A Published Author’s Rant

You know I like to rant now and then, right? But I’m not the only one who gets the privilege! A friend of mine, who shall forever remain anonymous, sent the following rant about the pitfalls of being published.

*****

I finally have a non-fiction publishing contract. I’ve been pursuing this for more than ten years—attending writers’ conferences, receiving rejections, building my platform brick by brick, taking criticism and harsh words from critique groups, and writing, writing, writing . Slowly but surely, my platform has grown and I am now speaking to audiences of hundreds and sometimes thousands (instead of twenty or thirty). Along the way my writing improved. It all paid off. I finally got a contract!

Now… people I know assume that my life is perfect and small animals sing and dress me in the morning. These are mostly writer-friends who are still pursuing publication. With them, I am not allowed to say that it’s STILL hard work (which it is) because it sounds like I’m complaining. I’m not allowed to say that even though I have a two-book contract, I am struggling to get my 3rd and 4th books sold, and it’s just as hard and frustrating. There are so many people who are desperate to be published, I should just shut up and be happy.

And trust me, I am happy. I am singing from the rooftops happy.

But I don’t like the feeling that I should be apologizing for getting a book contract when I have worked so hard to get here. I’m extremely thankful, but not apologetic. It seems to me that some writers feel like they are “owed” a publishing contract that is unfairly being kept from them. I’ve never felt entitled to be published. I’ve felt the sting of hundreds of rejections, and although it has hurt me more than I care to admit, I ultimately kept going.

Of course, I’ve also met a lot of writers who aren’t complainers and don’t have a sense of entitlement, but are simply frustrated with the process. I definitely feel your pain. Trust me, I had a LOT of ideas rejected. I could have given up long ago, but I was just stubborn enough to keep going. If you continue to believe that this whole writing-publishing path is for you, then I hope you don’t give up either.

Please don’t hate me because I’m finally getting published. As I commiserate with your struggles, could you commiserate with mine, too? We are all in this together. Let’s keep supporting each other and rooting each other on.

I am not the enemy. It’s those evil agents and editors you should be angry with… but that’s a different rant!

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  • Gordon Carroll

    >Thanks for sharing this, Rachelle, it’s great insight. I have to admit, it’s hard not to think that once you get published you have it made. It’s so hard to even get anyone to read your work seriously (or at least it often seems that way) that I think the natural thought process is that once we actually leap past all the hurdles and get published, that the rest would be all down hill.

    Hmm. You know, I still wish it was that way. Why did he have to spoil my thought process? You mean even if I get published I’ll still have to work hard? Poo! (LOL)

  • Timothy Fish

    >It’s all subjective, so we are all great writers. It must be the publishers’ and agents’ fault that our work isn’t being noticed. Published authors have an unfair advantage somehow. (Please note the sarcastic tone to my voice.)

  • Anonymous

    >I can relate to this post and had a similar experience, especially “I’m not allowed to say that even though I have a two-book contract, I am struggling to get my 3rd and 4th books sold, and it’s just as hard and frustrating. There are so many people who are desperate to be published, I should just shut up and be happy.”

  • Anonymous

    >Great post and insight from another spectrum. It helps us aspiring authors realize that we are not alone and that even those who are published authors have traveled down the same road or a similar road. Thanks for sharing that.

    Sincerely,
    Rhonda (Rkh)

  • Jessica

    >Very good! It’s so true. After being published you still have to write, but now you’re on a schedule and you’ve got pressure to market your stuff. Nope, I hope you’re never apologetic. It’s like people who make good money. Sometimes others look at them and think they have it made, but they don’t see the hours worked, the sacrifices made. Same thing for you. You’ve worked hard, you’re still working hard. Congratulations on your two-book contract and I hope you have many more in the future. God Bless!

  • Chatty Kelly

    >This is true in all areas of life. I am very thin, so if I complain I’ve gained 5 lbs I get groans from my friends. So thin people aren’t allowed to complain if they go up a pants size, but heavy people are???

    I have an article which is being published in Nov ’08 in a Christian magazine and I’m excited, but I’m already thinking of what I can do next. I don’t want to be a “one-hit wonder.”

    So Kudos to your friend, and keep working! There is no destination, just a journey. She’s just farther up the path than many of us.

  • Anonymous

    >Rachelle, thanks for posting this. Here’s a little different take.
    I have a fairly successful non-fiction book out, published by an equity publisher. My platform is growing. I’ve had numerous articles published in respected periodicals. But I’m having a problem getting a contract for a second non-fiction book in the same area.
    I’ve worked hard at my fiction. I’ve written four novels, been told that they’re “very close,” but still no contract there. And being published in non-fiction hasn’t given me any edge.
    Bottom line: just like the financial planners say, “Past performance is no guarantee of future success.”
    Keep working. It doesn’t stop with the first contract.

