Questionable: 10 Things to Know About Publishing

Jul22014

Julie wrote:

How about . . . [a] Top 10 things nobody tells you about getting your book published, Top 10 things newbie authors need to know, middle-of-the-road/almost published authors should know…

Publishing is chaotic and ever-changing so any advice I give is subjective and possibly useless. Actually, any advice anybody gives is subjective and possibly useless. One thing to keep in mind when evaluating publishing advice is, “Does this make sense?” Because most of the time, it doesn’t. Here are some of the things my McDaniel students had heard about publishing:

Publishing Fact: “They’re not buying any authors over forty.”
Reality Check: Somebody shows up with a great book, but she’s fifty-one, so they decide not to publish her? Really? The current top ten authors on the NYT fiction list range in age from 44 to 71. Clearly, it’s an author demographic that still sells.

Publishing Fact: “They’re not buying new authors any more, they’re just publishing established names.”
Reality Check: That was so absurd, that I told my editor, Jen Enderlin, about it. She said, “YES! Spread that rumor so I can get all the new authors!” Discovering a great new author is the wet dream of every agent and editor because a great new author is the best way to build a reputation, not to mention a career.

Publishing Fact: “Historicals are dead.”
Reality Check: Historical fiction has been around for a couple of hundred years and historical romance has been selling steadily for at least a hundred years. What are the chances the twenty-first century killed it?

If you look closely at these facts, you’ll see they’re all useful for explaining why somebody’s book didn’t sell. “It wasn’t that my book was bad, it was that editors aren’t buying [fill in the kind of book she writes].” Generally speaking, any wisdom that says that X won’t sell or editors aren’t buying X doesn’t pass the logic test. Yes, vampires have been overworked, but if your vampire novel is so fabulous that the editor can’t resist it, she’ll publish it. No subject ever dies in publishing, although some of them take long naps, in which case one great book can wake them up again. (My fave bit of publishing wisdom: “Vampires are dead.” Yeah, but those suckers always rise again . . .) (Actually, the latest publishing fact I’ve heard is “Zombies are dead.” The jokes just write themselves, folks.)

But you wanted “the top ten things nobody ever tells you about publishing.” That’s impossible because people are always telling you things about publishing so everything has been said somewhere. But here are the top ten things that I, subjectively, would tell you about publishing, that may or may not apply to your situation, and that may or may not be true tomorrow. They’re in no particular order of importance until the last two.

1. Publishing is a slow.
If you’re talking about print, it takes a year. If you’re talking about a well-published e-book, it still takes about a year. That’s because publishing is not printing; that is, publishing involves marketing strategies, arranging placement in stores, devising public relations campaigns, and many other things that make the difference between your book dying on the shelf (real or virtual) and lots of people hearing about the book and being tempted to read it. One of the biggest misconceptions that e-publishing has given us is that you can write a book on Tuesday and publish it on Wednesday. You can write a book on Tuesday and make it available for purchase on Wednesday, and technically that is published, but since “publish” means “to make public” you could also publish it by leaving a stack of copies of the manuscript by your front door, and you’ll probably get about the same number of readers. It takes time to publish a novel well.

2. Publishing is a very small world.
If you’re standing on the outside, Publishing is huge and powerful. Once you’re on the inside, Publishing is a very small town. People have lunch, go to cocktail parties, call each other to gossip like crazy, and, most of all, know each other. There’s a perception that the rise of e-publishing has decentralized that small town and that it’s now spread throughout the country, but the heart of publishing is still NYC. Be professional with everybody, even the dickheads; you do not want to be a LITS author (“Life Is Too Short to work with this bitch again.”)

3. Publishing is populated by people who love books.
I’ve never had an editor or an agent who didn’t love books. Every editor and agent I’ve met has loved story, loved reading, loved making books that bring great stories to readers. They make lousy money and work incredibly long hours and when they do get time off, they read for pleasure, and most of them wouldn’t dream of leaving publishing because they just freaking love books. They really want to love your book, too. They are not the enemy.

4. Publishing is fluid.
Whatever I tell you now may not be true tomorrow. Hell, it may not be true by this afternoon. Everything in the world is changing right now, so it’s no surprise that publishing is in flux, too, but it’s even more chaotic because of e-publishing (a good thing) and the dying off of bricks and mortar stores (a bad thing) and the hacking away at the already slim profit margin by Amazon, a retailer who has also become a publisher (another bad thing). Publishing changes every damn day, so stay fluid with it.

