publishing career

How To Be A Perfect Author

In order to be the perfect author, you must sit your butt down in a chair every single day and write, even if it’s only a sentence or two. But not every single day because an author must also live a full and meaningful life, and chaining yourself to a rigid schedule like that might actually be hindering you. You must also visit social networks every single day and stay on top of the publishing scene. If you don’t know what’s going on out there, how do you expect to be successful? But don’t overdo it because if you spend too much time online, you will be distracting yourself from your true vocation of writing.

Once you are published, you must not read your reviews. You must stay off Goodreads and must never check Amazon rankings or BookScan numbers. But again, you really should be in touch with readers and know their true reactions and feelings for your writing. Interacting with only diehard fans who find no fault in your writing is not going to help your writing. After all, how are you supposed to improve if you are completely ignorant to how real readers are reacting to your work? And how do you expect to market your work better if you don’t know what’s working after you’ve tried it? You need to have an idea of sales numbers as they happen instead of two or twelve months later. But don’t read those reviews and check numbers because they. will. drive. you. crazy.

You must never, ever say negative things online about writing or publishing. You do not want to appear ungrateful toward the fact that you actually got published when so many authors would die to be in your shoes. You do not want to appear jealous of any other author because that would be sour grapes and may affect your sales or the good image of your publisher. But you must appear honest and approachable. If you flout yourself too much and never share anything negative, you’re going to look like a complete fake and others are going to start resenting you. But be careful. If you say anything remotely negative, you may incur that same resentment, as well. Just. Be. Careful. And don’t even think about retreating into a shell and never saying anything online anywhere. Because didn’t you read that first paragraph were you need to be online every single day? I once disappeared from online and never said a word about my books anywhere and my sales plummeted. So you cannot disappear. But your writing will be best if you stay offline as much as possible because then you will not have those distractions eating away at you. You might even create masterpieces that will blow away the world if you retreat into obscurity like the best authors do. But you really should be visible everywhere.

You must avoid adverbs in your writing because adverbs are horribly evil. Because the word horribly in that previous sentence wasn’t necessary, now was it? So avoid those adverbs. Chain yourself to rules others have made up for you and do not experiment to figure out what your own rules are. After all, it’s the books that feel like all the other books that sell the best, isn’t it? You want to be well known and well paid as an author. The perfect author is well known and well paid.

This is most likely not the first time you have heard all of this conflicting advice. It certainly isn’t the first time for me. The nice thing is that I am not writing at the moment. Taking a step back has helped me see how ridiculous and conflicting it can be to listen to everything. Taking a step back has helped me see myself a lot more. Taking a step back has helped me see that I was right in taking a step back. Intuition. It shouldn’t be ignored. I’m not a perfect author. Perfection, I believe, is right in front of us all the time. It is not a place, but the ability to choose what will work for us and kindly saying no to the things that won’t — even if those things work for others and they are successful and we are not.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Think Positive, 9 comments

A Letter to An Author Friend on Her Debut

Dear Sara B. Larson,

I really loved your debut novel, DEFY! I’m excited  you’ve stepped into the world of the Published Author — a world I’m sure you’ve noticed by now is quite different for everyone. Like your main character, Alexa, who pretends to be a male warrior, I’ve found that I’ve also felt nobody understands me and never will, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to hide forever.

Today  I’m going to step away from my hiding and boldly dispel two things about being a published author — at least, things I’ve dealt with and seen many other authors deal with. You may or may not find yourself in my shoes at some point, or maybe you’ve already experienced some of these things. Whatever the case may be, I hope this dream you have reached continues to shine around the edges, no matter what!  

Jealousy

I think most authors get extremely envious of each other and don’t admit it. It’s not the nicest thing ever to talk about in public. But, I’ve found that if I admit my jealousy and face it, I’m a lot more likely to get over it quickly and move on with my life. I’ll admit I’m jealous of your success, Sara. You have an amazing, friendly agent who came to your launch! You are with a pretty sweet publisher, and you are tall and popular and pretty. Oh, I could go on.