  • Katy McKenna

    >The publishing industry in general is awfully mysterious, even for those who’ve been on the perimeter for years. Plus, of course, there’s that whole working-in-solitude-and-relative-obscurity thing. Observers tend to not want to be happy with you partly because they don’t understand that you’ve truly been WORKING all this time.

    When I told one of my sisters (who’s had a number of articles published herself) that I’d “gotten an agent,” she just didn’t understand the significance. She’s a real estate agent, and in her business agents fight for listings! She honestly thought that in the book world, things worked the same way.

    So, no congratulations card from HER. Ha.

    Katy McKenna http://www.fallible.com

  • Writer, Rejected

    >Dude, are you kidding? We’re having a 5-star party for you over at Literary Rejections on Display. You’re the person who makes all our struggles seem worthwhile. You’re our dream come true. Congratulations….about a million times.

    p.s. I remember my first book. I actually did think small animals would sing to me, and everything would be different. But it was just the same old, same old….but WITH a book, which really was pretty great.

  • Kat Harris

    >Rachelle,
    Did you just get done telling us recently that not all agents were evil? Now this anonymous published author is giving us a different story at the end of this post. Hmmm…*smile*
    This is an interesting view from the other side.

  • Inspire

    >’Please don’t hate me because I’m finally getting published. As I commiserate with your struggles, could you commiserate with mine, too? We are all in this together. Let’s keep supporting each other and rooting each other on.’

    No hatred here. But I’d love to be in your shoes. I work well under pressure and would welcome deadlines, marketing, book signings, the whole works. I have three novels that were published with a small press that are no longer in print. I have a great historical I’m submitting to agents, which has brought me a great degree of frustration. If only they would read the manuscript. Even with nothing out there on the bookstore shelves, I’m promoting. The work is par for the course.

    Great post. We are all in the same boat one way or another. Writing is a joy. The business side of the industry takes a lot of work and perseverance.

  • Anne L.B.

    >A good reminder that no writer should expect to labor at reaching publication any less than Rachelle appears to be working at it.

  • Marla Taviano

    >I have to smile at Gordon who assumes your writer friend is male and Kelly who assumes she’s female. I’m with Kelly. :)

    I had my first book published in 2006. It went out of print in 2007. Boo. 2nd book in 2007–doing well. 3rd proposal rejected. 4th proposal rejected. 5th proposal–book that released this year–doing well. 6th proposal–book releases in January. 7th proposal–giving me fits.

    I would absolutely, unequivocally rather be published than not, but yeah, not fair to assume it was easy for us to get there or is easy for us to stay there. And believe it or not, books don’t sell themselves.

    The other thing that’s no fun (besides the “animals dressing you” assumption) is that if you’re published, you’re rich. Hmmm…

    My hubby’s also self-employed, we have 3 small kiddos, and at the moment $0 in our savings and $0 in our checking acct. We just scoured the house for change to turn into bills at the Coinstar machine so we can put gas in the mini-van until the next check shows up…

    Was that a rant? Didn’t mean for it to be. Much.

    I love what I do. I love what God is doing. It’s a ride!

  • Rachelle

    >Marla, people assume agents are rich, too! Especially since I drive a gas-guzzling, environmentaly-unfriendly SUV (which I LOVE). Now, where’s that Coinstar machine again???

  • Nicole

    >Yeah, baby. Let’s hear it for SUVs! You go girl!

  • Pam Halter

    >Thanks for sharing that, Rachelle. We should never, ever give up. You never know what God has in mind.

    May I tell everyone a story?

    I have an autistic daughter, Anna. She also has uncontrollable seizures. Anna just turned 17-years-old, but still functions at about two. Last night, Anna went to her school prom. She had a date, flowers, a beautiful pantsuit, pictures taken, the works. When we came to pick her up, there she was on the dance floor having a blast with her aide, date and friends.

    Never in my wildest dreams did I think Anna would be able to participate in such a *normal* activity and enjoy it, but God had other plans.

    Not only did she enjoy the evening, she was seizure free!

    Writing friends … never, ever give up. It will be totally worth the frustration and hard work. And your tears will be tears of joy.

  • Tiffany Stuart

    >This is honest and heartfelt rant from a writer. Thanks for sharing, Rachelle. You always find something to talk about on your blog. I don’t know how you do it.

    I was ranting yesterday too(complaining to myself). I wanted to be a writer years ago. And for last five years I’ve invested in learning the craft. Now I am getting more and more jobs. Slowly increasing, but still can’t survive without my husband’s income. I should be praising God, right? Believe me, I am. But I’m also grumbling. With more assignments comes more time behind my computer, a stiff neck and wrists, a bigger bottom(if I don’t get moving), and stress. Intertwined in all of this is a reward for creating words worth reading.

