October 19th, 2015

14 Authors Share Their Advice on the Rocky Road of Publication

Heather Webb

Heather Webb SmilingBack in April, I wrote a post on good and bad writer advice, what to listen to, what to ignore in the daily toils of a writer’s life. Since then, I’ve been thinking about this more—specifically, the toils of post-publication, instead of the road to publication and they’re different. Vastly. Both in our understanding of the industry and our experiences, from that first book sale to the next.

What I’ve learned could, well, fill a book so I wondered if other authors felt the same way.  It turns out they did, and they were happy to share. Below, I asked each of them this question:

Looking back, what’s one thing you wish you had known about the industry before you were published?

"I wish I had known more about the publishing process and marketing. Most of all, I wish I had understood that no publisher would ever care as much as I do about a book's success, and that the book is still my responsibility after the rights are sold.”
Kerry Schafer, author of THE NOTHING series

“I wish I had known that it would get harder, not easier! I wish I had spent less time moping over rejections and appreciated those quiet invisible moments of writing without any expectation or deadline. I wish someone had said: 'Slow down. Enjoy this time. You will never have it again!’”
Hazel Gaynor, NYT bestselling author of A MEMORY OF VIOLETS

“I wish I had understood that publishing is largely a business driven by convention, rather than data. I keep searching for logical reasons behind decisions, for the data accounting for the outcomes, and rarely find it. There are so many unknowns about what determines success and failure that it drives me a little crazy. Okay, a lot crazy.”
Sonja Yoerg, author of MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE

“Publication always felt like the end of some long journey and my writing life would be complete, if only I could get just get there. Pre-pubbed authors talk about it like it's the Emerald City. It's more like Munchkinland. It's so much more work to be published than not, which was unexpected.”
Kate Moretti, NYT bestselling author of BINDS THAT TIE

“That the success of a book can be about the book but is often about something that we can't control.”
Ann Garvin, author of THE DOG YEAR

“Fame and fortune will not happen overnight....if ever! But success is how you choose to define it, and appreciating the little things along the way will make you a much happier person. Even if you never make the New York Times Bestseller list, simply having a core group of devoted fans is tremendously rewarding!”
Andrea Lochen, author of THE REPEAT YEAR

“I wish I would have known to be a stickler in terms of really understanding the publishing house's marketing plan for my debut novel and what really needs to be done BEFORE a book is published in order to make a splash. In this market, you have to do much of the leg work yourself PRE-publication -- as in social networking the hell out of it, and being on top of everything. "Out-of-the-gate" is so important and planning strategically is key for take-off and generating excitement.”
Lisa Barr, author of FUGITIVE COLORS

“One of the things I've found most difficult -- and I think more female writers than male writers find this challenging -- is insisting I be paid fairly for my work. How many of us have been told, especially of late, 'The industry has changed. It's the author's job to (fill in the blank) draw a crowd/promote your own work/build a platform/drum up buzz via social media....' Every one of these things can translate directly as 'work more for free.'

"Authors are often expected to be marketers, travelers, public speakers, publicists, schedulers, etc. And, without question, the harder one is willing to work at each of these tasks the more the other industry professionals laud you. And yet. AND YET. There comes a time and a place -- and I think that time and place is different for each of us, and a moveable target at that -- when we give away so much of our time and energy 'for free' in the hopes that it will translate into future sales that we deplete ourselves.

"There is ... there must be ... a gracious way to say without any apologies or trepidation, 'Thank you for inviting me to XYZ (be it speak/read/teach/etc). I would love to be a part of your event and appreciate your championing of my work. My fee for such things is $. If that is doable for you, please let me know what dates would work best and we can further the discussion.' But holy shit: I've never had more trouble getting such a sentence past my lips. I feel like I will be perceived as greedy, vain, too-big-for-my-britches, high-on-myself, snooty, blah blah blah. For what? For asking to be compensated fairly for my time and energy, like every other employee in the world?”
Ellen Urbani, author of LANDFALL

“I wish I'd known how to let go of things that are beyond my control. As a matter of fact, I'd still like to know that. Anyone have the secret?”
Greer Macallister, USA Today bestselling author of THE MAGICIAN’S LIE

“You need a tribe! I floundered a bit in the beginning - asking for blurbs, finding the right bloggers, and zeroing in on the best grassroots marketing, re-inventing more than one wheel, I am sure! And I was often tempted to give in to self-doubt. But then I found my tribes ... namely the Women's Fiction Writers Association AND of course, the TALL POPPIES and there is no more floundering.”
Amy Impellizzeri, author of LEMONGRASS HOPE

“I wish I had known that one day I WOULD publish. Three young kids, a freelance writing job, a sick mother, a sick mother in law, and little sleep because night time was the only time I had to write. I wish I had known, after yet another rejection, and wanting to kick my computer all the way to Montana, that one day it would work, and all the hours and tears would be worth it.”
Cathy Lamb, author of WHAT I REMEMBER MOST

“If I had known that years of hard work and dedication wouldn't automatically move my career forward, I would have taken chances with my writing years earlier.”
Marin Thomas, author of THE PROMISE OF FORGIVENESS

“I wish I had known that being published means that when you are walking your dog in the woods, wearing your husband's flannel shirt, sweatpants with grease spots, sporting a bed-head because it's THE WOODS for God's sake, you will inevitably meet a stranger who will say, 'Are you that author?' And you will learn to leave the house in much better condition from that moment on!”
Molly D. Campbell, author of KEEP THE ENDS LOOSE

As for me, I wish I’d known my measure of success would constantly shift. That success is like a fog; cool and damp on your skin—you can feel it! Yet you can’t contain it, you can’t hold it, and it doesn’t keep you warm at night.