The truth of it all is, however, that jealousy often means I want what someone else has, even though it might not be the best thing for me. The truth of it is that jealousy is an opportunity to turn myself around and face the reasons why I’m jealous and what I am overlooking in my own life. Opportunity is never a bad thing. So even though I’m jealous of you, that jealousy has helped me see myself better, and also strengthen my excitement and happiness for your success.

Other People’s Opinions, Namely Reviews

Published authors tell you not to read reviews, but 99% of the authors out there have read them at one point or another. Some of them continue to do so. I used to preach the “don’t read reviews” rule, but lately I’ve begun to see that at least when a new book of mine goes out there into the world, it’s actually quite helpful to know the feedback it’s getting — good and bad, even if it hurts. In the end, I have to admit that it has made me a better writer. If I lived in a sugar-coated world of five-star reviews (or completely unaware of responses on my work), I’m pretty sure I’d lose something important.

So I hope you don’t beat yourself up if you’ve read a few reviews, even if they sting. 

There are many great authors out there who can give better advice than me, but I hope you don’t think of any of this as advice — just me bravely stepping forward to share some of the things I’ve been afraid to admit publicly before. And I owe this to Alexa’s bravery in DEFY. Thank you, Sara, for being brave enough to chase your dreams. 

Standing With You In Publishing Land,

Michelle D. Argyle

sarablarson_michelle_d_argyle_blog_defy

Sara B. Larson can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books. Although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband and their three children. She writes during naptime and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” On occasion you will find her hiding in a bubble bath with a book and some Swedish Fish. Find more about Sara and her debut DEFY on her blog.

“DEFY by Sara Larson is an amazing, fantastic book. It has everything you’d want: intrigue, awesomely real characters, suspense, and a captivating plot. All in a world that comes to life in your mind. Highly recommended.” ­– James Dashner, bestselling author of THE MAZE RUNNER

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, 10 comments

Collected Writerly Wisdom of 2013 and How Each One Changed My Life

A long time ago in a year far, far away (2013 to be exact), I started out filled with hope and wonder and enthusiasm. I was going to complete three novels and blow my publisher away with how much I’d grown. I’m glad to say that I did grow … but it certainly wasn’t the experience I’d imagined it would be. It was better and worse at the same time. It was … well, it was life, and that’s a pretty grand thing. I made some new friends, sadly allowed some old friends to fade into the background, lost a publisher, gained my own publishing company, learned a heck of a lot about self-reliance and confidence, and I can honestly say that this comic FINALLY made me feel like I was doing the right thing. I also discovered why Facebook and other social networks make me miserable 90% of the time, and why 2014 is probably going to be the year of me retreating even more into a smaller technological and social bubble than I already have (but I’m okay with that). A friend of mine beautifully pointed out the kind of people we should all strive to be, while I also found the perfect, straightforward guide to understanding The Introverted. And yes, I am proudly part of The Introverted.

As for writing … ah, writing. The beautiful world where you can give yourself writer’s block and basically make yourself a miserable mess, the world where a writer brilliantly describes what REALLY happens after you’re published, and also points out that One Big Realization we all should have remembered to begin with, and a world where it’s painfully essential to remember the absolute, true power of story for all of us. And you know, it REALLY IS OKAY TO SUCK AT WRITING, but most importantly, you must realize that doing what you love doesn’t mean you don’t work your ass off.

So, what the heck ARE average book sales? It’s probably not what you think. Also, sticking to your own uniqueness is vitally important if you want to feel truly successful. But one of the hardest things I learned this year is the danger of needing everyone to like you because, let’s face it, that has always been an issue for me. Since the day I was born. It’s something, that with the help of my lovely friend who wrote that post, I’m slowly learning how to eliminate.

