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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, October 23, 2011

6 Prescriptions to Cure the Heartbreak of Being Published

This is a post for every author who’s been in rejection hell—hoping, praying, and bribing assorted deities—living for that day when you finally land the book contract that will make all your dreams come true.

You know who you are: you’ve spent forever learning to craft a perfect query, sent it off to carefully chosen agents, and now you’re checking your email hourly, only to find one-line rejections or worse: that existential nothingness that is the trendy new rejection.

I feel your pain. I’ve been there. Like, for years.

But guess what? It could be worse. You could actually get that book contract! According to Ruth Harris, living your dream can sometimes become a nightmare.

Being published in real life is awfully different from what you see on Castle. (BTW, I love me some Nathan Fillion, but do you ever see that guy actually writing?)

Ruth isn’t telling you to give up your dreams. But reality checks are good. They help silence that demon that whispers in your ear that you can't be happy until you get published. Turns out: being published--even with a big, splashy corporation--has very little effect on happiness, and it can actually be a big downer. 

Ruth has worked as an editor at a number of Big Six houses, including Bantam and Dell, as well as making it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list many times—so she knows what she’s talking about here.

Please note: We’re not telling everybody to self publish. Self-pubbing works for some writers but not others. Choosing the small, independent publisher route is a better path for some of us, and others do reach Big Six Nirvana and actually enjoy the process. But it’s good to keep in mind there are going to be major hassles no matter what your level of success.

Also remember that most authors can use a good agent—one who’s keeping up with this ever-morphing industry—so don’t stop sending out those queries. But what you can do is tell that little despair demon to shut the #%*& up: things are tough all over. 

And if you want a little silliness from me this week, jump over to Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog and read the story about How the Trafalmadorians Saved My Writing Career


Rx:  6 PRESCRIPTIONS TO CURE THE HEARTBREAK OF BEING PUBLISHED (or at least dial it down to mere heartburn)

by Ruth Harris

We’re in answered prayers territory here: You signed your contract, the editor just loves your book, it’s set in the schedule, you’re on your way! So what could go wrong?

Let me count the ways.

1. Strikes One, Two & Three: Your Cover, Publicity, and/or Distribution Stinks

You hate the cover. Your agent hates the cover, everyone who sees the cover hates it. You point out that your book is romantic suspense but the cover shouts supernatural horror. You ask for a change but you’re told it’s “too late” — even though we indies know how quickly a cover can be created.

What goes wrong with the cover can go wrong in all sorts of other ways:

  • crappy blurbs,
  • slashed print orders,
  • crummy distribution,
  • no ads, publicity or promotion,
  • lousy reviews or
  • no reviews at all these days now that “no one” reads newspapers any more.
Or, as once happened to me, a new publisher who was intent on proving that her predecessor (the publisher who bought and loved my book and was going to make me a star) didn’t know what he was doing. Guess whose ad budget got slashed? Guess who the publicity department didn’t give beans about? Guess whose option wasn’t picked up?

Rx: grow an armadillo hide. Publishing is a hazardous business with lots of pitfalls along the way. Anyone who’s ever been published can tell you that—with war stories and bruises to prove it.

2.  Johnnie Superstar rains on your parade

You’ve passed the cover hurdle. Your book looks great and your agent even got you a decent publicity and promotion budget. So far, so good. BUT, turns out, Johnnie Superstar’s drugs-rehab-and-kinky-sex-with-celebrities memoir is going to be published the same week as the book you’ve poured your heart into for three years is about to be published.

Where does that leave you? In a word: Nowhere. JS’s books are stacked to the rafters. Yours has two or three copies placed spine-out in the back. If you’re lucky.

Plus, you can forget about radio, TV, newspapers, magazines. Celebs grab attention. You’re a talented writer with a debut book or maybe even a decent track record but you’re no celeb and no one except your Mom is interested.

Rx:  Hire your own PR rep. Your publisher might—or might not—like it but you own PR rep can be effective self-defense. Still, you’re  dependent on what else is happening at the time your book launches: a breaking news story, someone important gets married, divorced or dies, financial markets take a nose dive, a politician’s homosexual affair/corrupt business arrangements/”love child” is revealed.  Make a calculation based on dollars and cents, come up with a budget and stick to it. Maybe luck will break your way—or maybe not—but at least you’ve invested in yourself.

