There is No Going Back Once You Publish

I often wonder why writers are in such a frenzy to publish their work. I say frenzy because that’s exactly what it feels like. That’s how I felt before I put my little novella, Cinders, out into the world, and that’s what it feels like as I visit blogs and talk to other writers. Going to my first and only writer’s conference so far was like a writer’s version of publishing-heroine. A chance to get noticed! Learn more about writing! Make important connections! Get one step closer! The tension, euphoria, and energy in the air was so thick I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the day. I was exhausted when I got home. I was high, too, because I had the chance to meet an agent who currently had my partial of MONARCH. I thought for sure she’d request a full later because I stood in line and shook her hand and introduced myself. Yeah. No full request.

I have a friend online whom I chat with sometimes on facebook. She’s such a sweetheart. She’s also a new writer and she’s asked me a few times about self-publishing and what it entails. She’s on her first book and I finally decided to be completely honest and forthright with her. I told her to stop worrying about publishing and just finish her book. She didn’t seem upset by what I said. It’s simple advice.

Cinders is my fourth book. When I wrote my first book I would have given anything to get it out there. I think I would have chopped off my right arm if it guaranteed me a publishing contract. That was a long time ago. I didn’t make the decision to self-publish Cinders lightly, but at the same time I’m not sure I realized exactly what I was doing.  

If there is one thing I can say to anyone considering publishing anything, traditionally or self, it’s this: There is no going back.

Like having a baby, you can’t send it back. In fact, it’s even more permanent than a baby! You can’t put up a book for adoption. It’s yours and it always will be. You wrote it. Even if you move on and start writing under a different name that book is still out there. Even if it’s no longer being sold or printed, even if you pull it off Amazon, people have still read it or have it on their e-readers or bookshelves. You still loved it enough at one point to put it out there.

Dorothy Howell has a guest post today up on Marilyn Meredith’s blog. It’s about knowing what you want before you publish. It’s an amazing post. You should go read it. She talks about making these very important decisions before you even finish your book. You must know what you want! I don’t regret putting Cinders out there, but because I wasn’t absolutely 100% sure of what I wanted, I start to fear for my own happiness based on sales and popularity and reviews. It’s a bad place to be for me because I want to be happy for how things are now. I’m getting back to that place, but it’s difficult.

I can’t stress enough…there is no going back, especially on your expectations. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t get frenzied. Even if you feel like your clock is ticking, take your time and make sure that what you finally do put out there is really what you want, how you want it, and when you want it. Believe it or not, this usually means writing more than just one book, and this usually involves years of patience and work. Many of you are already sure. Many of you aren’t.Wherever you are at, whether you are going to publish traditionally, independently, or with a small publisher, step forward with caution. You don’t want to hit rocks at the bottom of that dive.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

20 comments

Domey Malasarn

Michelle, I really appreciate what you say here and what you said in your earlier post. For me, I always see a lot of strength in people who are willing to make yourself vulnerable. You have done this not only by publishing, but also by talking about your process. I thank you for it, and I'm learning a lot from you. It is such a mix of emotions. I'm glad that there is a lot of satisfaction in there, even though other things may be frustrating.

Quite a sobering post (in a good way!). It's all too easy to want to get rid of something, for lack of a better term, and to push it out there when you're not completely happy with it. Conversely, you could hide everything away and never have the confidence to get anything out into the world. Strike a balance!

Awesome post, Michelle! Thanks for being forthright. I see that frenzy to get published NOW (heck, I feel it myself some times), but I try to remember to slow down, make the best of the time I have.