Although 2013 wasn’t the first year I’ve been a published writer, I still learned that almost every published book is something not entirely immune to the seven stages of publishing grief (it happens to everyone who didn’t land in Magical Unicorn Publishing Land). Outside of publishing … dealing with the actual writing, here’s a piece of writing advice that saves me every time. Here’s the key to understanding why your books may be misunderstood, and why you’re doing it wrong if …

This is the best traditional vs. indie article I’ve ever read, and this is the best definition of writerly success I’ve ever read.

But probably the best thing I discovered in 2013 was Kristine Katherine Rusch’s blog. Okay, yes, she writes super long posts, but they are long for a reason, and they’re worth reading every single time. She’s so awesome that as soon as I have a little bit of extra money, I’ll be donating to her blog. Two of the most inspiring blog posts I read of hers this past year are highlighted below.

Like Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake and Robert B. Parker and oh so many others, I want to die with my boots on, facedown on my keyboard if possible, in the middle of a sentence. Which brings me back to this blog. I write from the perspective of a career writer, someone who started as a teenager and plan to finish when my heart stops pumping. I write about survival—long-term survival—in a business that discourages longevity. That’s my point, that’s always my point, in all of these blogs. ~ From Career Writers, Kristine Katherine Rusch
But most professional writers smile a little when they think about NaNoWriMo. Because we’re writing all the time. And improving our craft. And when our books don’t sell well, we wonder if we might be at fault—if we told a flawed story or if we chose a difficult subject matter. If we self-publish, we worry that we might have a bad cover (and we fix it). But mostly, we shrug off the unsuccessful novels and move on to the next novel. Because we’re not artists. We’re professionals. Most people don’t expect a gold star for showing up at their day job every day. They just expect a paycheck. The same with professional writers. Just because we wrote 50,000 words in a month doesn’t mean we get a gold star or a spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Hell, it doesn’t even mean we get a paycheck. It means that we better get ready to write another book next month. Because that’s what we do. We write. Join the ranks of professional writers. Stop treating writing like an event, and make it a part of your daily life ~ From Reality Check, Kristine Katherine Rusch.

Mostly, with the help of all I’ve shared in links today, 2013 was a time I reflected on what I really want and how I’m going to get it. I realized one very important thing: Writing a novel is not a goal. A writing career is not a goal. Writing is more of a system if it’s going to work in the long run. As long as I’m treating what I do professionally, seriously, and happily, it works. Books are not events. They should be part of a system, and sticking through the thick and thin, the ups and downs, over the long haul, is what matters most. I’m a pretty dang lucky person to be able to write whatever I want, when I want, and how I want. That’s the big awesomeness 2013 brought me. It’s more valuable than gold.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out some of the links above. I certainly didn’t choose them lightly! Happy 2014, everyone!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Best Posts for Writers, Think Positive, Writing Process, 18 comments

IWSG December 2013 — Sick and Tired of Thinking This Isn’t Worth It

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I stood on my porch and stared out at the snow, felt the dropping temperatures creep around me, saw the icy roads and the cars driving by way too fast, and I felt despair in the pit of my stomach and thought, Why am I doing any of this? Why am I making myself miserable over writing when so many other things in life make me miserable? Like snow and winter and cold. I might as well get rid of the things I have control over. Right? 

Right.

Except, then I read this lovely post from Cassie Mae about mediocre being extraordinary. At first I thought, gosh, if she thinks she’s mediocre, then what am I? She was wildly popular with one of her self published books, then she got an agent. She has published with small presses and big presses now, and she says she’s still mediocre. So if she’s mediocre and has done all that, then where does that put little tiny me, who now has no publisher anymore and has decided to just go at it on her own — small sales and all? Does that make me below mediocre or just mediocre right alongside Cassie? Who the heck knows. But as I stood and looked out at winter today, I finally realized none of it matters anyway, whether we believe we’re mediocre or not. In the end, it truly doesn’t freaking matter. I read this study awhile ago. 268 male Harvard undergraduates were tracked from classes 1938 – 1940, collecting data at regular intervals during their life for the next 75 years. The conclusion: Love really is all that matters. “A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy (‘Happiness is only the cart; love is the horse.’).’