3. Speaking of money—don’t count on it

Your book isn’t going to do very much to help pay your bills. Seriously. Publishing Money comes in VERY slowly and is doled out in teaspoon-sized amounts.  Let’s assume you sign a contract for $15,000 (actually pretty good these days).  Payments are due 1/3 on signing, 1/3 on acceptance, 1/3 on publication.

That means you get three checks for $5000 less the agent’s fee: $4,250. Those checks will probably be spread out over three years. You will pay taxes on that money and will probably never see another dime unless, miracle of miracle, your book earns out. But don’t hold your breath. “Earning out” happens about as often as Gwyneth Paltrow flies Coach.

Rx: Keep your day job.

4.  Upward mobility bites you on the butt

Susie Q is a talented writer, she signs a 3-book deal with a small but flourishing publisher. Her books sell well, she decides to dump her agent and hire a more powerful agent. SQ and new, more powerful agent decide she’s outgrown the small publisher and is ready for the Big 6. Agent holds auction, moves writer to impressive Big 6 house. Susie Q loves her agent, she loves her editor, she thinks her books are getting better and better. And maybe they are but, for whatever reason, they don’t sell.

When Susie’s option comes up, her Big 6 publisher passes. Still, the agent has clout and Publisher X would like to butter up agent-with-clout so Susie gets another deal. Two books, this time, less money, but still Susie will be published by one of the Big 6. Problem is, her new editor leaves, the replacement has no interest in Susie and doesn’t return Susie’s calls. Pretty soon, agent-with-clout doesn’t either.

Basically, SQ will have to start all over again. With a new, less impressive agent and, to “erase” the downward trend of her sales numbers, she will write under a pseudonym.

Rx:  Beware the grass-is-greener syndrome. If your publisher is doing a decent job for you, think carefully before jumping to the next level. Upgrading can turn out well—but not always.

5: Being published isn’t very exciting

 In fact, except for the moment your agent calls to say s/he made the sale, the writer is treated mostly as an irrelevant PITA. Multi-published author ConsueloSaah Baer explains:

“Simon and Schuster bought and published the book [her first] and sold paperback rights to Avon. Publication of three subsequent novels followed with equally renowned publishers and foreign rights sales. Galleys arrived, book jackets arrived, bound books arrived but I couldn’t figure out why there wasn’t much joy in it. I was lucky, wasn’t I? One day I stopped writing completely and could not galvanize the will to return. It was only in Spring of 2011 that I figured out why I, like many writers, went silent after initial success.

“Imagine my surprise when I realized that traditional publishing was total bleakness interrupted by ten minutes of happiness when your agent called to say she had sold your book. Next came a year of silence while the book was “produced”. Once the book was edited, the writer was uncoupled from the project and advised to ‘forget about the book and go write the next one.’ Publication was brief and uneventful. The salesmen (you heard right) decided the print run and if it was in the low five digits, the book was DOA.

“Two years of your life had been eaten up. The Prozac months followed.”

Rx: Go indie. The book is yours and now the control is yours, too.

6.  Your wildest dreams come true--the downside

 You make a ton of money, your books are everywhere, the movies come calling and the movie actually gets made. With Brad Pitt starring as you! So now you’re a millionaire, you’re invited to the best parties, if you’re a guy, beautiful women will come on to you. You’ve got it made, right? Champagne and caviar every day, right?

Wrong. You now have to deal with tax attorneys, accountants and whether or not to move to a state—one you might not like all that much—for tax considerations. You also have to deal with dollar-drunkenness—think of the stars and athletes who end up dead broke and you’ll understand what I mean.

Even so, you’re confident you can handle all that but, as a mega bestselling author once told me: “You don’t drop your friends. Your friends drop you.”

What he meant was that his friends couldn’t handle their jealousy and envy and so they stopped hanging out with him. Sad, but true.