5. Publishing is irrelevant until you’ve finished a book.
If you’re a first-time author, you’re going to have to have a finished book to sell, so researching (or worrying about) publishing before your book is done is a waste of time. Finish your manuscript and then while you’re in rewrites, do your research.

6. Publishing requires a good agent.
I know, it’s hard getting a good agent. It’s hard knowing who a good agent is. But it’s a nightmare trying to navigate publishing without one. The contracts are Byzantine, the procedures complex, the demands on authors constant. An agent stands between you and all of that. Because you have an agent, you will never have to talk money with your editor, will never have to tell the head of internet marketing that if he wants you to tweet every day you expect him to write your books, will never have to wonder what the hell a reversion of rights clause is and why the wording on it is crucial in e-book sales.

How to find a good agent: Finish your book. Then look at all the books you love that were published in the last two years. Find out who those authors’ agents were because they clearly have the same taste in fiction that you do. Research those agents (search for videos of panel discussions so you can hear them talk, google for online posts by them, find them on Facebook and Twitter, etc.). See if they feel right for you, if your personalities are compatible. Then put together a great proposal for your finished book and query them, mentioning the things that drew you to them and explaining in one short paragraph why your book is fabulous. That process takes a awhile, but the goal isn’t to find any agent fast, it’s to find an agent who loves your work with whom you can work comfortably for many years.

7. Publishing changes your life.
It won’t necessarily make your life better, it may make your life worse, but it’s definitely going to change it. If you have a friend who thought the two of you were just alike and you get published, you may lose that friend because she now feels like a failure, even if you’re lovely to her, even if she’s not writing a book. If you’re married, your significant other may feel threatened. Threatened people often turn to denigration: “Yeah, she wrote a book but it was just a romance.” “Yeah, she wrote a book, but it sold like twelve copies.” If you’re hoping for any kind of sales at all, you’ll have to become more public, working social media, making appearances wherever you can arrange them, talking about yourself and your work. Even your writing life changes; before you were hoping to get published, now you have a contract and a deadline and expectations and people who are going to judge this book by comparing it to your last book even if they’re completely different. And then there’s the IRS and the wonderful world of the self-employed. Getting published doesn’t solve anything, it just delivers a new set of problems challenges.

8. Publishing can eat your life.
Publishing is demanding. You’ll end up spending all your free time writing, marketing on social media, writing, going to conferences, writing, dealing with the business issues of being self-employed, writing . . . It’s difficult for the very few people who can afford to write full time, it’s really difficult for the people who are holding down full time jobs, it’s damn near impossible for people with full time jobs and children under fifteen, and frankly I don’t know how people who self-publish well are still alive because I don’t see when they sleep. Which is why it’s really important to establish boundaries for your career, say “this much time and no more will be spent on publishing” because otherwise everything else can get lost.

9. The key to surviving publishing is identifying and listening to your signal.
Separating the signal from the noise in publishing means separating what you want from your life and your publishing career from all the crap that people tell you about publishing. The mistake most people make when they approach publishing is that they listen to the noise and try to make a career plan from that. “You have to write two books a year to be successful,” they hear, so they plan to write two books a year without considering whether they CAN write two books a year and, more important, if they want to give their lives over to writing two books a year. In the last McDaniel class, I have students make a career plan before I give them any information about publishing. I tell them to think about how they want to live their lives, what they want from their careers, what their priorities are, and then I make them write a one-year and five-year career plan. Usually, they panic because they don’t know enough about publishing to make a plan, but the plan isn’t about publishing, it’s about how they can live their lives as writers, fully and happily. They have to establish what they’re willing to sacrifice and what they must protect. Only then, when their signal is clear, do we start searching through the incredible amount of publishing noise that’s out there to figure out how to implement that plan. Only then can they look at agents and editors as partners in publishing instead of bosses or gatekeepers, someone they can bring their career plans to and say, “This is what I want; let’s talk about it and you can help me revise this plan to be practical and effective in light of what’s happening today.” Only then can they slow down, realize there’s no hurry, that they’re on their own timeline, and that finding the right publishing partners is infinitely more important that getting published fast. Making a publishing career plan is a hugely complex endeavor that requires regular revising, but the most important part is identifying your signal first. As long as you know your signal and use it as your guide, you’ll survive.