So why the heck am I so hung up on all these little things that will, yes, give me the cart, but not pull it? I should be more hung up on how happy I’m making my husband and my family than anything else. And honestly, I haven’t been doing that lately. I’ve been more worried about sales and publishing and writing and figuring out how to make this career work so we can pay off debt and … what? Not have debt anymore? What will that accomplish? Sure, it’s important to pay it off, but it’s not going to make us any happier than we are. There will always be something we’re working toward. Right now debt just happens to be it.

I’m sick and tired of thinking this isn’t worth it, that I need to be on top to make it worth it, that I need to reach such-and-such numbers to make it worth it, that if I don’t reach certain goals and milestones by such-and-such time, I’ll throw in the towel and call it quits. Whatever. I’m done. I want to write and whether I succeed or fail with the numbers, I’m going to do it anyway. It is worth it to me. I’ve become a better person because of it. I’m braver than I used to be, and I’m getting braver every step of the way. And that’s pretty dang awesome.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group, 29 comments

IWSG November 2013 — Taking Really Hard Risks (and Not Backing Out of Them)

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I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m the slow tortoise with five boulders strapped to its back, limping up a mountain. I’m moving upwards, or at least sideways, which is something at least, but it’s slow and sometimes I look back and second guess my choice to pile on those boulders. That was a risk, and one I’m not sure will pay off in the long run even though everybody else with boulders on their back told me it would be worth it — and also that a lot of other people have told me the boulders are unnecessary and I would do better pouring my time, energy, and money into something more lucrative. If you ask some of my friends, they’ll tell you I’ve come awfully close to hurling off the boulders so I can head back down the mountain and live once again without such risks piled on top of me. No more writing. No more spending precious time and money on things that are never guaranteed to succeed according to the world’s measure of success. I mean, wouldn’t waitressing or a cashier job be more secure? It’s especially tempting to quit when little hares are bounding past me, giggling as they chomp away on cupcakes and talk about unicorns. I don’t know who these hares are, if they’re a figment of my imagination, or if they really do exist. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Maybe they are the ones who took more risks than me, or they’re simply luckier or more talented. What matters is remembering that even if I get rid of the boulders, I’ll still have to pay for them (with little or no reward since I’m not following through with them). So I might as well follow through, you know?

I’m a “once you start, you should finish” kind of tortoise.

And sometimes … sometimes when I’m trekking up the mountain, which I’m not even sure is a mountain more than a flat, wide field where no direction is wrong as long as you keep moving, I almost feel like I’m one of those hares bounding along. I’m pretty sure I’m delusional at that point.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group, 24 comments

When Loved Ones Don’t Support — Or At Least Understand — Your Writing Career

“When are you going to get a real job?”

That is probably the harshest criticism any artist can ever get from anyone, especially people close to them — whether it comes with full understanding from the person asking, or it’s simply an honest, clueless question. I’ve seen it happen to several successful artists, writers, actors, and musicians in my life. I’ve felt it in my own life from strangers and loved ones alike. I’ve written before about friends and family not reading your work or when people love you and not your writing, but today I’m talking about something a little different — something that I’ve seen literally make some artists quit right in their tracks and do something else that they think will make others happier. In some ways, it’s the artist’s fault if they let others’ opinions pressure them to quit. After all, we are in charge of our own happiness and destinies, right?