Rx:  Grow your armadillo hide even thicker. There’s a dark lining to every silver cloud. People you love—even including your own family—might not necessarily love you back, not after you’re a lot richer and more famous than they are. 

So, tell me, writers, if you’ve been published, was the experience all that and a bag of chips—or something else? If you haven’t been published yet, what are your dreams/hopes/fantasies and do you think you’ll be able to cope with success?

Coming up in the blog: We’ve got two fabulous blog guests coming in November—

  • Legendary mystery author and writing guru LAWRENCE BLOCK will be guest posting about his personal adventures with self-publishing. Usually you’d have to go to a writers’ conference or an MFA program to hear from a superstar like Mr. Block, so I’m totally jazzed he’s going to be visiting.
  • Also in December, Anne will be interviewing agent Laurie McLean, of the Larsen Pomada Agency, who is going to be giving us some very exciting news. 

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Blogger Ann Best said...

I was published by a small press. Now I'm going the Indie route. But I give my publisher credit for a great cover and good editing. It was a wonderful start; and it has been fun, at my age, to have a book in print that's selling well on Amazon as an ebook. But is it a best seller that's turning me into a millionaire? Am I invited to parties? Are readers breaking down my door for my autograph? Does a major film company want to make a movie of it?

The reality is: I'm still sitting here in my house, staring at my computer, trying to promote it and to get another book ready to self-publish. But I love to write and so I'm enjoying the journey.

Everything you say here, Ruth, is more or less true. It isn't an easy road out there for writers who want to be published whatever the route. Some agents/publishers are good; others, not so good. Writers who put themselves out there DO need a thick hide! But as for possibly making a lot of money writing--hey, I wouldn't mind the challenge :-)
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

October 23, 2011 at 10:56 AM  
Anonymous consuelo saah baehr said...

I forgot I wrote that but it sounds exactly right and it's a continuing truth. Even now with the e-book business exploding and many mid-list authors doing the Heimlick maneuver on their backlist so the books can live again on the kindle platform, the big six dummies still don't get it. Thanks Ruth for this thorough review of the book business.

October 23, 2011 at 11:05 AM  
OpenID jenniecoughlin said...

Great post, Ruth! A writer buddy and I have been talking a lot about the options lately — I've gone indie and she's considering it. Others in our writing group wouldn't dream of it and are chasing a Big Six contract. This is some really useful information — I'll definitely be sharing it around with folks.

October 23, 2011 at 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Catherine Ryan Hyde said...

I can contest that it is definitely not what it appears to be as you gaze through the window at it. My mortgage is covered for this and next month. Then...fingers crossed.

October 23, 2011 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Ann--So pleased to hear you had a good publishing experience to start. It does happen! I think it makes a big difference & is very encouraging as you continue to work.

Consuelo--Thanks so much for dropping by. When I was preparing this post, I thought of your words—you described the nitty-gritty reality of the publishing experience memorably.

Jennie, Thanks! I'm not at all trying to discourage people from seeking a publishing deal but I do think it helps to go in with your eyes open & your fantasies in check.

Catherine—Yes! It's the eternal existential conundrum: Appearance vs Reality.

October 23, 2011 at 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Florence fOIS In The City commenting as "anon" to trick blogger :)

I have two reactions: I should take drugs immediately and zone out like on the poor mother in Brave New World.

I listened with both hears and have a major headache.

Seriously Ruth, I love that you provided the down side, repleat with Rx solutions. My own solution is to put my "game" plan into action.
(1) I'm retired and gratefully no longer need a day job.
(2) I am already submitting my first novella to small press and would love Gray Wolf (sub in Jan).Both novellas are literary and I wouldn't even go another route. No money. No fame. I think I'll live.
(3) There are still major pubs who take unagented work and three of them will get my myteries.
(4) Have a plan to self-pub a variety of genre novellas on Kindle in the Spring of 2012.
(5) So far I think I've avoided taking drugs, deluding myself and being disappointed. I also believe that with this plan an agent will find me, so bollox to 101 query rejections.
(6) I am reading Kristen Lamb, you and Bob Mayer daily, I will take his course in November and I will learn about Twitter if it hurts.
(7) A friend is starting an author's collective. Anyone out there who wants to do marketing, consider this. Hers is for MG and YA, but I will find a group of other genre writers and do same.