Such a terrific post, Michelle. I've been a pretty vocal advocate for a while now of an informed cost-benefit analysis. Know what you want of your writing, know what you're willing to sacrifice, and then figure out how to make the two best line up.But that is such a late-game decision to make. Because you're right. First things first, become the writer you want to be.Did I think that the crappy novels now sitting on floppy disks in a ziplock bag at home might be published when I wrote them? Sure, of course. But I'm glad I didn't try.I wasn't yet the writer that even then I wanted to be. No matter how much I loved my stuff, I was worried about it on a fundamental level and uncomfortable with it. I was a little uneasy about people seeing like, "Oh my, what will they think?"Now, I realize that I will always be growing and developing (I hope!!!), but I'm very comfortable with who I am as a writer and I'm confident in my material. I'm able to say, "Yep, some people ain't gonna like this one bit." And that doesn't faze me. I can say to a fellow writer, "Ugh, I think this structure might be a mess, can you help me figure out what's wrong here?" without thinking it means I stink as a writer.My goal is to publish with a commercial press, and eventually make enough from that to live on. I know that's a long, painful road that requires certain things of me and has a lot of implications for the kind of lifestyle I'll have. At this point, I'm able to take all of that and say, "Okay, here's where I want to be, here's what I need to do to get there, and I'm confident enough in myself in myself and in my writing to take those chances."If I had hurried through, I would have none of that.Do I feel the clock ticking? Yes. Is it easy to continue being patient as I work on finishing up Sublimation? Heck no.But it's worth it in the end.

Also, that post from Dorothy Howell needs to be stitched on my quilt.

Great post Michelle! The frenzy was something I struggled with up until a few months ago when I realized, writing was a journey for me, not a means to an end. When that came up and smacked me in the face, I was able to slow down and take a step back and look at all I'd accomplished and all I still had left to accomplish and it was a very freeing feeling. I think, while the blogosphere can be a great place, it can also add to the feelings of now now now, must get published and famous now. So thank you for this post. It made my day. 🙂

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Davin: Thank you! No matter what we writers do, if we're going to publish it's going to be frustrating somewhere along the line. And anyone who publishes is making themselves vulnerable. It's a tough leap, and one not to be made lightly. I forgot to make the point here as well that it's important not to wait forever, either. 🙂CharmedLassie: I'm not even sure it's writers not being happy with their writing and wanting to get rid of it, but more that they aren't seeing they might not be ready…it's really important to get a lot of feedback and get a lot of writing and reading under your belt. That's a great point about not waiting too long!Stacy: Yeah, it seems most writers want it NOW and I'm afraid that makes for a lot of mistakes. I've done it, too, with querying too early and such. I'm sure I'll do it again in other aspects. I just have to keep reminding myself to slow down. 🙂Nevets: You have a good outlook on things, from my perspective at least. I don't know everything. I don't know people's situations, but I do know every writers should be careful about the decisions they make going into publishing. It's not a light decision, even to query something.Even now I feel a bit frenzied to get THIRDS out there. I just need to slow down and take it at its natural pace.Valerie: Aww, thanks for your kind words! Your note there about writing as a journey not a means to and end IS REALLY GREAT. That's exactly it! So much time. And I wouldn't have it any other way. It wouldn't be nearly as rewarding if it happened quickly.

I've been guilty of this to a certain degree. I don't think it's entirely a bad thing. It pushes me to work hard and get my writing in shape. I want my book to be good and right. I want to be content with the book I put out into the world. I don't plan on self-publishing, and this is in part a lack of confidence in my own judgement. I want the benefit of an agent and an editor helping me along the way. Still, I would love to get the ball rolling. Must. Continue. Rewrites.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Lois: I can understand the frenzy-ness fueling your drive. I think it's necessary to an extent, yes, but it can also be dangerous when writers use it as a replacement for confidence. As far as lacking that confidence in your judgment, I think it's important to get that confidence before you even query. Agents seem able to see self-doubt from a billion miles away, as do editors and publishers. I'm not saying you have that kind of self-doubt, but I do think it's important to have a hefty, healthy dose of confidence without validation.

I think the best philosophy is to just enjoy the ride, no matter what happens. You can't be driven by fear.When I was a homeless backpacker I used to find myself getting all stressed out about where I was going to sleep. Eventually I realized that if I didn't find a place, I could always sleep in the bushes or under a bridge or something. Once I realized what the worst thing that could happen was…I wasn't so afraid anymore.I think it's better to just jump in the deep end and not even try to be prepared. If you're too prepared, you'll just be stressed out and disappointed when things are different than you anticipated. If you're unprepared, it's all exciting and new!