I’ll be brutally honest and say right now that I’ve felt negative pressure for a long time now from the world in general, and not just because of my writing. I happened to marry an actor who has chosen to pursue a career in acting and combat choreography. He’s still in school and it’s taking a long time to get through. He has a day job that pays our bills, but he’s also actively pursuing his dream, and he’s not letting anything get in his way. In this way, my husband has been one of the most shining examples of happiness and sources of inspiration for me and my own choice to chase after a dream that many people simply don’t seem to understand. Why would we both choose to pursue artistic careers and limit our own comfort and happiness? That seems to be the question — phrased in so many unspoken ways — that we get asked on a consistent basis, whether people mean it negatively or not.

Why would we choose to limit our own comfort and happiness? Well, the simple answer is that we aren’t. When I married my husband and he decided, after some very trying experiences for both of us, to follow his dreams and do what he loves, I told him that I’d rather be poor and rent for the rest of our lives than see him follow any other career path that will make him regret leaving behind what he knows he was meant to do. Several years later, I decided to chase after my own artistic dream, and well, here we are. We’re both close to our mid-thirties and in a lot of debt. We don’t own a home. Sometimes we can’t buy groceries or shampoo or toilet paper, and sometimes I wonder how we’re going to make it every month, but we always seem to push through and move on. The most important thing is that we are happy with what we’re doing — and we haven’t given up.

I do have to admit that one of the hardest blows for me just happened recently when my publisher closed their doors and I was left with what felt like absolutely nothing. I had to start all over again, it felt like. Finally, though, I realized that I have more than I thought I did, and I’m now picking up the pieces around me and moving forward just as I was before. I may not sell as much as I did with a publisher, and I know for a fact that I’ll get even more of what feels like disapproval for my chosen career path, but the truth is, I’m doing exactly what I want to do. I’m a mother, which I happen to feel is the number one most important job in my life right now. Yes, more important than writing, obviously. My daughter is one of my top priorities, but guess what? We went to a parent teacher conference the other day, and her teacher said, “So your daughter tells me you’re a writer. I think that is fantastic.” A really great conversation about writing and teaching and my daughter’s own pursuits ensued. My heart melted. My daughter knows I am doing what I love to do. She sees that I am happy, and that makes her happy, and I hope one day she will have the courage to follow her own dreams no matter how difficult and impossible they may seem — because her parents did just that.

Many, many people in my life do support, appreciate, respect, and at least try to understand what both my husband and I are doing with our lives. For that, I am truly grateful. I figure that if someone doesn’t approve of what we’re doing, that is not our problem and we shouldn’t waste any time letting it affect us. So, I suppose next time I get the “when are you going to get a real job?” vibe from someone, I can make it quite clear that we’re perfectly happy where we are, and I hope they are too. If anything, I’ve learned to appreciate more people who are chasing after their dreams like we are. None of it is easy, and most of it takes a massive amount of patience to see any satisfying financial results. For some reason, the world seems to measure success with the amount of money you’re making, which I find very sad. It would be nice, yes, if my husband could quit his day job because he found financial success with his acting and stage combat/choreography. He does make money at it so far, and I make money at my writing, as well, but we don’t make enough to completely support us. Yet. One day, though, I believe we will — as long as we don’t give up.

“When are you going to get a real job?”

“When you stop reading books, watching movies and television, looking at art, going to plays, and listening to music.”

End of conversation.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, Think Positive, 30 comments

As I Ignore the World … and Try Not to Die

I have kind of fallen off the face of the planet lately, and it’s because I’ve been re-publishing books (i.e., pulling my hair out as I figure out formatting, fix glitches, redesign covers, worry and stew about everything I put out there on my own sitting dead in the water now, and generally going crazy). This … this is all why I never wanted to publish things on my own before. I have done it twice before in the past, and swore off it for good. As history has proven, I rarely actually swear off anything for good. I either revisit it for good measure, or just forget I swore off it all together. So, as circumstances have put it, here I am, standing back on good old square one. I do have back list now. That’s a good thing, if anything ever takes off, I suppose.

