First off, let me start by saying these are my experiences and opinions only. Yours may differ and no doubt do. I recently saw the publication of my first novel, Wedding Belle Blues. I learned several things in this process but one of the most important was the difference between writing and publishing. The greatest tip I can give any aspiring writer or hoping to be published author is this: Know the difference between writing and publishing. While writing is solitary, publishing is not.
Writing is something everyone can and does do. We write grocery lists or emails. In school, we wrote papers and projects. Then some of us see scenes or hear characters in our heads and write their stories. Writing is emotional. Publishing is something the few, the proud, and the brave achieve. It’s hard, it’s tough, and you better darn well be business minded to do it. You don’t publish alone; dozens of people are involved, from the cover artist, to the editor, to the person supplying the money. Even self publishers must switch roles to do all of these. Publishing doesn’t have emotion; business never does and cares for only one thing: the bottom line dollar, pound, Euro. Publishing is all about the money.
Yes, a writer will say it’s never been about the money. It’s about telling the story. I believe that, as a writer. As a writer, I don’t care if I make millions of dollars (okay, of course I care, but I don’t write to become a millionaire anymore than I’m a teacher to become a millionaire). As a writer, I care about telling the story and only telling the story, getting the characters inside my head to stop whispering or screaming their secrets and events and fears and tell them to the world instead. I pour my heart, soul, blood, tears, laughs, and fears into my writing.
Writing is sitting in a chair and typing word after word on a blank screen. Easy? Try it. The statement, “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” is true. Writing is darned hard, even when it’s going well. A good comparison could be: You have fifteen flights of stairs to climb. The first couple of flights are a breeze. Then you look up and all that remains is more stairs, and more stairs. By the time you finally reach the top, you’re sweating, out of breath, feeling like a trunk ran over you several times and ready to throw up. Yep, that’s writing.
Then it’s time to publish. This is where I have to become someone different. I can’t be the writer when I publish. As I said, publishing isn’t emotional and I’m an emotional writer. I’m not, at heart, a business person. This is why I don’t self publish. I haven’t yet mastered my emotions (imagine that) and I like the idea of someone who has, and can, doing the business part for me. I admit it. I don’t want to be a publisher. I want to write. See the dilemma? If I want the characters and stories dancing through my head to be read by the public at large, I have to publish them.
Whether a writer chooses a big five publisher, or a small one, or even a self one, the business end has to shift into high gear. Dozens of things begin to happen after that acceptance letter, call, email or decision to put your work into the wide world. There’s covers to consider, editing, more editing, editing again, and again, and then the actual day your story, your work, your baby is out there for everyone to read, to see, to buy at your publisher’s web page, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance, Book Strand, Kobo, and others. It’s there! You did it. You’ve published.
But the work isn’t over. To borrow a favorite line from the show Doctor Who: “This song is ending, but the story never ends” (The End of Time, part 2). Publishing is a business (have I said that enough?). It is not personal if your book doesn’t become a million dollar best seller. It is not personal if the editor cuts 5,000 words from your awesome scene. It is not personal if the publisher rejects your ‘baby’. It is not personal. Say that over and over, Writers. It is not personal. This is publishing. Publishing is not personal.
Publishing is editing the same chapter, same scene, and same line 500 times. Publishing is being willing to let someone else makes the decision for you, even if you self publish. Because I believe, no matter what you do, once your ‘baby’, your book is out there, however it got there; it is out of your hands what happens. You can blog, and post, face book and twitter, Good reads and book sign, conference and net work, interview and Skype, take ads and everything else under the glorious Carolina blue sky and blazing sun. But the readers decide what happens to your book. Will it be #68 on the Amazon list or go to the NYT list or simply fade into the sun set? The readers have the ultimate control. If you aren’t a reader, you better become one to be published, because that’s where the control is. If you are a reader, you already know this. You choose whether to click and download, or to spend the grocery money at the book store or to turn away. You, the reader, make that choice, that decision, hold that power. Not you the writer and not you the publisher. The Reader.
So, what did I learn in publishing Wedding Belle Blues? Besides the fact I am blessed to have the editor and publisher I do, I learned I am a writer, first and foremost. I can also be a business person, when I must. I’m still learning that part, so it’s a process, just as writing every book is a process and not just an end result. I have power as a reader. But most of all, I won’t stop writing just because I’m not #1 in the publishing world. Yet. I know the difference in writing and publishing. Plus I learned what I already knew: I write because I breathe and because I can’t not write. I published because I can. And I the reader have the power. Write because you love it. Publish because you can. Read because it’s a gift.