Hey, how am I doing so far with the eternal existential conundrum?

Have a great day and look for Anne's interview on my blog Nov.9. Loving your book Anne :)

October 23, 2011 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Lexi said...

Hey, I could handle fame and wealth! Just give me the opportunity to show how cool I'd be...

The creepy thing about agents and publishers is how they are all over you like recruiters for a fringe religion when they think they'll make money from you, but when they don't, they treat you like something they scraped off their shoe.

October 23, 2011 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Carol Riggs said...

I always like reading these kinds of posts, to cool my jets about possible "success" on the other side of the fence. Things don't magically get better just because someone has an agent or an editor. Reality. We have to go with the flow whatever happens to us. Thanks for the Rx advice too!

October 23, 2011 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Dorothy L. Abrams said...

Thanks for being the agent of reality. I have my first contract in hand. So this is not Nirvana huh?

October 23, 2011 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

Thanks Ruth for sharing the downside. I self-published (actually two weeks ago) and I know it's not all sunshine and roses (can we talk formatting here), but I'd rather do it my way, than deal with any of the things you wrote so eloquently about.

At least I know I gave it my best shot and didn't have to wait for an agent to go through every editor in the world, only to tell me, "sorry, no one wanted your book."

Now, I'm getting read, which is a lot nicer than getting rejections from agents.

October 23, 2011 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Forence--Your game plan sounds superb. As for the eternal existential conundrum, that's a toughie! ;-)

Lexi--Or just drop you with a thunderous *thud*. No matter who you are or how prepared you think you are, it still comes as a shock. I recall a friend who was fired as EIC from a Big6 publisher. The car & driver that was one of her perks disappeared halfway thru lunch...She was, almost literally, stunned at how fast the come-down.

Carol--thanks. IME jet cooling generally tends to be quite helpful.

Dorothy--Uh, nope. But if you do find the Big N, do let us know!

October 23, 2011 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

AnneG--Your comment came thru as I was posting mine. Congratulations! Sure beats rejections. That is, when they actually deign to reject you as opposed to letting you experience the great wall of silence.

October 23, 2011 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Sarah Pearson said...

I'm a long way from having to worry about all of this, but sooner or later I'm going to have to stop doing my Scarlett O'Hara act and actually think about it :-)

Education and entertainment, perfect blog post, thank you :-)

October 23, 2011 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Donna Hole said...

I have a short story published in Bewildering Stories. Once the excitement of actually getting the call, then editing and revising, and finally seeing the story in print all died down, it was like, oh yeah I have a story published. It hits me as strange sometimes.

I was lucky enough to get accepted in An Honest Lie Vol 3 (Open Heart Publishing). The anthology is due out Fall 2011 (yes I'm getting worried), but again, after the acceptance call it was a couple months before getting a contract, and then several more months until revisions, and once a final version was agree on - nothing. I have times I chew my nails wondering if this is really going to happen. Sometimes, I even forget I'm due to be published soon :)

But, it is still an awesome feeling to know that something is out there and may even be read by someone other than a family member :)

But no, I have no intentions of quitting my day job. Posts like these keep my head firmly out of the clouds, and I appreciate the reality check upon occasion. It is nice to dream big; then I go out an buy a lotto ticket . .


October 23, 2011 at 2:14 PM  
Anonymous mark williams international said...

Wonderful post, Ruth!

This should be compulsory reading for wannabes everywhere, and especially those who attach themselves to agents' blogs.

We can see the value of a print deal - no question there's still a large share of the market off-limits to indies at this stage - but we're determined to keep control and e-publish as indies first. If a print deal comes afterwards that will be a bonus.

But it would have to be a mega-deal to make it worth sacrificing control and letting a trad publisher dictate the content, cover, marketing and price of even one future project.

October 23, 2011 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Sarah——Or do I mean Scarlet? lol So you'll think about it tomorrow. No harm in that.

Donna——Congratulations! Good for you! You're right that the rhythm of publishing is very unsettling. One does wonder if it's all really happening. Even it if is!