If you can’t tell already, I’m a little jaded at the moment, a little frustrated, and quite, quite busy getting everything up on its feet. Again. Some authors who were with my publisher only have one book to worry about republishing. I have four, plus a short story collection to redo so it can match the formatting and feel of everything else, and my short story, Catch, which I stupidly decided to publish right when all this other stuff was happening. Not. Smart. At. All. I’ve piled an elephant on my plate (well, a big portion of it was just thrown there by outside forces), and I’ve been in tears more than once. That’s all I’ll say, I guess. So that’s why I haven’t read people’s books I’m supposed to read, haven’t gone shopping for food to feed my family, had literally fifteen loads of laundry to do until a few days ago when I finally tackled it, and waited until the last second to plan my daughter’s birthday party. It’s also why I will continue to not comment on blogs (although I’m skimming them to keep up with everyone), not post much of anything on Facebook outside of my monarch butterfly’s progress as it prepares to hatch from its chrysalis soon, and not do much of anything on Twitter (that’s nothing new).

So … this hasn’t killed me yet, but if it does, I’ll put up a post about it. Er … someone else will, I hope. Wish me luck. I need it.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, Updates, News, and Events, 13 comments

What I Used to Care About

If you had asked me four years ago what was important to me in my publishing career, my list would have been very different from what it is now. Seeing my books in a bookstore was deeply important to me. Almost nothing else mattered, in all honesty. If my book was on a bookstore shelf, that meant I was important, respected, and seen. It meant I had “made it”, even though I’m not sure I knew what “made it” even meant. Back then, I had a very different vision of where I wanted my career to go and how it would change my life. It might be silly of me to talk about this now, only a few years later, but I’ve been through a lot in those few years. It wasn’t until my publisher closed their doors a few weeks ago that I fell flat on my butt and could see where I had been and … for the very first time … where I wanted to go. This clarity is a big deal. In fact, I can safely say it’s the biggest deal that has happened in my writing career so far, mainly because I believe it will positively influence everything from here on out.

The truth is, for a little while, I allowed myself to quit. I really was going to walk away from everything. I didn’t tell anybody this, but giving myself permission to make that choice opened up everything to me. When I got back up from that, I realized I’d either have to republish my books or shelve them once my rights were handed over, I knew there were some big decisions to make. So I made them. What has happened after that has been completely unexpected. I feel … happy. And not just a relieved sort of happy because I’ve made a decision, but really happy. Almost giddy. At first I wasn’t sure why. I thought it was because I would now have complete control over everything concerning my books. I also thought it might be because I had so many people supporting my decision, but even though all of that is wonderful, it’s not any of those things. It’s because out of nowhere, I suddenly don’t care about things that have plagued me for years. They are gone because it’s now clear what I want.

I used to stress about validation around every corner. I worried about my books getting into bookstores and libraries. I worried endlessly about whether or not I would be able to book a signing at a real bookstore. I used to fret about what all my friends thought about my publisher and whether or not I was respected and judged to be a good writer and person because of it. I used to die a little inside every time someone talked about their agent or announced a book deal and posted their Publishers Weekly announcement. I used to worry about what people would think of me if I told them I published my own books.

Now?

I care about telling stories, writing better every time I sit my butt down in my chair, producing quality books, and interacting with my fan base. That’s it. Everything else is just the little fringes on the outside of what really matters. Those other things can be important, sure, but there is no right way to publish, only what is right for you at the moment. I don’t care if I decide to publish my stories differently somewhere down the road. I just don’t care! The only thing that matters is that I’m happy with my writing. Everything else stems from that. I don’t know if I can explain how I feel now, but the best way I can explain it is that I’ve kicked down a wall and I can see the sky for the first time. I know there will always be storms down the road, but for now it’s a beautiful day.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, Think Positive, 31 comments

The Biggest Lie in Publishing History

Last week I wrote a long, emotional post on my private blog. I put up that post on my private blog because I was afraid to talk about those feelings in public, and I was afraid to say that I’ve been unhappy lately. After days and days of stewing and whining and crying, several events have led me here to my public blog to talk about the biggest lie I have ever believed. It’s also the biggest lie I think every writer believes. This is not the post I put on my private blog. That one still seems too raw and close to my heart to let out into the world, but this post contains a few raw things, as well, so read on if you’re interested.

