've been freaking out about publication, I've been considering self-pubbing, etc.

But the more I work on my ms., the more I like the sheer process of putting it together. Now I don't care at all about ever publishing it because it's the actual _work_ that makes me feel good. I think I'll write a few more simply because the process is addictive!

Thank you very much!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I agree. You are known by your craftsmanship and by your associations.

It is much like dating in high school in a sense. You don't want to be asked at a reunion by your present mate, "You went out with her/him?"

If we compete with ourselves to be better writers today than yesterday, then our day will come. Roland