October 23, 2011 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Susan Kaye Quinn said...

(BTW, I love me some Nathan Fillion, but do you ever see that guy actually writing?) Ok, you are SO RIGHT about that!! :)

A very interesting post - thank you for Ruth for pointing out that all of this business is hard. I have a lot of sympathy for authors who have "made it" - I know there's a lot less sunshine to that than most people think, and a whole lot more stress.

October 23, 2011 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger Tammy Jones said...

I sold three novels to a Big Six a few years ago. First won an award (and earned out very quickly), second was nominated for an award but the sales slumped, and the third fizzled and died on the shelf.

If I had more self-confidence and was better at marketing (especially simply talking to strangers and booksellers), my books would have sold a LOT better. Agent great, editor great, publisher great, cover art great, and the first two book's marketing were great. The weak link was me and me alone.

Sometimes we think we're ready for all the other 'stuff' that goes along with publication, but, as a natural introvert, I never considered being neck-deep in 'promotion' and having panic attacks. Not a fun time.

October 23, 2011 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Kamille Elahi said...

I wouldn't mind the stress and the best stuff! But please just let me be published!! I'd rather go with an Independent publisher than a publisher who likes to publish trash that the uneducated masses like to read.

October 23, 2011 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This is from Mark Williams. Apparently Blogger's spam filter, in its great wisdom, has decided to block all addresses from Africa, or at least Mark's. This is the second or third time. Luckily, it came to my email inbox, so here it is:

mark williams international has left a new comment on your post "6 Prescriptions...":

"Wonderful post, Ruth!

This should be compulsory reading for wannabes everywhere, and especially those who attach themselves to agents' blogs.

We can see the value of a print deal - no question there's still a large share of the market off-limits to indies at this stage - but we're determined to keep control and e-publish as indies first. If a print deal comes afterwards that will be a bonus.

But it would have to be a mega-deal to make it worth sacrificing control and letting a trad publisher dictate the content, cover, marketing and price of even one future project."

October 23, 2011 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

What a lot of great comments. Thanks for this post, Ruth. I think it's really speaking to people.

Donna Hole--Woo-hoo!! congrats on the publications. It IS a triumph, no matter how confused you feel now.

Tammy--What a story! But don't beat yourself up so much. Part of the myth we're fed is that it will all be taken care of for us.

October 23, 2011 at 4:28 PM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I remember the long wait between signing my contract and receiving the first round of edits from my publisher. And after the launch and virtual book tour, I though, "All right, now what?" and realized that was it.
Otherwise, I've kept my expectations realistic. I'm fortunate I don't have to share my small royalty checks with an agent and my small publisher has really worked with me on all aspects. I couldn't be happier with the cover and book trailer, either.
The last item is the reason I never wanted to hit it big. I don't want to be that famous.

October 23, 2011 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Lynda R Young said...

It's good to regain a level head after dreaming the grand writer's dream. It's also good to be forewarned. Thanks for this post. I will of course, keep dreaming, though, and keep writing.

October 23, 2011 at 4:42 PM  
Blogger Ranae Rose said...

It's true that traditional publishing involves alot of waiting. I fill the time by self-publishing some of my titles, which has been a blast so far. My inner control freak is happy. ;)

October 23, 2011 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Susan--Thanks, Susan. At least for me—and maybe for many writers—the dilemma is that in being published you go from 100% control (over your ms) to basically 0% control. Whiplash! And difficult to adjust to.

Tammy--Sorry to hear about the panic attacks but please don't be so hard on yourself. I know writers who are terrific at promo, meeting & greeting but it still doesn't make much of a difference in sales. There are so many other elements out of your & the publisher's control that might very well matter more. Problem is, no one can predict which ones much less be able to defend against them.

Kamille--You *can* be published. The question is: in which format: Big 6, small independent publisher, direct to e-pub. Today there are choices that didn't exist before.

Mark--What did you do to piss off Blogger? C'mon, fess up! lol Seriously, you're right about the mega-deal. The point now is that it's not *just* about the money. The terms matter, too. So much so that big $$$ + lousy terms = a deal breaker.