There are a lot of things published authors don’t talk about publicly – usually traditionally published authors. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed in my years of blogging that once an author snags an agent, the focus of their blog usually changes. Once they sell a book, it changes even more. Once their book is close to its release date, they start to seem distant. They talk about publishing a lot. Their posts contain carefully planned honesty. Something seems like its missing, and more often than not, that missing piece is never shown after they are published. A sort of veil goes up. A wall, even, and thus we come to the division between the published and the unpublished. Even worse, there is a division between the self-published and the traditionally published. But this isn’t really a discussion between self and traditional publishing. It’s deeper than that.

I may be generalizing, but these divisions are painfully real. It’s how I’ve seen it. It’s nothing against published authors, no matter how they’re published. Heck, I’m a published author with one self-published book and one traditionally published book which is at that close-to-release-date point. Have I put up that veil? That wall? You bet I have. Except, in this post, I want to knock part of it down, even if just for a moment.

I think most writers go through a cycle. There’s the newbie phase where everything is about the book. Everything. There’s a sort of numb-like happiness going on. Ignorance is bliss, I might say. Then that writer moves into another phase, and that might include a second book or a third, or maybe they’re still on their first, but they become aware of other writers – even more, they become aware of publishing. It’s a vague thing in the background – a glittering aspiration that’s not even considered a reality yet. Then the worst phase hits. The writer feels the need to get published. They feel like they’re ready. This is where the DREAM enters in, and where trouble starts. Some writers are blind to where their writing lies, if it’s truly ready for publication, and some writers seem very aware of where their work stands. Either way, most writers themselves (whether their work is or not) are never ready for publication. It’s pretty much like becoming a parent. Nothing ever truly prepares you for that. Then there’s the next phase, the phase I’m in, and that’s actual publication. This is where the huge transitions take place. This does not include getting an agent. That was in the previous phase. No, I’m talking about actual publication, whether you’re going at it yourself or through a publisher.

I’ll be honest. Self-publishing was a transition, but it was not the same as traditional. There are many factors, but the main factor being that everything was literally coming from me. Even if I had hired editors and cover artists, etc., it was still all through me. My business. My decisions. Nobody was relying on me, and if I failed, it only affected me and maybe a few other close loved ones. That’s it. Traditional has been monumentally different because it’s not just me. It’s a lot of other people, and the book is larger distribution-wise, and it’s permanent. So, now that I’ve explained that, I can say that at least for me, traditional publication has been a completely different emotional ride. In a lot of ways, it has been harder.

That aside, I must get into the main point of my post, which is the Big Lie. Remember that DREAM I mentioned above? That dream is part of the lie. It also can’t be avoided, in my opinion. If you desire publication, you’ve most likely faced the DREAM head-on. For a lot of authors it includes grand things like a large publisher, world domination (*cough* I mean foreign rights sales), a hardback debut, a perfect agent to guide you through everything, and a large amount of cash, whether that be in an advance or through sales or, of course, both. It also includes recognition, respect, and the ability to keep publishing and writing successfully according to the world’s standard of success. Well, don’t let go of that beautiful dream because no matter what anyone tells you, it IS possible. I’ve seen versions of it happen to a lot of authors I know. However, the dream isn’t the complete lie because it can certainly happen. There’s a version of this dream in the self-publishing world, as well, and it also contains Big Huge Things that happen to only a small percentage of authors.

The problem with the DREAM? It relies on outside forces to make you happy, and as we all should know, that’s a problem. If you hang your hopes – even subconsciously (and that’s very easy to do) – on that dream making you happy, EVERY SINGLE THING that does not meet that dream is going to shove you down flat on your face and mess with your head and your happiness.

