Burning Questions about Writing and Publishing

Hot tip: there is a new series of posts over at the Philly Liars Club site, which cover burning questions about publishing and writing. Over the next few weeks, the group’s 13 authors will answer a question posed to them, so you should check back there frequently (or subscribe to that site) to see what they have to say.  As a member of their group, I’ve kicked off their series, and I’m also including my post here, too. But be sure to check in with the Liars to see what their other fab authors say about this same question…

Burning Question #1: What one thing do I wish I knew before publishing my first book or article?

That crap happens. Honestly, every published writer I’ve spoken to has a story about how they have gotten the nasty end of the stick. This shouldn’t be such a big surprise, but somehow it is. This is partly because authors rarely talk about these nightmares openly. It’s the kind of thing we whisper to each other when swapping horror stories with a colleague. And I think this is a disservice to our fellow writers, who really should be better prepared for their future.

Writing is such a personal business. Especially with fiction. Your book is your baby in a way. You invest so much into it. You love it.  Then you have an editor who loves it. And you have this great relationship with your editor. Yeah, it’s business, but you feel really close to your editor, and you know that she will fight for your book till the end.

So, uh, how come there are so many authors with “crap happens, and it happened to me” stories? Because your book may be your baby, but in the world of publishing, nobody cares. It’s just a commodity. Not even your editor cares. Well, she does to a point, but I can promise you she cares about her job and her paycheck more. So books get accepted and then get canceled. Books come out and a publisher has already lost interest in them, so there is no publicity or support. Future books that you write may or may not be picked up by the publisher/editor who “loved” your last novel. And so it goes. It all definitely feels like a betrayal of sorts, but as Donald Trump says, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.”

I know, it sounds dire. But before you impale yourself on your fountain pen, think of how empowering this information can be.  Just knowing that crap happens and that it will probably happen to you should make your dealings more businesslike.  Don’t trust that an editor has talked up your book with the marketing committee, get over there and talk with them yourself.  Don’t be complacent and believe that since a publisher has accepted your book that your work is done. Assume that the rug will be ripped out from beneath you at any moment and work your ass off to promote the work you have gotten accepted, to relate to your readers and build a fan base, and to write an even better next book.  Always have projects going.  Dude, it’s survival. It’s business. And it’ll serve you well.

Sadly I’ve seen many a talented author get so distraught by what has happened to them in the publishing business that they’ve given up writing completely.  It’s killed the joy for them, and they just can’t pursue their craft anymore. It nearly happened to me. Having a book that was in final copy edits canceled, along with a host of other serious crap occurring at the same time, nearly did me in. I’m an extremely positive person, but even I felt beyond low. The only way I got through was to fight back hard promoting my book like crazy. And by sinking my teeth into more novels.

I’m a different writer now.  Paperback canceled? Okay. Passed on new novel? Fine. I’m not pleased, but I’m not devastated either. I’m too busy looking for the business relationship that will benefit my writing the most, and I’m too busy being the best writer I can be.

And I’m still loving what I do.

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