Alex--I'm impressed by your sane and reasonable attitude. The beginning of your comment reminds me of the old Peggy Lee song: "Is this all there is?" Very à propos in regard to publishing.

Lynda--Of course: keep dreaming & keep writing. No matter how giddy your dreams, you'll be fine as long as your feet are on the ground,

Renae--Now that's a brilliant solution! Good for you & good for your inner control freak!

October 23, 2011 at 5:26 PM  
Anonymous Laura Pauling said...

Great post! Loved it.

And for the very first time, I saw Castle actually writing on Castle last week! I know, I was shocked. :)

October 23, 2011 at 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Sara Flower said...

The point about the book cover alone makes me want to self publish. I can`t imagine all the hard work of writing and editing (and re-editing 5o times) a story only for the cover to suck. I would cry.

October 23, 2011 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger Lester D. Crawford said...

Often, I feel writing is only for hobbyists because the odds of being published is remote and the odds of compensation, for all practical purposes, is nonexistent. Furthermore, there are plenty of people who want to be published even if they must pay to be published, thus eliminating the need to pay professional writers. This is making the activity even more the purview of hobbyists.

As for me, I have some great stories of exceptional quality and a stubborn streak that makes me too stupid to know when to give up. I am going to make it big.

October 23, 2011 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger Andrew Hudson said...

Well written and funny insights there Ms. Harris. I remember being shocked when I first found out most of those realizations in the past. Mainly the fact that most advances were very small and the chances of the publisher selling a decent amount for your book even smaller. I'm certainly not saying that money is the most important thing. But I thought the idea was that you'd get a fair compensation for putting up with the Big Six. I guess it's a literary lotto with the Big Six.

I haven't been published by a big publisher myself. But I do have a family friend, Ian Ogilvy, who has. It was Johnny Superstar in his case but with a (good) fictional book series and not a rehab biography. From what I can tell, it seems like publisher pigeonhole the writers into doing a series or specific genre.

Oh, and you forgot one thing with #6. I'm not sure how it is with the literary industry but I know how it is with the film industry second hand. If you make it big, everyone will THINK you have more money than you actually do. And they will get insulted if you try telling them the contrary (as they attempt to borrow a good deal of money from you).

October 24, 2011 at 12:06 AM  
Blogger Mari Passananti said...

Thanks for the reality check, though now I think I need to step away from the computer and work out and regroup before writing another sentence.
Anne- this guest post got me thinking. I'd love to see a post on distribution for the indie author. I think it's the biggest challenge for many of us. People write and tell me they love THE HAZARDS OF HUNTING WHILE HEARTBROKEN, but if it's not out there for readers to notice en masse, how will they know they want it?

October 24, 2011 at 6:39 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Laura--Thanks! I appreciate your kind words.

Sara--A terrible cover is a stake in the heart and lots of authors can tell you all about it.

Lester--Stubborn can also equal determined. A valuable asset indeed.

Andrew--Thank you. An excellent point & one I forgot to include. People not only *think* you have more money than you actually do & hit you up for loans (and get pissed off when you decline), but they expect you to pick up restaurant & bar checks, take care of fares & taxis, provide "treats" of all kinds. People have gone broke that way. Seriously.

Mari--You're right. Distribution is critical. If people can't find your book, they can't buy it.

October 24, 2011 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger Natalie said...

It's funny how I just wrote a article similar to this about a month ago. Its too true about writers wait to be published to be happy. I still struggle with that dream myself. :)

October 24, 2011 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Natalie--It's not just writers who wait to be happy. It can be almost anyone: People who want the corner office, actors who dream of being stars, painters/sculptors who wait to be "discovered"--why put happiness in someone else's hands? You're wise to understand what so many don't. Writers or not.

October 24, 2011 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I do a combo of small publisher and self publish. I love the small pub and an still working out the other.
I think I could be happy rich and I know my family wouldn't desert me. They would probably all move in with me.

October 24, 2011 at 7:17 PM  
Anonymous Natalie Lozano said...

