Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Going Public

I've been part of the online writing community for about 15 months now. I use a handle different than my real name so most of my idiocy is not Google-able.:) But still, if you know me at AbsoluteWrite, you can find me here. If you see some of my comments on Miss Snark, you can follow the link on my profile and get here too. So I'm fairly open about my publishing journey; I'm not hard to find.

I have a lot of author-hopefuls who I follow on writers' forums and a few whose blogs I frequent. I've seen a lot of things in the last 15 months.

I've seen a fabulous author acquire an agent, sweat through the submission process, and land an incredible deal. I've also seen her start through the long and often tedious process to actually get the book published.

I've seen a writer celebrate the release of her book through a big house and start to garner reviews, popularity, etc.

I've seen a very talented writer decide to take the route of a small publisher instead of continuing to look for an agent. He's very happy with the choice he made, and I'm happy for him.

I've become friends with a man who is on his twelfth book. He's not a bestseller, but he has a steady, mid list career and a solid fan base. He's very happy with his career and from him I've learned abut the life of a very normal published author. Very few are superstars, guys.

I've seen a friend acquire her first agent, get her first sale, and now she's starting to see foreign rights sales. How exciting!

This is what you like to see. It's a great way to start building some buzz for your book and gain a few fans as well as friends. If we're honest, it's what we expect for ourselves when we create that first handle and post for the first time.

But usually, that's not what I see.

Early on I saw a writer sign with a very respectable agency. Hooray! I thought! We'll be hearing about her book deal soon! But no. Her agent sent her book out to about five editors and then totally lost interest in her as a client. A year later she has picked herself up off the literary floor and started looking for a new agent all over again.

I've seen many, many posters who get so excited about the process of looking for an agent. They get requests for partials! Fulls! Invitations to re-submit after a revision! Things are so exciting! . . . And after a while, we just don't hear from them anymore.

I knew one guy in particular who has had more fulls and partials requested than I ever did. I keep thinking we're going to get an announcement any day. But after over a year, it hasn't panned out yet.

I see many people who are afraid to try.

Putting your goals out in the public eye is often done for motivation. And that is fine when your goals can be reached simply through grit and tenacity. For example, fitness goals, weight loss goals, word count goals, etc. But when you are making public your goals in an industry that rejects over 95% of the people trying to get in, you have to wonder what we are thinking?

Did you think about the risk involved when you started posting about your writing?

Now, I don't have a huge readership or anything . . . But I'm pretty sure there are at least 20 of you. Heck, my family is at least ten of you.:) What if nothing works out for me? Will you be disappointed? Will I feel like I've let you down?


When I started this blog I was sure that I would get an agent soon, and a sale would follow closely. It was a time saving device, really. So I wouldn't have to call everyone who wanted to be updated on my publishing process all the time. But I was certain that the glorious end was just out of sight on the horizon.

I've been lucky; I've had some great success. I'm not to my ultimate goal yet, but I'm close!

But what if I wasn't?

I think that writers need to be inherently optimistic--it's a hard industry to crack into; you need your good nature. But if I knew then what I know now, I don't know if I would have gone public quite so quickly.




Sean Ferrell said...

You're right about needing to be optimistic, but it's hard to be so when you know as much about the publishing biz as I do (I used to work for an agent) or when you do even a little bit of research. The publishing industry isn't exactly afraid to air its dirty habits. There are so many agents and editors blogging now, proudly stating that it is SLOW and DIFFICULT to get published.

I have to remind myself, on a daily basis, that "I'm okay, even if I don't get published." I can write. I believe that. But still, the waiting is hard. I have found that even the modest "success" I've had so far (getting an agent) has helped to spur on my other work. That's a good thing. I use my current WIP to keep me from thinking about the fact that I haven't heard from my agent in ... I won't even think about it... she'll contact me when she needs to... I'm okay, even if I don't get published.

Trina Rubert said...

I'm one of 10!!! Optimism is good to have. A realistic look is a good balancer. The key is three fold. Talent, HARD Work and stubborness (tenacity actually).

Michelle Zink said...

I started my blog for the same reason you started yours - to keep everybody posted in one shot.

I appreciate other writers who are willing to share their journey with the rest of us. One thing I've found is that writers at every point in the process are ravenous for information.

We don't have a frame of reference for what we're going through, so we want to compare.

