I’m collecting polling information (unscientific of course) on the experience of getting published and what happens after you see your book on the shelf of your local bookstore. I did a poll last month where I asked published authors about whether they worked full time, worked part time or lived off their royalties and now I’m doing a poll to find out how published authors measure success. All of this is for a future blog post about the journey toward finding an agent, getting a book deal and what the experience is like for those of us lucky enough to hold a book that we wrote in our hot little hands. So, feel free to vote according to your experience and thanks!
I’m busily working away at revisions on the second POLTERGEEKS book, STUDENT BODIES. It’s not an arduous task other than going through each change your editor has made and accepting that change one at a time on MS Word. That’s a bit time consuming. Still, it gives you ample opportunity to smash your forehead against the desk because you caught something you probably could have changed and that your editor has called you out on. Yes, revisions are a game of patience – with yourself, with your creative process and with your overall vision for a book.
Actually, being an author is all about patience – for me, that’s a challenge because patience has never been my strong suit – ask my mother. I’ll bemoan the time it’s taking to hear back on a project when I’m talking with Mum on the phone and she will remind me with all of her 79 years of wisdom that I was never a patient boy. Thanks, Mom. (This generally reels me back in.)
I have the benefit of starting out trying to get published in an era before social networking, email and the Internet. As mentioned in this blog post, it’s taken me two decades to get published. The process of typing a manuscript on a typewriter instead of MS Word with all of its time saving functions, forced you to try harder to get it right. The process of researching publishers and literary agents required a trip to a bookstore or the library so you could get your hands on a copy of The Writer’s Market and then researching publishers, going to the bookstore to see what they published … all of this took time.
Then came the querying process via snail mail. You had to have the right paper, You needed that self-addressed stamped envelope. You needed a good letter (obviously), you needed postage and ….. you needed time which of course required patience. It could take up to a year to hear back … assuming you heard back at all. And if they wanted your story for a looksie … you had to type the damned thing out and mail all 100K words in a box. And again, it could take next to forever to hear back.
Flash forward to 2013 and there are websites that do everything The Writer’s Market did. There is email. There is Facebook and Twitter – agents and publishers are on there. You can do everything with a click of a mouse … but you still have to be patient.
Each day, I’m amazed by some of the dumb things that writers do via social networking. It’s one thing to follow an agent on Twitter. It’s another to query them in 140 characters … but people do it. Some even Tweet snarky comments aimed at the agent who might have rejected their query or their submission.
Really. I mean … really?
Fact 1: A writer had to be more patient 20 years ago.
Fact 2: A writer still has to be patient in 2013.
Fact 3: Writers by their very nature are impatient people.
So I guess where I’m going with this is to say to all unpublished writers is that your ability to channel your lack of patience into a future work is probably the best thing you can do with your anxiety. Patience is part of this game – jeez, I have four books published and a fifth one in September … I still need to remind myself to be patient.
Don’t be snarky with agents and publishers via social networking.
Don’t waste your time looking for the hidden meaning of an agent’s Tweet – he/she probably has other clients to manage before he/she gets to your query.
Do keep writing.
Do keep it together. If you don’t, you’ll go nuts.
As for me, I’m going off to my day job now. After more than two decades of this … I’ve learned a few things about what I have control over and what I don’t. But I still keep on writing. And so should you.
Please RT and share within your social networks, I’d appreciate it. I’m just slapping together a poll of published authors who still have a day job, work part time or write full time. This is for an upcoming blog post and your vote will help. Thanks!
You get a book published. All those years of hard work are now behind you. You’ve poured your heart and soul into a project which is now available to the book buying public and you hope like hell it’s going to sell. But is it selling? Holy crap, the first week your book broke the 10K mark on Amazon’s author rankings. But within a couple of weeks it has dropped to 400K.
Gah … don’t look at the Amazon rankings! You don’t know what they hell they mean! Best go check out how many new reviews are on Goodreads.
Gah!! Someone left an arsehole-ish snarky look how clever I am one-star review over on Goodreads.