10. The most important thing I know about publishing: Write a fantastic book. Then do it again. That makes everything else about publishing so much easier.

Filed in Publishing, Writing

37 Comments to 'Questionable: 10 Things to Know About Publishing'

On July 2, 2014 at 11:50 am Julie H. said...

Great list, Jenny! Thanks. One of those “truths” I’d always heard floating around was that the contemporary romance was dead and the only thing keeping it alive were “those cartoon covers.” LOL. Seems like the genre managed to hang in there still. ;)

1, 2 and 7 and 9 rang the bell for me. Publishing is definitely not quick. I’ve had book go (from query to The End) of 3 years. 9 and 10 is, I think, 2 of the most important for me.

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On July 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm Jenny said...

Contemporary romance has never even run a mild temperature; it’s pretty much a cash cow. Weird the things people say.

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On July 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm robena grant said...

This is fabulous. Thank you.
It’s so important to have friends who are also writers, especially when you don’t have an agent. When things get tough and you’re overwhelmed, you learn that you aren’t alone and at least one of your friends has experienced what you’re going through. #9 is terrific. I’ve only truly begun to listen to myself this year. There is a lot of distracting noise out there. Hadn’t thought of it as a signal though. Now I will.

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On July 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm Lynda said...

Excellent points, Jenny. A couple of things I’d add are that once you’re published, other people may/will try to lay claim to your success–one of the worst teachers I ever had, who happened to know my in-laws, told them that I “owed it all to him”–and strangers will suddenly want to be your friend. Funny how these newfound friends almost always have a book idea they want you to tell them how to sell or, worse, to write for them.

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On July 2, 2014 at 1:39 pm Jenny said...

I had that under “publishing changes your life,” and decided it was too depressing. But yes, people will come out of the woodwork looking for ways to tie in to your career. The funniest for me was my exes, all of whom assumed I based my heroes on them. Uh, no. If they’d been men like my heroes, I’d still be with them. The hard part is learning to protect yourself, after which people call you stuck up and remark how you’re always with the same group of friends. Yep, you learn who you can trust and you keep them close; everybody else you smile politely at.

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On July 2, 2014 at 1:52 pm toni said...

Really fantastic list.

I’d add something that you’ve said here a million times — everyone’s path is their own. Don’t compare your path to someone else’s, because that way lies madness. You’re not the same people, don’t have the same life experiences, everything can’t be duplicated, and there’s no such thing as “fair.” You have to know that going in.

Lynda, I had the teacher that did that, too. Told my husband I wouldn’t have been a writer if it weren’t for him. My husband put him back in his place, thank Goodness, because he knew how little I learned from the man, and how I respected him even less. [I had ranted. All that semester.]

It’s hard to protect yourself. It’s sad that you have to, but you do. I’ve pulled the knives out of my back a couple of times in just complete surprise, and even with all my experience in construction (which is cut-throat enough), I hadn’t expected it. It’s always a shock.

That said, people like Jenny and most writers are very giving and supportive and encouraging. They’re good people, and it shows.

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On July 2, 2014 at 4:27 pm Debra Holland said...

Lots of good advice. I will disagree with #6. There are very few agents nowadays who understand both traditional and self-publishing and will steer their clients in the best path for them, which might not be the most lucrative one for the agent. With a few notable and stellar exceptions, new authors may be better off without an agent. BUT do the research about the publishing industry. There’s plenty out there and no need to make uninformed decisions.

A good literary attorney can look over any contract and work with you to make the changes you want. You’re not going to owe him or her 15% of the book.

As in every other aspect of life, follow your intuition. That will be your best guide.

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On July 2, 2014 at 4:31 pm Gin said...

Coming from the practice of law, I was prepared for the slowness of publishing (which is nothing compared to the slowness of the court system), but I do see a lot of writers who aren’t prepared for it.

I’d also second Toni’s advice on not comparing careers. It’s hard to avoid doing, but it’s just painful and it doesn’t change anything. I would have loved to have sold my first (or even my fifth or sixth) manuscript (that’s the comparison monster that gets me, not the money, but the ability to hit on a good path with the first or second try, and feeling like a failure when it took ages to get it right), but the quick sale didn’t happen, and in some ways, it’s just as well, because I needed to find my core story/genre, the thing I can write about forever, which wasn’t what I originally thought it was.