Very true Ruth! I know exactly what you mean. That is the exact reason why I chose to self publish myself. I got tired of waiting on someone else to approve of and give my writing a chance. It seems that was all I needed to move forward. Now I am writing guest blogs, new types of poems I've never written and I have a work in progress for a writers tips book. I'm writing more now than I ever was all because I gave myself the permission accept myself as a writer.

October 25, 2011 at 12:45 AM  
Blogger Overdue said...

Great post (I'm reaching for the comfort chocolate as we speak).

I hope you don't mind but I've included you in a writing related tag on my blog. Hope you'll come check it out!

October 25, 2011 at 2:04 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Susan--Congratulations! Sounds like you have a great combo working for you. Writers have many more choices now than ever before & you're smart to take advantage of them.

Natalie--I agree with you: Waiting Kills. Kills your energy, creativity and, eventually, usually even your determination. I'm glad to hear you're being more productive than ever. High five!

Overdue/Emily--Mind? I'm flattered. Thanks so much!

October 25, 2011 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger Dana Taylor said...

Hi Ruth!
A book rep friend sent me this blog and I was tickled to see two gals I know from Indie circles in the post. Loved your insight, Ruth. My experience in traditional publishing with small presses, never reached your heights. Sounds like I didn't miss much!

But now I'm enjoying being part of the digital revolution. We're part of this new era and it's chaotic and messy and exciting.

I see your stories getting new lives and ain't it great? Out with the old, in with the new!

Dana Taylor

October 25, 2011 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Michael Offutt said...

I would say I'm shocked but nothing shocks me anymore. I'm surprised that authors make any money.

And for the record...no author is in the kind of shape that Nathan Fillion is in so that is TOTALLY fiction. Every author I've ever known has been fat and that includes me.

October 25, 2011 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Dana--How terrific to see you here! Big difference, for sure, between TradPub & DigiPub but Digi is definitely the present--and the future.

Michael--Not being shocked anymore means you're on the right track. Healthy realism is the best revenge. ;-)

October 25, 2011 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Me, too Michael! I fear the majority of us suffer from "writer's butt syndrome."

October 25, 2011 at 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Victoria Mixon said...

Thank you so much, Ruth and Anne, for bringing your insider insight to this issue. I've been published by one of the Big Six, and I've self-published, and I can testify that there's simply no comparison in the joy factor.

I have some very stressed editing clients in query-mode right now whom I'm going to be sending over here to read this PDQ.

October 25, 2011 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

I haven't had to worry about this yet, but I definitely appreciate the reality check. My only hope is to be "read," and with published magazine articles, at least that part of the dream has come true.

October 25, 2011 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger SM Johnson said...

Lovely post, Ruth, some real truths here. While I love my small press (and especially love fanning through my paperbacks), they don't have the time or resources to do much more marketing than I can do myself.

And I hate waiting for "target" publish dates that come and go without a book release.

So... my contracted novels stay with my publisher, but my new stuff is Indie and all mine. Loving Smashwords and Kindle now that I've figured out the formatting!

October 25, 2011 at 11:27 PM  
Blogger Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I'm happily published by a small press, and I take the part in the post about not being in too big of a hurry to "upgrade" very seriously. I never quite looked at it that way, so thank you for the perspective. My publisher treats me so well, and I'm so happy there that it's hard to imagine moving on anytime in the near future. I might just stay there for a very, very long time. I've been surprised by a lot of things in this business enough to know how lucky I am to be where I am. I also believe, however, that happiness in publishing is entirely a matter of attitude.

October 26, 2011 at 6:14 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Victoria--As a writer who was published by the Big 6 & as an editor who worked on the inside, I experienced the changes that eventually caused both writers & editors to feel the lack of joy you refer to.

Thanks for sending over your clients--I hope to help people approach their careers with realistic expectations, prepared in advance for at least some of the common pitfalls.

Julie--Thanks. It sounds as if you're well on your way. Step by step & word by word.

SM--You're bringing up some important points about small press publishing. There's no such thing as a "perfect" publishing mode.

Michelle--Being happily published really matters because, as Consuelo says, being unhappily published causes so many writers to stop writing.

October 26, 2011 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Natalie said...

Yes Ruth that's what was happening. *high fiving back* I'm glad I got out of that funk. :)

October 27, 2011 at 12:05 AM  
Blogger Tamara Narayan said...