    I was in one of those moods yesterday, wondering why I signed up for this. Probably because I just made it through a couple deadline hurdles and some personal issues. I wanted a break, but instead I needed to keep writing. Deadlines.

    Thankfully I talked with a friend this morning who I’m working on a book proposal with and our talk energized me again. I needed that.

    I wish the same energy to all those who are stuck either with the rejection or acceptance letter. Both come with a price.

    What will we do next? Work or quit or rest?

    I hope you work. Rest too. But never quit.

    Your dream is at stake.

  • Word Chicks

    >Oh, I’m right there with you, Tiffany! I’m thinking I need to invest in a Sharper Image massage chair so at least my neck and back don’t hurt at day’s end. :)

    Yet God gives me grace to keep on keeping on.

    “For a dream comes with much business and painful effort.”

    Julie @ Word Chicks

  • Jessica

    >Kelly, I know what you mean. I’m skinny too and feel embarrassed all the time when people ask how I do it. And I feel bad, even though it’s really just my gene pool. :-( But totally thankful that weight’s one less thing to worry about.

  • Yvonne

    >To me, being serious about writing is being willing to learn all I can about the world of being published. That means being willing to try anything that I am asked to do, even if I’ve never done it before, even if it looks insurmountable.
    I want to be a writer, and so I must do what writers do.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller

    >Rachelle, I do think it’s good for unpublished writers to get a complete picture of the business. A pubbed author has every right to be concerned about the next contract since there are no guarantees and editors are often looking at low sales of first books as the kiss of death.

    However, I think some pubbed authors lose sight of the plight of the unpubbed all too quickly, and lose perspective about their own success.

    Sometimes, when authors complain about their publishing woes, it sounds like a person with $300,000 in the bank complaining in a group, each individual with $0 in the bank, about not knowing when or where the next $100,000 will come from.

    It’s perspective. I think it’s good for the unpubbed to understand that publishing is not the holy grail. I also think the pubbed should remember to give thanks and trust our Sovereign God as much after their book(s) come out as before. Less complaining, more trusting. (Good thing your writer was anonymous. Very clearly, I am talking in principle here, not with an axe to grind against anyone).

    Becky

  • Wendy Melchior

    >so basically, life completely sucks on both sides of all coins. Geez, and I’m not even thin…

  • Rachelle

    >Hey, I’m not thin OR rich. I must be in the wrong business!

  • Andrea Emerson

    >Here’s a hilarious video entitled “Book Launch 2.0″ about the struggles of a published writer. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did :-)
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=yxschLOAr-s

  • Timothy Fish

    >The has more to do with the direction this discussion has gone than the original post, but for me, the most important thing to remember is that God provides for his own. I would love to be independently wealthy from book sales, but the fact is that my income from book sale was a whopping $76.65 last month. If that was all there was, I would be in sorry shape, but God has provided other sources of income. If one dries up, he will provide another. Yesterday, the question was, “are you a writer.” Yes, I am a writer and I make my living from writing, but the majority comes from writing software and technical documents. The rest is for fun. Actually, the software development is fun too. If I made my living as a novelist, I would still be developing software on the side. That is why it is such a cool thing that God provides. He takes care of providing for my needs and that frees me up to do the fun stuff. Does it really matter whether he provides through publishing or by some other means, as long as he provides?

  • Randy Mortenson

    >I attended the Writing for the Soul conference at the Cove in August 2004, when the Christian Writers Guild still did summer conferences. Jerry Jenkins hosted, and I’ll never forget Mr. Left-Behind-made-him-millions standing there and saying he’d complain (about all the demands his success had brought him), but who would listen? (He was very personable and down to earth, btw. I enjoyed hearing him–other than the complaining. *smile*)

    As Becky said, it’s all a matter of perspective. And the ability to empathize, I think (I almost wrote “emphasize”). If you haven’t been there, you won’t relate. And if you’re no longer there–such as a published author no longer being a pre-pubbed hopeful–well, you might be able to relate to a degree, but, uh, nobody’s gonna really want to listen. Except other published authors, of course. And understanding agents.

  • Amy Storms

    >Thanks for this post–good perspective.

    And for Chatty Kelly–to answer your question, no, thin people aren’t allowed to complain over 5 lbs. They aren’t allowed to complain, period. :)

  • shilohwalker

    >100% agreed.

    I keep waiting for small birdies to sing and dress me in the morning, but the alarm clock or kids coming in to wake me must scare them away.

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