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On July 2, 2014 at 4:49 pm Deborah Blake said...

Last year, I sold my debut novel. I was 53. So much for those first two “facts.”

And I thank the gods every day for my agent–I don’t know how people who publish without them do it. I saw the “before” and “after” of my contract. There was a whole lot of black ink either drawn through whole clauses or scribbled on the sides where she added things.

The thing I’ve found the most eye-opening in the last year, since moving from where I was (publishing one NF Llewellyn book a year, and working on one novel) is that once you sell, things no longer move in a straight line. I’m very much a “put my head down and work on project A until it is done, then move on to project B” person. But I’ve been trying to work on a new novel for 6 months–we’ll call that project D. Every time I get rolling, I get copyedits from project A, then proofs to go through for project B (I sold a novella and 2 novels, so there are lots of balls in the air at the moment), or the offer of a new NF project which meant stopping to write out a proposal for project E. Needless to say, Project D is getting nowhere much at all. I’m going to have to retrain the way I work to deal with this. Some of the realities of publishing are ones you don’t expect at all.

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On July 2, 2014 at 8:20 pm Ann A said...

Amen! Preach it, Jenny! I’ve heard many of these same ‘truths’ from writers. I’d heard ‘historicals are dead’ from one direction, then see FB posts from other writer friends heralding their new historical.

No older writers? Hah! I hit 52 this year and hope to have my novel done well before I hit 53.

There’s only one author who can lay claim as a major contributor to my future success — and that’s YOU, Ms Crusie! It’s your guidance in the McD courses that is helping me sculpt my career. And in the pack of writers who’ve helped are my fellow McD classmates and my chapter mates from MRW. THANK YOU!!!

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On July 2, 2014 at 10:44 pm Raquel said...

What a great list. When I answer I write contemporary romance when questioned what genre, there’s been lots of eye rolling. All I do is keep smiling because I know what I know thanks to folks like all of you. It mystifies me that there is still a reaction like that.
There are worse things to do with your life than making money doing something you love to do while entertaining and bringing joy to masses of total strangers.
People come out of the woodwork to hijack success and enthusiasm from you no matter what you do, but I have had the advantage of my father teaching me early on that it is better to have a handful true friends who nourish your soul than a party of sycophants continually draining it.
There is a grand woman in my life whom I adore. She has read my 1st draft and laughed so hard with glee she nearly wet herself before asking me if my hero in the book is based on her son (my deceased fiance). My hero has a lot of her son’s attributes, yes, I told her. Except for all the sex cause, yeah, we never did that. A terrible lie from me. I didn’t look her in the eyes when I said it and she didn’t buy it for a second, so we’re good. She just hugged me and told me to finish it, see it through and dedicate it to her, “to my gorgeous friend, Maria – mouth of a sailor, womb to swordsmiths”.
I’m lucky in that, and one day I will use that dedication.

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On July 2, 2014 at 10:55 pm Jenny said...

Oh, lovely.

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On July 3, 2014 at 3:13 am Emily said...

You get these in bookselling, too – things like, “Kids don’t read books anymore”. Really?? ‘Cause my pay check says they do. And “fantasy fiction doesn’t sell”, which would have confused most of my most loyal customers.

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On July 3, 2014 at 9:49 am Jenny said...

The misconceptions about bookselling would make a post of their own. There are pundits in every business, blinded by their own biases. That would include, of course, me.

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On July 3, 2014 at 10:36 am Elisabeth Crisp said...

Thank you for the positive, constructive advice. So much of what I read about this business is negative, self-preservation requires I stop reading before the end. The take-away, “Write a fantastic book,” reminds me to get off the web, open Scrivener, and go to work.

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On July 3, 2014 at 2:33 pm Christina Seine said...

So informative! There are several very good points here. Thanks!

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On July 3, 2014 at 5:50 pm Paula Harvey said...

Thanks for sharing this post, I’m going to try & keep these tips in mind!

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On July 3, 2014 at 8:47 pm Suzanne said...