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Walter: While I admire the "just go forward unprepared" attitude, I can't condone it. It goes against my very nature to do anything unprepared. This is why I wrote 3 books before even thinking about putting CINDERS out there on my own. But…I also didn't write eight or ten books before I waited to put something out there, either. I do think it's silly to wait too long and over-prepare and worry about what will happen when you finally do go forward. I'm a natural worrier. This means there will be sharks in the deep end that I will kill before I jump in. :DBut that's just me. Your philosophy probably works well for others!

Justus M. Bowman

Good post. Turtles need love too.

February Grace

Thanks for putting yourself out there in so many ways, Michelle, and teaching us so much as you do it. I'm grateful to you.Thank you too for that link, like Nevets I want to make a very visible craft object out of that Dorothy Howell post. I'm thinking…tapestry :DFor awhile now I've been so stuck and after reading the Howell post I am starting to think it's because I've been worried about all the wrong things. It doesn't matter what anyone else calls success, if it's not what I personally want to get out of my writing even if I get it, I won't be happy.It seems a lot simpler now. I hope this moment of clarity carries over and I can actually get back to doing what I want to do: which is writing things, be it blog posts or online story chapters or novels that make people feel. That's all I want, and I don't need to go the traditonal route, or even self-publish, to do it. I might not ever achieve readership on a world-wide basis that way, but that's okay for me, I have never in my life wanted to be famous.I hope you have a great weekend! Thanks again.~bru

An important post. I've blogged about this quite a bit, because I keep reading complaints from agents who say the #1 mistake writers make is querying before your book is ready. But thanks for pointing out that you personally need to be ready, too. It's about jumping on a rollercoaster that's not going to stop for you to get off.

You know what it comes down to for me? It's that when I get published, I'll finally be qualified. What I mean is this: All those people in my life who know I write but see none of the output, or know nothing of the industry and its time-constraints, can only take me how seriously? Their assessment of me and my work would change ten-fold with a novel on bookstore shelves. Suddenly they'd get it.It doesn't mean I want to rush and create hasty stories. It just makes my longing for the day of success that much stronger.

Michelle, this is excellent advice. I'm toying with sef-publishing (more seriously since your posts on your Cinders experience) but I'm also hesitating because I'm not sure of what I want. So I've put the decision aside and am doing a creative writing course to re-ignite my love of writing. I'm hoping the course will take me away from that frenzied place where PUBLICATION is the holy grail, and back to that place where writing is just for pleasure and what will be will be.Judy(South Africa)

This is so true. Everyone must walk before they run. There is a difference between being driven and being frenzied…but a fine line. Writing is art and it's got to come from within…writing to please others just isn't going to work well.

Good post! And I am humbled how you have once more put yourself out there so willingly. It takes a great deal of courage to share these discovered truths, which isn't always obvious the way your words flow so eloquently.It reinforces what I've been subconsciously working towards for years now. With the way I write and what I write, I think I'll bypass publishing entirely. I can't imagine myself ever NOT writing. I equally can't imagine myself NOT sharing. I'll just do it low-key through blogs and public archives. I think this will work better for me because I am not good about separating my value from a dollar sign. In other words I think I better keep it a hobby and never do it professionally or risk losing my love of writing.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Justus: This blog is in dire need of turtles.Bru: Thanks for stopping by. It really doesn't matter what others call success, I agree, and it's so important to remember that. I always go back to my "You Are Doing Things" post because it is the writers actually writing books that are moving forward, whether or not they are publishing them. 🙂Anne: Yep, that's exactly what it's like! I love that rollercoaster analogy!Janna: Hmmm, if you're waiting to get published to be qualified, I'd suggest moving beyond that mindset. That's just my humble opinion. Now that I have a book deal the close people in my life are not treating me any differently than they did before. Still, if it's something that will help you, I don't blame you at all for longing to get there. I did, too, and I still eagerly await the day to walk into a bookstore and see Monarch on the shelf.Judy: It's good to hesitate, yes. Self-publishing is a huge, huge decision, and it certainly isn't right for everyone. Good luck with your course!Lauren: Yes, there is a big difference between being driven and being frenzied. Very big. It can make all the difference in your experience and even in your writing. Alicia: If that kind of publication is what works for you, then run with that! You seem to be running with that, and I admire you for discovering what works for you. It's a difficult journey for many.

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