This was a fascinating read. I'm working on my second book and querying the first. I keep telling myself that's it's a good thing the first book hasn't picked up an agent so I can concentrate on the second without any distractions.

October 27, 2011 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Natalie--A funk helped no writer. Ever. Glad you got our of yours.

Tamara--Thanks for the kind words. I wrote them hoping to give writers a sensible & realistic idea of what might lie ahead. Forewarned is forearmed.

October 27, 2011 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger jbchicoine said...

I'm trying hard to not let any of that scare me too much--it is a reality check for sure. I think that one of the benefits of being on the 'trying to get published' road for so long is that I am far more prepared for it than I would have been 3 years ago. Maybe now my problem will be setting my expectations too low...

October 27, 2011 at 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Marilyn Peake said...

Some of my books are self-published on Kindle and I have other books published by indie press. I haven’t yet been published by a big publishing house, but due to many recent horror stories from authors who are published that way, I’m publishing all my new work through Amazon Kindle. So far, publishing on Kindle has been a wonderful experience for me!

October 27, 2011 at 10:07 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

JB--A reality check is what I intended. Just being on the 'trying to get published' road for so long will all by itself help keep your expectations on an even keel.

Marilyn--Congratulations! A wonderful experience is what publishing *should* be.

October 28, 2011 at 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Tanya said...

Thanks for some great advice. As a doctor, I love your Rx solutions. Just received my first contract with a small press for my romantic suspense. I jumped up and down at first, but now I'm keeping my feet on the ground and working on building a platform before my book release (Nov. 2012). Meanwhile, I'm writing my fourth novel. Overnight success? Hardly!

October 28, 2011 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tanya--I love to hear about fellow small press authors who are happily published! Congratulations on your new release and novel #4!

October 28, 2011 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

Ann and Ruth - Thank you for this wonderful post! I remember reading the book "Do It: Get Off Your Buts" years ago and, at the end, after a lot of fantastic, inspirational advice about how to achieve your dream, the author warned readers that they may be disappointed once they succeeded. Like the old adage goes, "Be careful what you wish for." All of this is great advice, if not a big skewed toward indie publishing :) Thanks!

October 29, 2011 at 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Sean Cummings said...

I'm published with three novels from an award winning independent press. I like that I have three books out, too bad I can't get them at bookstores in my own country. Ditto on earning out the advance.

I'm skeptical about the mad rush to Kindle self publishing because it's an already a marketplace filled predominately with dreck. The royalties might be higher with Amazon but it's their marketplace; it's in their interest to flood it because Amazon always gets paid. Unless you're a name brand author which most authors aren't, then you're having to compete with the dreck while Amazon simply collects its 50 cents here and 50 cents there off of a bajillion books in their marketplace. It's literary skimming and nobody seems to want to talk about that.

October 30, 2011 at 3:16 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Tanya--Thank you! Lots of doctors in my family but the closest I came was being a book doctor, aka an editor. And, yes, "overnight success"--ten years? twenty? Successful writers can tell you all about it but a fourth novel is evidence you're well on the way.

Meghan--Thanks for the kind words. There's another cautionary phrase that's à propos: Answered Prayers.

Sean--Congratulations on your success! Very frustrating about no bookstore distribution, though. You're right: the slush pile has migrated but quality work has a way of being discovered. Meanwhile, I'm planning a post about my life in the slush pile. Lots of funny memories there.

October 30, 2011 at 5:04 AM  
Blogger LK Watts said...

What a fantastic post! After many years of researching the traditional publishing industry I decided to go indie for the very same reasons as stated here. And more and more traditionally published writers are doing the same thing by the looks of it.

November 7, 2011 at 8:54 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

LK—Oh, yes, the tide has definitely swung toward indie publishing. Good luck & please let us know what your experience is like.

November 8, 2011 at 5:09 AM  
Anonymous Prescriptions said...

Others in our writing group wouldn't dream of it and are chasing a Big Six contract. This is some really useful information — I'll definitely be sharing it around with folks.

February 4, 2012 at 2:35 AM  

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