Jenny, # 7 and 8 are the ones that make my blood pressure spike. I’m so afraid of how being published will change my life. I want to write, but I’m not so keen on appearances and conferences and marketing. I never paid much attention to the business side until I signed a contract, and now it’s all I’m studying. I take classes where I’m told to do FB, Twitter, blog tours, appearances in my local book stores, etc. And then I read Donald Maass who says the best thing you can do is write a second fantastic book. He says that appearances and social media platforms work great for beloved authors but don’t sell books for debut authors. Do you have any thoughts on what does work? The maximum results from minimum effort? I think that makes me sound snotty. I don’t mean I won’t do the work, just that I’m very introverted. Writing makes me feel good, marketing myself makes me anxious.

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On July 3, 2014 at 9:39 pm Jenny said...

Protect the work first.
Here’s the thing: if you do all the promo and traveling and all of that, your chances of having a bestseller improve. No guarantee, your chances just get better. But you have to do it a LOT, and you have to do for several books in a row, and it’s a soul-sucking experience.
So one of the things you look at it is determining your signal. What do you want from life? What are you willing to sacrifice to get it? If you want the bestseller list are you willing to do a lot of marketing that’s not much fun? If you want a serene and happy life, are you willing to give up bestsellers lists and money? You’re the only one who can decide.

As for marketing, I tell my McD students to pick three things they’d enjoy doing and ignore the rest. If you like blogging, if you like speaking, if you like Twitter, whatever, but remember that you’re not selling your book, you’re entertaining people. If your Twitter feed is just a one tweet after another pushing books, you’re not entertaining people. If your blog doesn’t entertain or inform or educate or provoke discussion, if it’s just talking about you and the book, you’re not inviting people to the party. So find what you enjoy doing that entertains readers, and concentrate on that.

But basically, Don is right. It’s a helluva lot more important to write good books that it is to write amusing tweets.

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On July 4, 2014 at 3:38 pm Sure Thing said...

AMEN.

I love Twitter but when I see authors tweet each others’ book links in a “time to pay the bills” way I get my ranty-pants on. I don’t care what your publisher told you. I’ll mute you if I can. Especially if I think an author is punting a stable-mate’s book which s/he hasn’t read.

You gotta be interesting on twitter. Talk about the stuff you like, if you’re keen on something, you’ll sound like someone worth following. Join a hashtag conversation if the topic interests you. Not because you have to pay the bills. Follow people you have a reason to follow.

I often delete/unfollow if I feel you’ve been told “This is a great marketing tool” – it is a way to share yourself enjoyably! If you don’t enjoy it, I feel safe in saying you’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons or on bad advice. I have unfollowed well-known people who only went online to punt reviews of their books or movies or upcoming releases of the same.

I follow fave authors, actors, publishing people, radio people, astronauts on and off the ISS, scientists, Betties and recently the traffic blogs. Ive had some pretty well regarded folks follow me back. On our national radio, one of my tweets on a topic under discussion was quoted on air, added to the discussion with callers and with “good point, S” from the dj. It’s ALIVE, a dynamic medium.

My shining moment- 2 retweets from Neil Gaiman on a hashtag about reversing book titles. I gained a LOT of followers from that! I even once helped Zoe Archer clarify a definition for something she was writing. And because she tweets about various things, not just selling her books it was a fun exchange. I got a great comeback from John Rogers (Leverage). Ok, now I’m probably just bragging. It just I see so many poor choices online and I just want to help. I’m pretty much a nobody in terms of a need for a public profile, but I have one. How ’bout that?

I like social media and I like making it work. @SarahV2K, if you don’t mind the grumpy grumposaurus tweets from time to time.

Forgive typos please, am learning new touchscreen keyboard.

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On July 4, 2014 at 3:49 pm Jenny said...

I’m still not comfortable with Twitter, but I’m getting there. The thing is, I really don’t have much to say that works in that kind of format. Pithy, I am not. So I’m sticking to blogging.

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On July 4, 2014 at 4:14 pm Sure Thing said...

Sometimes it just starts with following someone who is interesting. I JUST found Steve Thomas, the Renovation Nation presenter. Now that’d interest you.

As long as you have a presence, people like me’ll talk at you. You reply and LO you’re using Twitter.

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On July 3, 2014 at 9:52 pm Suzanne said...

