Once an author becomes published, what happens then? Do they get paid regularly, with lots of support from their publisher? Does their editor automatically love their next book? Do they know exactly how to promote their book? Do they ever wonder if their book will flop and they’ll lose every opportunity they worked so hard for?
We tend to shy away from being public about the hardships that come with traditional publishing, and realistically there are some good reasons for that. It’s like a car salesmen who during the test drive complains about his boss and how he missed his sales quota last month and might lose his job. Not exactly a winning sales technique.
As an author, once your book is up for sale, you are now a public figure and it can be tough to learn what to say and what’s off limits. What will come across like a negative Nancy? What do readers just not want to hear? Because what you say matters. Everything you put out on social media, every blog post, every speech, can affect how people see you. That’s your brand. So being brutally honest? Not always an option (but then sometimes, it is.)
So I’m gonna take a moment to tell you what so many others are afraid to say. I’m going to tell you what publishing traditionally is really like.
Publishing is a dream come to life. It’s holding a piece of your heart and soul, your blood and tears, in your hands, covered in an image you had to rely on someone else to create.
Publishing is holding your tongue as people rip that piece of you into shreds with their words. It’s smiling when that one person tells you how much it meant to them.
It’s watching the your sales ranking tick up and down, with no clue if it’s good or bad or means anything at all (but all the while, pretending it’s great). It’s excitement because PEOPLE ARE READING YOUR WORDS, but stress-fully wondering if there are enough of them to please your publisher.
Publishing is ever changing. It’s is creating expectations then wondering if you can continue to live up to them. Wondering if you want to live up to them. Because what readers want, isn’t always what you want. It’s facing your own expectations, and very rarely actually meeting them.
Publishing is wondering which to follow: your heart or head. Your muse or your internal (or external, depending) marketer.
Publishing is trying to please everyone at once. You agent, your editor, your publishing sales team, book stores and libraries, readers—and yourself.
Publishing is one step at a time. It's walking alone in the dark with only a flashlight, clueless as to which turn is the right one.
Publishing is making friends, with readers and industry people, but mostly fellow writers— the only people who can truly understand. It’s reading incredible words that you didn’t write and celebrating their successes like they’re your own.
Publishing is writers block. Stressing so much that sometimes you can’t create. And creating is the entire point, right?
Publishing is finally writing something you adore, that your editor may or may not actually like.
Publishing is starting over. Again and again and again. All the while hiding your confusion from your readers, sometimes even your own family.
Publishing is persevering. It’s holding a new piece of your soul in your hands with the same love and excitement. The same fears. And sometimes... different results.
Publishing is passion and exhilaration and art and devotion.
Publishing is terrifying, but in the end-- worth it.
Every experience is unique. Every journey has different twists, different dips and different highs but lags and trip-ups and fears-- they're pretty darn universal.