Writing is such a solitary profession, and it takes so long to get any attention at all in the industry, it’s incredibly easy for writers to read far more into the little milestones than they should. While it’s important to celebrate accomplishments and recognitions, it’s also incredibly important to keep it all in perspective.
Here are five painfully false assumptions writers often make from little successes … and how to avoid or dig your way out of them.
Holly is excited to give away two (2) free books (one of each novel) to random commenters. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before. (Update: Susan & Lena won.)
Guest column by Holly Schindler, whose debut YA
novel, A Blue So Dark,
received a starred review in
Booklist and was named one of Booklist’s
First Novels for Youth. Her second YA novel,
Playing Hurt, released on March 8, 2011. She
can be found online at hollyschindler.com
1. I have an agent! Success is mine for the taking. For an unpublished author, snagging an agent is a definite coup. And having representation can open the door to the publishing world … But it doesn’t guarantee the opening of that door. There’s a chance that after several months (or more than a year), you’ll find yourself never having snared a book deal, and being dropped by your agent. Do yourself a favor: The minute your agent begins shopping your current manuscript, write another. That way, you’ll have something else for your agent to shop if your current book proves to be a hard sell…or, if the two of you mutually decide to part ways, you’ll have a brand-new, never-before-shopped manuscript that you can begin querying new agents about.
2. I found an editor who likes my book and said I could send revisions!That means he / she is about to buy it! To get personal attention from a busy editor is certainly an incredible compliment. And editors don’t say what they don’t mean. If an editor has passed on your manuscript for now, but invites you to resubmit, they really are interested in your work. However, an inordinate amount of revision takes place after a book is acquired. Not just copyediting—global edits. Usually, if an editor is wild about a project, they’ll acquire it and then begin the process of global revision. That doesn’t mean that books are never acquired on a second submission. But be aware that it may take massive amounts of revision to convince an editor to acquire your book.
3. I have a traditional publisher.That means they’ll do all my promotional work for me. While a publishing house has a vested interest in your book doing well (they want to make money, too), you should never discount the power you have in getting your work into the hands of readers. You probably have one book, one chance to turn a profit as a novelist in a year. Depending on the size of the house, your publisher can have hundreds of books, hundreds of opportunities to make a profit. Turning a profit on your book is more important to you than anyone else. So take charge of your own promos! Don’t ever look for excuses not to do promo work (don’t go looking for successful writers who don’t blog, etc.) Instead, constantly be on the lookout for new ways you can spread the word about your work. It is truly, truly in your own best interest.
4. I found an editor who’s wild about my work! (S)he will take everything I write. Just because one of your manuscripts is right for a house, that doesn’t mean all of them are. The editor who’s wild about your debut might not like the second book. Editors also come and go at publishing houses with incredible frequency. The best thing you can do is to write the work you want to write. Don’t write for the house you happen to be working with right now. Publishable work will find the right home—and editor. Always. Don’t stifle your creativity trying to stay put where you are.
5. Once I sell a book, I’ll be able to quit my day job. This is probably the biggest falsehood new authors tell themselves. Most writers don’t enter into the publishing world with a million-dollar advance. Most writers build their careers brick-by-brick (or book-by-book). You’re really lucky if your first book brings you credibility and good reviews and a group of core readers who love your work. But buying a book from a first-timer is a bit of a risk. Expect most people to seek your first book out through libraries (or second-hand stores) until they get to know you.
After years of labor, it’s incredibly tempting to let a bit of positive headway make you believe that you have officially arrived. Truth is, writing isn’t generally a profession in which you achieve success all at once—it’s more of a profession that slowly builds upon itself, baby step by baby step. The best thing you can do is to keep moving forward, never pausing more than just a moment to rest on any laurels.
Holly is excited to give away two (2) free books (1 of each novel) to random commenters. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before. (Update: Susan & Lena won.)
Writing YA? Check out author K.L. Going's
resource Writing & Selling the YA Novel