I want a serene and happy life, and I’m willing to give up bestseller lists and money (those were never my motivations)–but is that dumb? Is there a reason to be published if no one’s buying my books? Also, if the social media platforms entertain but don’t sell books, then what is the true advantage to doing them? I’m not saying I won’t do them. I’m not a difficult person. :) And I’m certainly a thousand times more comfortable with a FB persona than I am speaking in front of a group, but will it sell books? I’d like to find that happy medium. Why would my publisher continue to buy my books if I’m not driven to market and be a bestseller? Do you know what I mean? I’ll do the work–I’m told I can set aside 30 minutes a day to attending to the business end. I just don’t want it to consume me–because when I’m writing, I’m happy, and when I’m doing the business stuff I’m agitated. I’m too old to be agitated. You know?

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On July 3, 2014 at 10:03 pm Kelly S said...

Be certain to have a website that lists your books and ways to contact you – FB, twitter, email – if you have them. Readers will want to know what you’ve written and order of series, if you have series. The reason to do social media would be to connect with people or to let them connect to you – other writers & readers.

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On July 4, 2014 at 3:39 am Jenny said...

Most authors aren’t bestsellers, so not being a bestseller does not mean nobody is buying your books. Bob Mayer used to say that it was easier to become a United States senator than it was to become an NYT bestseller.

The reason that I think social media platforms have to entertain is that otherwise, all you’re doing is shilling your book. And that gets old. But if you actually communicate with people and they get to know you through your tweets and blog posts, when you do say, “Hey, I have a book out next week,” they’ll go look for it because they know you. I’ve stopped following people I know and like on Twitter because all they did was tweet about the books they had coming out and the books their friends had coming out. I got tired of being sold all the time. But the people who say interesting things? Them I keep following.

As for will it sell books, nobody knows what sells books. Booksignings in general do not, although a signed book is more likely to sell than an unsigned one, so signing stock is always a good idea.

A publisher will buy your books if you’re not driven to be a bestseller because not being a bestseller doesn’t mean you’ll sell fewer books than the people who make the lists. It’s the biggest misconception in publishing: bestsellers lists aren’t about total sales, they’re about velocity of sales. So you and The Bestselling Author both publish your book in the same week; he sells ten thousand copies, and you sell a thousand. The next week he sells five thousand copies and you sell two thousand, the next week you both sell two thousand copies. But your book has good word of mouth and his doesn’t, so the next week he sells five hundred and you sell two thousand. The week after that, he’s done, but you sell two thousand. Three months later, you’re still selling a couple hundred copies a week. By year’s end, you’ve made more money for your publisher than he has, but you’re still not a bestseller. Bestselling authors get better advances and better store placement and that’s all good, but publishing money is for the long term, how long your books sell steadily, which leads to how long your publisher keeps you in print. (Of course, your e-published editions stay in print forever.)

I’m not sure what business stuff you can do in thirty minutes a day, but then I’m not sure what “business stuff” is. Some days, you’ll be on the phone with your agent for an hour. Some days you’ll be in the city with your agent and editor for a couple of hours. Some days you won’t do anything at all.

If you’re too old to be agitated, publishing is going to be hard for you because it’s nothing but agitation. The nice thing about the e-publishing revolution is that if you don’t care about money and sales, you can publish yourself, no agitation. If you care about money and sales, then there’s going to be agitation. It’s a tough business, there’s a lot of uncertainty and stress, And it’s going to move you outside your comfort zone. There is no free lunch, babe. But you can limit the amount of agitation by figuring out how much you’re willing to sacrifice and then designing your career from there.

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On July 4, 2014 at 4:42 am colognegrrl said...

Thanks for your words about the bestselling authors. Alas, however, methinks that once somebody has made a bestselling list, things get easier. The publisher is willing to invest in an ad campaign for the next book. The author gets invited to write a regular column in a women’s magazine. Producers consider turning it into a movie. While the long-but-steady-run author gets one single copy put into the bookstore’s shelf of “Authors A-Z”. At least that’s what I experience here in Germany, where we have an expression saying that the devil will always sh*t on the biggest crap heap.

