Succeeding(ish) at the Publishing Game
Almost two months ago, I wrote to my agent. It was a short email that said something like "Let's talk about what's next. And let's do it soon, because The Pick Up is going to be out next week and I just finished the draft for Cold Pressed, and I'm expecting the emotional hangover to be EPIC."
Boy, did I not even know.
The Pick Up is almost two months old now. In the ensuing 60ish days, I've watched publishing dreams (mine and others) stumble and collapse under the weight of racism, harassment, and the giant angry echo chamber that is the internet.
There were tears (mine and others).
There were promises to do better (mine and others).
There were admissions that it's hard to find momentum after so much uncertainty (fortunately, not mine...except for Good Friday when I nearly deleted the complete Cold Pressed draft in a fit of inadequacy).
So here's what I've learned in the last two months, as voiced by so many other people in the same boat.
So there's a dichotomy in publishing. A paradox, even. Writing is my joy. It's my glee. I love it.
Publishing is my job, and it's kind of a frequent nightmare.
— Bree (& 🐕) (@mostlybree) April 15, 2018
A nightmare you say? Tell me more.
If you're seeking a publishing deal as validation or to get public adoration for your words, the publishing is probably going to break you.
It's a job. A business. It's not a members only club where we all pat each other on the back. There is no point where it stops being hard.
— Kimberly Bell (@BellRomance) April 15, 2018
Even celebrities (except possibly Sean Penn and Morrissey) are not immune from the crushing weight of authorly uncertainty.
So, now that my copy edit is done my new task is to work on the sequel and I would like to report that having written a book apparently has no effect on your ability to believe that you are capable of writing a book.
— Hank Green (@hankgreen) April 15, 2018
Yup. Publishing will rip your heart out. It will tell you that your hours, days, weeks, months, years of hard work don't matter, because what publishing really wants is another white duke, or a lonely gay superhero (but not your lonely gay superhero*). And yeah, I'm talking about traditional publishing, and yes, I know self-publishing will let me write my dukes, superheroes, or neurotic professors and put them out into the world without the grind and the waiting game of trad publishing. I'm pretty sure it will just rip your heart out in other ways instead. Like when Amazon suddenly decides your story is too gay and too sexy to inflict on decent people and stops promoting your titles. Or when the limitations of stock photography mean your cover model appears on seven covers in three months.
I was on Facebook this week (spoiler, don't go on Facebook), and someone asked what the lesson is, if you put in all this time, and effort, ink, sweat and tears, and no on reads it? What if the book happens, but the reading doesn't? If you don't succeed, what was the lesson?
Writing is my joy. That's the lesson. Bree said it above, but it's true for me too. I say it all the time. I am happier writing than doing just about anything else. If you're writing novels for any other reason, I'm not sure how you'll succeed, because the rest of it has the very real potential to be a nightmare.
In the last 60ish days, there have been hurdles and hiccups the likes of which my poor debut author brain could not have fathomed. I lost sleep. There were so many tears. And then you know what I did? I kept writing. Because publishing is going to rip my heart out, but writing is going to put it back together again. And every time I write something new, or edit something new, I create another opportunity to succeed at my joy (before the heart ripping starts again).
Someone on Twitter asked last week what piece of advice you'd give to your younger self. And despite everything, this is what I said.
In 2018, you’re going to publish a book, quit your job, and see your name listed on the founding creative team for a theatre company. It’s everything you wanted in undergrad, but were too scared to ask for. Be patient. Be brave. https://t.co/FMmwAdq9JK
— Allison Temple (@allitemplebooks) April 17, 2018
I'm succeeding on my own terms. Come at me. I'm ready.
*I don't currently have a lonely gay superhero...but now I'm thinking about it.