So, what’s the lie? The lie is that once you reach a certain point in your writing career, you will be happy. When you finish your book, you’ll be happy. When you get a full request from an agent, you’ll be happy. When you get an agent offer, you’ll be happy. When you sell your book, you’ll be happy. When you make more than 50 sales a week on your self-published novel, you’ll be happy. When you get a large advance, you’ll be happy. When you you get an offer from a publisher on your self-published book, you’ll be happy. When you get your first gushing fan mail letter, you’ll be happy. Get the point?

The truth is, I think we all fall into this terrible trap, not only in our writing careers, but our lives in general. You have fallen into it, you are in it right now, or you have been there or are about to go there. It’s like a required stop, it seems. As for writing, though, unfortunately, I have to tell you that debuting a novel is not super fun. In fact, the stress, the emotional strain and drama and pressure, pretty much sucks the life out of most of the excitement I had going. I’ll even admit that on some days I would just take it all back and not publish at all. Putting Cinders, my self-published novella, out into the world was exciting, and I wouldn’t change that experience. It was scary and difficult, but it was exciting, and the excitement won out. Putting out Monarch…well, that has been different. It seems the more I learn about publishing, the more disappointed I am in any dream – because even if I met all those things the dream can offer, I would still be disappointed. How can I say this? Because I have some close friends who are published authors, and they are all on completely different paths – big paths, small paths, even the dream path, and every single one of them has admitted their disappointment in one thing or another, usually with a lot of pain in their voices.

The bottom line of the lie is that publishing will make you happy. It will not make you happy. It only makes things harder and more complicated to find happiness in your writing career. You’ll have brief stints of elation. I have, but in the end, it’s all fades away like a rainbow. If you want happiness in publishing, you’re going to have to look beyond publishing, I can promise you that. It’s just like marriage or having a child or landing a dream job. Just because you find your true love and get married, that does not mean you are set for life in the happiness department. It requires constant work, constant reevaluation, and constant positive thinking despite your circumstances.

One of my favorite quotes is from Scott Hamilton’s book, The Great Eight. He sure went through a lot of crap in his career and in his life in general, but in this book he talks about how he has found lasting happiness in his life. One of the key things I’ve found is this:

Many times people get tied to the disappointment of what failed rather than focusing on the success that awaits them in the next opportunity.

Using this as a base, I’ve found that no matter where you’re at in your writing career, there is always more opportunity when things don’t go the way you dreamed. Part of what makes writers amazing is our ability to be creative, and we should let that seep into every aspect of writing, including our publishing path. I’m not with a huge publisher, so there are a lot of things that I could let disappoint me in the choice I’ve made. I don’t get a hardback debut novel. I don’t get an advance. I don’t get thousands of dollars poured into marketing. I didn’t even get my book mentioned in Publishers Weekly. Woe is me. Poor, poor me. I should be disappointed. I have friends who have SO much more than me. They got amazing deals, thousands of dollars, beautiful hardback books with pearly jacket covers and embossed titles, even paid book tours. And as I’ve already admitted, I’ve felt a lot of stress in this huge life transition of writing as a side hobby to writing as something very serious. The thing is, taking something too seriously that is supposed to be fun will kill you in the end. So I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m going to remember the essentials, the basics of why I’m here doing any of this – TO GROW. It all comes down to that, doesn’t it?

I think one of the most important things in life is to allow ourselves to grow. Every choice we make, every step that helps us evolve into a better person, a better writer, a better friend, is something we should embrace and enjoy, no matter how difficult it is and no matter where we are at on our personal path. Publishing your novels will not bring you happiness, but embracing the changes (good and bad!) that it will bring into your life no matter where you’re at in that journey, will bring you happiness. Understand that your dreams will change as you grow, and you must learn to change with them. Failure belongs only to those who stand still as opportunities pass them by.

**follow-up on the publishing lie**

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, 77 comments