On the other hand, I know how risky it is for a publishing house to turn out a book, any book. There’s money at stake in a business which gets more difficult by the minute. If they always knew which one is going to make it, they wouldn’t take on the ones that turn out to be failures. So, as long as I get published, as long as they are willing to
give me another contract, I guess they still see the potential. And I can still continue writing my stories, always hoping that the next one will be the real break-through. I’m not good at marketing myself, so I do as much as I am able to stand and leave the rest to fate. ;o)

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On July 4, 2014 at 11:19 am Jenny said...

Everything you said is true. BUT . . .

Once you make the list, you have to keep on making the list, so that pressure is there. And then the assumption is you’ll keep climbing the list, so if you were at #10 and the next book is #17, people start to shake their heads (NOT my publisher) even though three weeks before they’d have been congratulating you for #17. If your book comes out the week one or two or three much bigger authors come out, you’re going to fall down the list. If a train derails somewhere with your books on it, you’re not going to make the list (actually happened to an author). The list is like everything else in publishing: there is no free lunch. The higher you go, the more you get (including real free lunches from agents and editors), the more you pay in other ways. That’s true in everything in life, not just publishing, but it’s something to be aware of.

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On July 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm colognegrrl said...

Of course the pressure builds constantly, I can see that. I just think that once you make the list, you’ve got something going for you (PR-wise) which has kind of its own dynamics.

The other question is how you deal with it. I haven’t read Andre Agassi’s book “Open” but I heard a quote from it. He says that he found out that even though winning (a match, a tournament) is good, it is not as good as losing is bad. The joy, the elation of having made it seems to disappear much faster than the pain caused by failure. I’m still thinking about that.

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On July 4, 2014 at 3:48 pm Jenny said...

I think you adapt to winning, but you never adapt to losing.

How I deal with it is to step away from it. It helps that I’m not responsible for my sales, my publisher is. I’m responsible for reviews and what readers say about it, but they’re responsible for getting the book into people’s hands. So when I make the NYT, that’s SMP’s doing, not mine. A great review? That’s my doing.

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On July 9, 2014 at 10:43 pm PG said...

“Bob Mayer used to say that it was easier to become a United States senator than it was to become an NYT bestseller.”

I guess the incumbency effect works on both, as well — once you get elected, it’s easier to keep getting reelected. Once you’ve had a few bestsellers, it’s easier to keep best-selling.

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On July 3, 2014 at 10:15 pm Micki said...

You know, you always preface your publishing remarks with things like everything changes and so you hate talking about it — but then you go on to lay it out in such a clear and practical way. I think both sides of the em dash are totally justified.

And I have to tell you, even though you were so reluctant to do the publishing bit in McD, going through it really enriched my life in so many ways. First of all, it knocked out one big fear. I don’t *really* know how to publish a book yet, but I can see the pathway, and I feel confident that when I get something that’s good enough to show an agent/editor, I will be able to follow-through.

(-: And then there’s all the lovely little life skills I learned about how to set up a blog, where to find great public domain pics, and how to design a website without making it look like a reproductive health PSA. (And I finally get why one needs to put who one is and what one does on the title page of the website (-:.)

I love this summary of the five weeks.

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On July 4, 2014 at 3:41 am Jenny said...

That was eight weeks, Micki. You’re blocking out some of it, probably the hell I put you all through for the first draft of the career plan.

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On July 4, 2014 at 5:42 am Suzanne said...

Thanks, Jenny. I appreciate your insights. The people who’ve talked about setting aside 30 minutes a day for business stuff meant attending to social media, responding to emails, that kind of thing. Just putting it in a box, so it’s not looming in your mind and sprawled across your desk, making it hard to focus on the writing. I will do what I have to do, and I’ll learn as I go along, but I’m definitely the type to learn all I can in advance to gird myself for what might be coming my way.

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On July 4, 2014 at 11:19 am Jenny said...

As long as you know what you want, not what publishing wants, you’ll be fine. You want to drive your career, not have your career drive you.

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On July 5, 2014 at 10:04 am Bona said...

Love your posts so much that I have to share them in google+. I wish I could see these articles translated.

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On July 5, 2014 at 10:47 am Jenny said...

I am unfortunately monolingual, if you don’t count pig latin which I don’t think anybody uses anymore. Pig latin: a dead language.

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On July 9, 2014 at 10:44 pm PG said...

I think your style of writing is sufficiently clear that it would work well even in automated translation such as Google’s. Looking back over this post, it doesn’t even use many idioms.

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