Paving The Road To Successful Publication
SOME OPENING THOUGHTS
Being published in today’s world doesn’t quite mean the same thing as being published, say, fifty years ago. The internet and ebooks and self-publishing have taken a bit of the glow off of the word “published,” and quite literally anyone can now publish a book.
So we have to qualify this article just a tad.
If all you want to do is get published then go write a book, download it on Kindle, and may the wind always be at your back and the road always rise up to meet you, or some such Irish nonsense. J
However, if you want to successfully publish a book, and by that I mean publish a book that people will actually read, then you will need to at some point assess where you are on the road to successful publication….and that is what this article is for.
SUBJECTIVITY IS A PAIN IN THE PATOOTE
You see, we immediately run into the problem that one man’s success is another man’s failure. What does it mean to successfully publish? Does it mean that your family and friends will buy the book? Does it mean you will sell one-thousand books? Ten-thousand?
Is the mere act of writing a book and publishing success enough for you? Does your definition of success include self-publishing or is it only contingent upon a publisher taking on your project?
I can’t answer any of those questions for you, but I can toss out some suggestions that should help most of you.
Let’s start with some classic behaviors that are a waste of time for most writers.
WHO HAS TIME TO WASTE?
Certainly not me and I will assume not you as well, but it is amazing how many writers do the following and end up deep-sixing their chances:
- The biggest time-waster of them all is sending out work that is not your best. Every project that you work on should be the best you have to give, and if it isn’t then it isn’t worth sending to a publisher for review.
- Self-publishing to no one refers to the fact that without an audience or a marketing plan, you might as well not publish. In 2009 there were 760,000 new titles published in non-traditional ways, and another 300,000 published in traditional hard-copy ways. That’s over one million new books for those of you who are math-challenged, and that is a ton of competition. Hopefully you have a plan so that your book is actually read.
- Trying to publish nationally a book that only has regional appeal, and the opposite is also a no-no. Know your audience and the nature of your book before making a decision on the type of publishing.
- Too focused on publishing when you should focus on the quality of your writing. If you are not a writer who is ready then don’t try to publish. In the long run, quality will win over quantity each and every day.
Interesting perspectives from the pros
KNOW WHERE YOU ARE ON THE PATH
Are you ready to be published? This is an important question and one that requires some objectivity rather than subjectivity.
As a general statement, first manuscripts are not ready for publishing. I know this because Steinbeck worked on his first novel for seven years, constantly re-writing to get it right. Very few writers are gifted enough to get published on the first try.
How long have you been working on your book? If the same writer has been tinkering with his novel for ten years without doing anything else, I would question their motivation and confidence. At some point you need to either poop or get of the pot.
I read somewhere once about a 10,000 hour rule which states that one must practice their craft for a minimum of 10,000 hours before they are accomplished and ready for success. How many hours have you written?
Where are you on the talent spectrum? It is an honest question and needs an honest answer. If you ever want to know the answer, read some of the great works by the great authors of our times, and then decide how talented you are. There is most likely a sizeable gap between the works of the greats and your work. Write until you close that gap.
IS IT TIME TO CHANGE COURSE?
I do not believe that all good writers eventually get discovered and become successful. There are just too many writers out there, and often times it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I read a novel a couple months ago that, quite frankly, was crap. Obviously the stars and planets had aligned perfectly for this author to get published by a major publishing firm.
So are you wasting your time with your current manuscript? Maybe the focus of your book is all wrong. Are rejection letters telling you that you that your work is too quirky, or you have too narrow an appeal?
Another thing that happens is that writers will follow the wrong path. They will write a 100,000 word manuscript that gets no love, but a short article that they write for an online magazine does incredibly well. Maybe they should concentrate on expanding the magazine article topic rather than beating a dead horse with their manuscript.
Are you becoming a bitter old writer? Bitterness or depression are not ways to win friends in the publishing business. If the rejection letters are weighing you down and taking the fun out of writing, perhaps you need to walk away for awhile until you find the joy again.
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THE BOTTOM LINE
I don’t know how you define success. If you define it in terms of money made then good for you. If you define it by the critical praise then again, good for you. Maybe you just find incredible satisfaction from crafting the perfect sentence, and success is found when that sentence is finally found.
In my opinion, if there isn’t passion then there is very little chance of attaining whatever success you are aiming for. If there is not love for the written word then it’s going to be a long, tough road to travel.
If, however, there is passion….if there is love for the craft….then your road to success is much closer to being paved.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”