Mark Terry

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

6 Myths of Publishing

May 23, 2007

1. Once you're published, you won't face rejection.
Wrong! You will. Pretty much no matter how big you get. Note that when Stephen King jumped publishers with "Bag of Bones" there were publishers who didn't think he was worth the investment. I get rejected all the time, fiction and nonfiction. One truth is that once you're regularly accepted, it's easier to deal with rejection (most of the time). But, alas, rejection is an inescapable aspect of writing and getting published.
2. Once you get published, editors and agents will get back with you more quickly.
Well, sort of. Mostly when my agent sends something out, we hear back in 2-4 weeks. Mostly. Remember my post back in January where I had lunch with an editor who asked to read one of my manuscripts? My agent sent him it on the following Monday. Well, here it is in May and he hasn't accepted OR rejected the manuscript. He's started reading--as of a couple weeks ago--and says he likes it so far, but that's where we are. And my agent is marketing my children's novel and it's at about 8 or 9 publishers, and has been for several weeks now, and it's been rejected by a couple, but others we haven't heard back from at all.
3. Once you're published, you'll be rich and famous.
Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Okay. How many famous authors are there? Couple dozen, maybe? Hell, I'm not even famous in my neighborhood, let alone in my town, state or anywhere else. As for rich, well, like in any fields, there are a few rich writers, just like there are rich actors, computer programmers and business people. Most aren't.
4. All published writers must be poor and living in a garret.
This one is as common as #3. I'm going to extend this to freelance writing. There are a lot of people who assume that since I'm a freelance writer I must be making very little money and essentially living off my wife. God knows I get that attitude from some of the people my wife works with and for. Well, wrong. I make almost twice what I did in the so-called real world in the supposedly lucrative field of cytogenetics. The fact is, there are a lot of people making very good livings as freelance writers. There are, as a matter of fact, a decent number of people making a living as authors, and even as novelists. Compared to, say, computer programmers, novelists don't do that well. And in terms of rich authors, I would argue there are many, many more rich business people, especially stockbrokers, than authors in the world. There are also probably many, many more rich drug dealers and gun runners, too. So if being a novelist is your career plan, you might consider becoming a Lord of War instead. Much more money in it.
5. Getting published will make you happy.
This is very complicated. Happiness is very complicated. Dennis Leary has a routine about happiness being fleeting, it being a cigarette, a good lay, it's a moment ("So get fucked and smoke your cigarette and shut up," he says.). Getting that call that your manuscript will be sold will make you happy. For a while. Cashing that advance check will make you happy. For a while. Holding that book in your hand or seeing it on the bookshelf will make you happy. For a while. Getting that letter or e-mail from a reader saying how much they liked your book will make you happy. For a while (until somebody e-mails to tell you what a piece of dreck it was and you got your facts all wrong and your book was a waste of trees). It can bring you happiness. It also brings a weird sense of unpredictability, stress and responsibility that can take away from some of the happiness. Find your happiness inside you, with your family and friends, with doing good work you can be proud of--getting published is just a cherry on top, in most cases. You might have issues with serotonin levels in your brain that can better be solved by Zoloft or Prozac than by getting published.
6. Getting published will change your life.
Yes and no. It can. But if you're unhappy with your life, it may be no better after getting published. If your happiness depends on your novel getting published, if you're just desperately unhappy and waiting for being an author to solve all your problems, you're in trouble. It ain't gonna happen. Getting published--not novels, necessarily--did change my life. Eventually. Eventually, after many years and lots and lots of work, I made an amazing shift in my life from doing a job I didn't like much to a job I love. So yes, it can change your life. But there was an internal process that went on there as well that probably didn't have much to do with getting published. It had to do with me taking control of my life and making decisions about what I wanted and paying attention to certain realities (ie., I was making more money writing nonfiction on an irregular basis than I was writing fiction on a regular basis).
And if you go back and look at classical mythology, you know that most happy stories have a dark side. Pay attention to the stories of Medusa and the stories of Tantalus, among others.
Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I've known people who thought that all their problems would be solved if only they could get a book published. I suppose it depends on what your problems are. If your only problem is not having a book published then indeed your problems would be solved. If your problems involved lack of money...well...And, of course, we are who we are...(with whatever problems that might entail) published or not.

I'd say more but I feel kind of funny...looking at your entry...I think I'm turning to stone...

9:56 AM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

1. At this point rejection is as natural as breathing...
2. An agent or editor calling seems like a miracle at this point. Return a call? Wow!
3. Once published to become rich and famous? How many times have I been told that is as likely as hitting the lottery? hahahahha
4. Poor & living in a garret? Now thats my dream life! I've always wanted a garret.
5. Happiness? Comes from within. I've been rich (well times) and poor and happy at both.
6. Change my life? I can only hope for more time to write, walk the dogs, talk to the parrot and, of course, quit my stress filled job!
Thanks for reminding us of "Perspective"!

6:25 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Does your parrot talk back?

4:32 AM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

All the time. Elvis is an African Gray so all he does is talk. However somedays while I'm sitting on the couch with my laptop working on my great American novel
Elvis (the parrot) will ask, "Is that good?" and my ego takes a hit.
Is it?

6:46 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I think talking birds are cool. Just don't teach him to say: It really sucks, doesn't it?

4:30 AM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

My kids had a sleep over a few years ago and when I woke up the bird was saying "What the F*ck! What the F*ck!"
Because African gray's mimic the person's voice who taught them, I knew just what kid had been saying that all night!
It was very hard to unteach that one.

6:20 PM  

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