Having a book published or two, or seven, isn’t really the only goal. Recognition and awards and big lists, industry respect, reader admiration—these are just as much a part of the standard of success, at least for me, and they change with each and every book. This makes for a lot of pressure I place on myself, and it works against me. So I’ve learned to celebrate every victory, to work hard to be present and content with each work I create. That’s what this is really about at its essence, this winding road of fiction-writing—creating something meaningful.

This is what I wish I’d known: The success is in the creating, the doing, the believing.

Those of you who are published, what have you learned that you wish you’d known when you began writing? Those yet-to-be published, what would you still like to know? How has your journey changed over time?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Heather

Cover 1- hdHeather Webb writes historical novels for Penguin and HarperCollins,which have been translated to three languages and have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan magazine, France magazine, and Reuters News Book Talk. BECOMING JOSEPHINE follows the life and times of Josephine Bonaparte set to the backdrop of the French Revolution, and RODIN’S LOVER released Jan 27th, chronicles the passionate and tragic story of Camille Claudel, sculptor, collaborator, and lover to the famed Auguste Rodin. A FALL OF POPPIES releases in 2016.

Heather is also a freelance editor and contributor to award-winning writing sites WriterUnboxed.com and RomanceUniversity.org. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Twitter: @msheatherwebb

30 responses to “14 Authors Share Their Advice on the Rocky Road of Publication”

  1. Kathy N. says:

    I wish I'd known that being published is not the Final Validation I had hoped for. That the daily, sometimes hourly, battle of doubt must still be fought as I work to birth every project that follows.

  2. Laura Drake says:

    I love these - they go deeper than the usual pat answers. And Hazel, published writers DID tell me to appreciate the time without deadlines to just love the process and to wander as I would. . . . I thought they were nuts.

    My biggest wish, overall, was that I'd had more information to be able to make good decisions, so I wouldn't waste any precious time. I still wish that. But you can't know what you know before you know it.

    Damn it.

    • Heather Webb says:

      Me, too, Laura. "Enjoy not being on a deadline." Really? That would mean I don't have a contract, I used to think. How things have changed...It's still a good problem to have, but the stress to produce is immense!

  3. thewriteedge says:

    These were so encouraging to read -- thank you! It's comforting to know that at the base of it all, all authors share similar fears/concerns/questions/hopes. Sharing this on Twitter!

  4. gpeynon says:

    Brilliant post thanks. Gonna have to re-blog.

  5. […] If you’re a writer and fancy some bite-sized nuggets of worldly writing wisdom, then you can read more here. […]

  6. tashaseegmiller says:

    Love all this advise. Thank you everyone!

  7. Jenny Hansen says:

    I love that you got all these authors to go a bit deeper, as Laura said.

    I think this should be a must-read post for all the authors who are fretting about not being published yet. There's a lot to be said for taking your time, and doing your book launch with knowledge and forethought, instead of flinging your words out on Amazon because you're ready to be done now.

    • Heather Webb says:

      There really is! Take your time and try not to obsess about rejections and/or meeting that "goal marker" as it isn't the end-all we believe it is. Aye. And "throwing words on Amazon"...that's a post for another day. LOL. Thanks, Jenny!

  8. Orly Konig-Lopez says:

    I love each one of these, but Andrea's spoke the loudest to me - "success is how you choose to define it, and appreciating the little things along the way will make you a much happier person." It's so easy to get wrapped up pushing forward, doing more, wanting the next success and not stopping to take in everything you've already done.

  9. Wow ... not sure I should have read this before sitting down to do some serious writing today. Nope. Stop. Rewind. I am sure glad I read this before sitting down to do some serious writing today! Thank you!!!

  10. These are awesome, Heather! The best part is knowing we are all just human beings with the same doubts, fears, etc. Nice to know.

    Dee Willson
    Author of A Keeper's Truth and GOT

  11. Pizzos3.com says:

    Thank you! Just a reminder to Keep it Moving because it is what it is!

  12. Take a moment to be proud of the small things. You're accomplishing something that most people only dream of. Don't constantly look ahead, trying to be better, faster, richer, etc. Stop and acknowledge where you are and how far you've come.

    • Heather Webb says:

      Girl, don't I know it. Yes! Comparing ourselves to others or constantly vying for more is demoralizing and exhausting. We can only walk our own path and that's a GOOD thing. Thanks for commenting, Sparrow. 😉

  13. miladyronel says:

    Thanks for the advice. Reading this has helped me to be okay with taking things slowly and doing it right. I liked the comparison of success to fog.

    • Heather Webb says:

      Believe me, doing it right is exactly the best way to approach this. There's no race to the finish line because that line only changes locations and you're off and racing again. Enjoy the process.

  14. Heather, this post reinforces the mountain of things we never know that day we thought we had found the "word" and nirvana. It has been a journey of discovery that I believed would set my mind and soul free. THEN I began to learn as so many here, finding the word was that first tiny step and there are thousands left to go. Thanks so much for everyone who shared their experiences with us today and thank you for thinking enough of us to make this happen. 🙂

  15. Kerry Ann says:

    Love this, Heather! Thanks to all for sharing your wisdom. I should make my family read this. So many people seem to be focused on "when are you finally going to be published" because they think everything will be magically easier then. Not. They've only dealt with me going against my own personal deadlines. Just wait until it's a publisher breathing down my neck. Hopefully. Someday.


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