Has this ever happened to you?

What did your agent do?

Will I look stupid if I...?

It lessens the loneliness for me in what is inherently a lonely endeavor.

It gives me hope to see others "make it", because I'm pretty sure no one is more stubborn than me and if they can do it, so can I!

It gives me comfort to realize I'm not alone and that others care about my journey as well.

I think your book WILL sell, Aprilynne. But if it doesn't, you'll sell the next one, and I'll be grateful you shared the truth of your journey along the way.

Putting ourselves out there takes courage, I think, ESPECIALLY in the beginning!

Jaye Wells said...

Hi there, I found you through Sean's blog.

With my blog, I really try not to talk too much about my submission process. Part of this is self-preservation since I've had agents and editors stop by on occassion. But the other part speaks to exactly what you're saying here. I'd be embarrassed to get excited in a post about a request only to come back and say, "whoops, close but no cigar...again."

One thing to remember is that since most of us won't be big names or may not even get published, it's nice to have a community of people who do this crazy thing because we love writing. Publication is just gravy.

JC Madden said...

I blog for a lot of reasons, but a lot of it is to keep up with writing-friends and to prompt myself that I need to write that evening.

As for your friend, I sound just like her. I got my agent last year, he sent off to 5 publishers...and then I dropped off his radar. After a very long year of being forgotten, I'm plunging back into the submissions pool and I hope this time it works for me.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. You just have to keep writing and keep loving what you're doing. :)

~Em~ said...

You have to be optimistic in my opinion, otherwise the inevitable rejections will kill your spirit and you may never plunge on to the ultimate success.

I blog because it's fun. My friends can read it, my family reads it, so when something happens (writing related or not) I can type it on there and they can see it and I don't have to make 20 individual phone calls.

So there's my .02!

Demon Hunter said...

I agree with Michelle. Writers like a frame of reference. We want to be in the loop. We may not want to post every rejection, but I'm not dismayed by it. All writers know that rejections are par for the course. I don't care if I have to come back several times and say I was rejected; it just shows I'm going for my dream!:*)

tomdg said...

Hi there.

Well, I found this blog completely by accident, like most of the blogs I read. But I read it because it's interesting - not because of where you might be in the future but because of where you are now. There are probably plenty of stories about how successful authors have "made it", and probably also a few about people who never did; but they're always coloured by being written after the event. It's more interesting to see what it's like being there at the time, when you have hopes and (perhaps) fears but simply don't know where it's going.

I can totally understand why you need to be optimistic. I remember a sales manager giving a talk where he said that sales people had to be thick-skinned as they spend most of their time getting rejected. That really struck a chord with me. That particular salesman came across very arrogant, but after that discussion, after getting that little peek into his world, I could understand why.

I'm sure you already know that failing to get published wouldn't make you a failure as a person. It wouldn't make your blog any less interesting either.

Maprilynne said...

Wow, this entry seemed to strike a chord for many of you. I had a rather morose day yesterday and I guess it showed.:) But I'm feeling much better today and was so pleased to read all of your thoughts and opinions.

Thanks so much for commenting!!!


P.S. I think you're all wonderful, even if you don't get published/an agent/a fantastically hot trophy spouse/etc.:)

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this blog and all the comments. I love reading about your adventures, writing related or not. And I will be proud of you no matter what happens. I already am! I will always be a huge fan of your writing, so keep the stories coming!


ORION said...

It's true. Every bit of it. The optimism drives the passion and joy in your work.
This is what the reader senses as they read your words and your story.
Your joy.
It is that crucial connection that is missing in the pessimistic.

Brent Alan Watson said...

Thanks for the blog. It really keeps things in perspective.

Pisarz said...

Very good post. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in realizing that most of us aren't among the lucky. You see the big picture, for sure.

And I must say, I'll start a blog myself IF I ever land an agent . . . but not before then. I'm quite convinced that getting an agent is something that happens to other people, not me--and there's no need to record my daily journey in the form of a blog if the agent quest never comes to fruition.

In the meantime, I'm sitting in the bleachers rooting for you!

Levi Nunnink said...

Yeah - I hear you. The entire process to publication is so darned difficult. There's so many steps involved and so many things can go wrong or just not work out.

I do think that you have a pretty cool agent, from what I've heard. I doubt that she'll have any trouble selling your story.