Gah!! There’s another one!
Oh no! Google alerts tells you someone has a tepid review of your book on their blog complete with animated gifs!
Gah! My agent hasn’t responded to my email in over a week!
Gah!! I’ve got revisions on this other project for my agent but with my Amazon ranking at 400K does that mean I don’t have a ghost of a chance of getting this new project published?
Gah!! What are my sales numbers?
Gah!! This book store isn’t even stocking my damned book … why!!! Why!! Why!!!
Gah!! Everyone is self-publishing now! I have a zillion other books to compete with!
I could go on but I won’t because there is little point in freaking out about things that are beyond an author’s control. All that you can do is to write the best book you possibly can and when it gets published, who the hell really knows what’s going to happen?
See, I have this theory that a lot of unpublished authors aren’t pyschologically prepared for what happens once that book finally gets published. I think the reason for this is because we spent so much time and emotional energy writing the manuscript and spending in a lot of cases, years looking for an agent that when our story is sold and gets published, we now have a whole mess of new worries to fret about. Seriously, a newly published author can spend entire days checking up on their recently published work – what are people saying about it? How is it selling? Why isn’t it selling? Does my book suck? Do I suck? Am I doing enough to promote the book? What else can I do to promote the book? Is the market flooded with similar books and that’s why it isn’t selling? Are my expectations warped? Did I expect to light the world on fire with that first book?
These internal questions can drive an author nuts and more importantly, they distract from what you’re really supposed to be doing … writing that next book.
We have no control over what happens when that book finally gets published and I guess the point of this blog post is to remind debut authors that you have done something remarkable.
Let me repeat that: you did something remarkable. You got published. Think about that for a second …
There are a ton of writer websites out there with excellent resources. When I was starting out, I basically lived on AbsoluteWrite.com. The Bewares and Background Checks section. I wanted to know everything there ever was about every agent in the business. What they were looking for. Who they represented. What their last sale was and for how much. How long they took to get back to an author after the query went out. I freaked about the quality of my query. I freaked about “not for me” replies to my query. I fretted and fussed and worried and wondered and it seemed like I would never find an agent and get a book deal.
Was I a lousy author?
Why was I doing this? Why did I want to get published in the first place?
There are so many other writers looking to get published …. what’s the point?
And yet I beat the odds. I did find an agent. I did land a nice little book deal. I went to London and did a book launch. I met my agent … I ate crazy expensive risotto. I met other authors. I did a signing in a freaking Waterstones! I did a whole bunch of amazingly cool stuff that I’d never thought I would ever do. And if you just got published, you need to sit back and think about the fact that you truly did an amazing thing. You actually got published. That alone points to the fact that you have some talent because the VAST VAST VAST majority of people don’t land an agent and get a book deal.
It is something to celebrate and remember all your life. You accomplished something that most who write will never accomplish.
So there’s that next book. You need to write it. You need to forget about all of the intangible crap that you have absolutely no control over because … well, you have no control over it. If you fuss about all of these things it will make you CA-RAY-ZEE. More importantly, it can sap your enthusiasm for your next project. It can wreck your focus. It can and will affect the quality of your writing.
So just keep writing. That’s all an author can do. Write, write and write some more. If a project isn’t working for you, shelve it and start another project. Keep bloody writing because there is absolutely nothing you can do to impact the way the market is responding to your first book. There’s nothing you can to to control the way it will be received by readers and bloggers. You have no control over the reviews. Nada.
Keep writing and maybe you will hit paydirt one day. Maybe you’ll get a big advance, a huge movie deal and then you can get a gold tooth or something. In the meantime, if you’re freaking out about the intangibles, put both hands on your desk and push. Get away from your computer and go for a walk.
And remember that you beat the odds. You did something absolutely amazing that fewer than 1% of wannabe writers will ever experience in their lifetimes. Grab your book off the shelf, hold it in your hands and think about the journey that got you to where you are.
Be thankful. Pat yourself on the back. Now get back to that next project. Write, dammit!!