Never Forget: Publishing Is A Business

I don’t use Instagram “stories” much myself. But on the odd occasion I feel like it. Something motivated me to post this the other day:

[From one of my Instagram stories, January 14, 2020. Click to expand.]

I had been doing non-authoring work at my PC, when I glanced over at the paper copy of Tomorrow The Grace sitting on my desk. I opened it and turned pages. Looking at it many months since I’d written it, that page is writing I do still kinda like.

I am hyper-critical of myself. I always see something I could have written, I think, differently. As a writer, though, you cannot let such second-guessing get to you, or you will freeze while writing and never write anything. You have to take deep breaths and go at it.

I feel authors also have to be cautious about tying up too much of themselves into others’ opinions of their writing. If you do so, you are on shaky ground for yourself mentally. Someone is always going to “knock you down.”

I dislike the “beta” reader stuff. I explain why in a 2017 post, and my views have not changed. This is part of it:

Overall in circulating a full draft manuscript among “too many” people I feel there is simply a creative danger in having to deal with too many opinions. I’ll never forget my novelist uncle, while reading Frontiers, telling me – I was a wreck as he read it – that I should just write as I wish. It was my story, my style, and my call, so to speak.

That said, if you have “over 20 beta readers” who “love” your book, you are probably doing something write right. No, the industry is not broken. There is simply A LOT of competition from many other good to great writers out there all also angling for attention for their work: it has always been that way and always will be.

So there is no point going on about the “unfairness” of it all. (Many authors it seems feel compelled now to take to Twitter to whinge, which in my opinion is NEVER a good idea: keep your failures private and don’t whine to potential readers.) Yet we all also know that many a published book is – to be charitable – not all that good. How did it get published then?

Because while it may be of low quality, it was believed to be marketable and saleable. Yes, you may have produced the next “great global novel,” but if a literary agent does not think it will sell he/she will turn it down. They would almost certainly rather sell “10 million” copies of another Fifty Shades (which will help pay off their mortgage, put the kids through college, and cover “assisted living” for 25 years for the aging parents – and all of that just for starters) than “10,000” copies of your “quality” novel.

[What a girlfriend of ours had on a guest room shelf. Dublin, Ireland. Sneaky photo by me, 2015.]

Just because some agent does not want to represent you does not mean you cannot write well. Writing may be all about “creativity” for you; but never forget that publishing is a business. Chances are a rejection means only that what you write is not a good fit for their business: they are not working to make you feel good about yourself.

If you are determined to chase agents, make sure you at least target those who are in your genre. (If you produce adult sci-fi/fantasy, there is no point approaching an agent who specializes in children’s books.) Also do some deeper research and look to aim for those who grasp what you are trying to write or have written. It will greatly help – as in any working relationship – to “hit it off” personally, but becoming “sympatico” with an agent is not easy: it is like looking to find “a friend” and as we know it is not easy to find a real friend…

…And maybe more than a friend. My (now late) mother believed that my (now late) uncle – while he was still a married man – at some point had an affair with his long-time literary agent. They were indeed THAT, shall we say, “sympatico.” LOL!

* * *

Another one of the reasons I distrust the “beta” reader fixation that seems to have overwhelmed indie writing is intellectual security. I would never suggest anyone share their full manuscript far and wide PRE-publication with people they do not really know. PERIOD. Idea theft does happen.

[Trilogy: Passports, Frontiers, Distances: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1997. Photo by me, 2019.]

Even POST-publication, you may find yourself taken aback. A few nights ago, we watched a television program I will not name. What I heard voiced on screen several times unsettled me.

Set in France, some bits of not exactly commonplace dialogue struck me as resembling what I had published at least a year (and more) before that program was produced. And it was NOT a good feeling. It was the first time I had ever felt that way.

But I do know coincidences also happen, of course. So after I had thought about it more, I preferred to take this positive view of it: It was reassuring that my writing style could indeed end up on television. Frankly, though, I felt mine is also definitely BETTER writing. LOL!

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