What About Publishing?

book slothLast week, I told you about some lessons I learned about writing. Now, let’s talk about publishing.

For my literary citizenship class this week, Cathy Day assigned us roughly ten million things to read about publishing. I’m not complaining, mind you, not at all. I will take any trusted sources on publishing that I can get. You can get links to about half of the material we had to read on the sidebar of the literary citizenship blog, but I’m going to give you a summary of the 7 Big Lessons I took away from the reading.

1) Publishing is a business.

You might be thinking, “Duh. It’s called the publishing industry. Of course it’s a business.”

The problem is that, as a writer, you might think that you can completely divorce yourself from that and just be the creative artist. You can’t. It’s not just that you’ll have to do some self-promotion. If you go the route of traditional publishing, you’ll lose a lot of creative control over things like the cover and title. You might have to make edits you don’t want to make. You’ll have to realize that, yes, this is a business, and you need to act professionally.

2) If you want a place for your book to go, you’re going to have to buy some books.

Amazon didn’t kill bookstores. We did. We “decided that convenience was more important than community“. We are entirely responsible for keeping the literary world aloft. If you want to be a writer and you want people to buy your books, then you have to buy books first. You have to keep the presses and publishers and bookstores in business.

(Not that buying books on Amazon is bad. It’s not. But still. You can’t blame them for being successful.)

3) Self-publishing isn’t bad.

Confession: I struggle with a bias against self-publishing. A lot of this has to do with what I’ll talk about in lesson #4. It’s hard not to think of people who self-publish as vain, but self-publishing and vanity presses are not the same thing. There are loads of reasons to self-publish. Maybe they want more control. Maybe they want a bigger share of the profits. Maybe they don’t want to wait the years it can take a book to be published the traditional route.

Why should writers be judged for that? Here’s my big resolution to myself: be more open to the self-published.

4) But it does have some drawbacks.

Yeah, there are still problems. While there are certainly high quality self-published books out there, there are also an awful lot of unvetted books. There are books that have been edited maybe a few times, and maybe not even by another person. There are poorly designed covers and bad copy editing, if any at all.

If you want to avoid self-publishing pitfalls, there are people out there who can help you. Take advantage of their services.

5) Then again, so does traditional publishing.

So, you go the traditional publishing route. Let’s assume that you’re okay letting go of some measure of control. What are the other bad parts?

In Making a Literary Life, Carolyn See gives us a look behind the scenes. It’s pretty nervous-making.

When you go the traditional publishing route, the company to a pretty large extent decides the fate of your book before it even comes out. They choose when to release it – some times of the year are much better than others – and how many copies to print. They decide your place in line. Just how much are they willing to spend on you? Just how much are they going to push your book? They decide how to present the book. They send it out for pre-reviews, and those pre-reviews really seal your fate. You don’t have control over any of this. For the most part, you won’t even be told about any of these decisions.

And publicity? Yeah. For the most part, you’re going to have to rely on yourself.

6) No matter which way you go, you’re going to have to do some work.

That’s right. You know that with self-publishing, you have to promote yourself. But the same is true for traditional publishing! No one cares as much about your book as you do. You have to be out there telling people about it. Build up your internet presence, go to bookstores, libraries, book clubs. Have contests and giveaways. There are loads of ways to get the word out, so get to work!

7) You need to really want it.

You might notice that this whole publishing thing is sounding really difficult. There’s no magic spell to getting noticed or published. There is, however, a lot of hard work to be done, and that’s on top of the writing of the book itself!

Publishing takes time. You’re going to get rejected, a lot. You’re going to have people that don’t like your book. And you’re just going to have to keep going.

So. Do you want it badly enough?

I know I do.

2 thoughts on “What About Publishing?

  1. I definitely understand your #3. Self publishing is a totally respectable option now, but whenever I think about it my stomach gets a little squidgy, especially with the glut of not well written or thought out books on, for instance, something like the amazon kindle store. But seeing other people like me also admitting that’s it’s a legitimate option given the way the publishing industry is going makes me feel better. Really nice post. 🙂

  2. I’m glad you posted this. Not to get more readers, but I just had back-to-back posts on topics you covered.


    Yeah, self-publishing has a ton to do with creative freedom, but even I was wary of it. I honestly had never picked up a self-published book until Wool by Hugh Howey. That really made me realize that, sometimes, the traditional publishers can miss out on some good stuff.

    I do get aggravated by the glut of books filled with errors, but that has alot to do with the need for self-publishers to become their own gatekeepers. All too often it is high schoolers thinking that their stuff rocks. Such is the trend with books though. This is really the last medium to succumb to the digital era. I’m surprised it took so long.

    In reality, with the digital age upon us and never going away, the mass public will be the true judge of what deserves to be read or not. Even though the publishers provided us with great content for so long, and even if they still do, the public will just assume they can do the job just as well. Maybe they can.

    Thanks for posting!

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