Is Publishing Every Writer’s Ultimate Destination?

I think we’re all very conditioned to believe that publishing our work is the be-all end-all. But the truth is, that is not always going to be the case.

There are plenty of people who are perfectly content to just write and then stick their stuff in a drawer. It’s overly personal, perhaps. Or maybe they need to do more work on it.

I hear ya, folks.

But then, there are these people.

Perfect is the Enemy of Good and the Good Enough

I imagine a lot of the writing community is neurotic, or at least I guess I hang out with them the most.

Guilty as charged.

But here is where it gets awfully tricky.

These are not people who are avoiding publishing because they need to do work on their stuff. Nope.

No, these are people who are staying far away from publishing because they have been editing for years. They feel their stuff is no good, and may entertain occasional (or even frequent) thoughts of just trashing everything.

And so they polish. And polish. Then they polish their works some more.

You Can Stop Now

Or, as James Cromwell said in the movie Babe, “That’ll do.”

Seriously.

It wasn’t until 2022 that I first met someone who had been editing their work for a good decade or more. This is not a series of books or even more than one book.

It is editing for just one book.

That blew my mind. And now, even months later, guess what? It still blows my mind.

But here’s a dirty little secret, folks.

Publishing Companies Brought This Upon Themselves

Or, rather, I suppose you can say that publishers just did their thing. And then we, the writers, jacked it all up to infinity.

What the hell am I talking about?

I’m so glad you asked.

I Blame You, Bill Gates (Not Really)

In the mid-1980s, my brother published a book on charitable giving. Pantheon gave him a contract, an advance, and everything. They took care of the promotions. And when he was writing it, he had to go to libraries, and do legwork by visiting various charity offices as well. It took him months. The publisher did the editing, if I recall correctly.

Now let’s fast forward to 2013, when Untrustworthy was published by Riverdale Avenue Books.

I wrote it for NaNoWriMo in less than a month. No research was necessary as it is a wholly fictional piece. I hired an editor and paid her, although RAB did last minute editing which was probably more like proofreading. And I was responsible for nearly all the promoting. Which I’ll admit I could have done a lot better.

It does not help that a good 427,000 people participated in NaNo last year.

Does this mean that everyone has a book in them? Maybe. But there are a lot of people who really just have a terrible book in them.

The Onslaught of Written Material

For people in the publishing industry, it has got to be a lot like hacking away at an invasive plant like kudzu. They get tons of submissions. Some are great! Some are awful. Most are somewhere in between.

As a person who has had to field a lot of inquiries (and say no a lot of the time), I can guarantee you that they are using macros or other templates to answer most writers. And I can also guarantee that virtually every rejection is not personal.

But Publishing Needs a Way to Cope

Due to this continual tsunami of new material, publishers have got to be ruthless. And they have got to be fast. Hence a piece has really got to be perfect—but only from their perspective. If your novel is 100% A++ material, but it’s not in a genre that they publish, then they are going to turn you down.

In fact, they probably won’t get past your cover letter or, maybe, first few pages. Once they determine you’re not writing in a genre they put out, they’ll send a rejection notice and move onto the next thousand manuscripts.

PublishingThis makes writers even more neurotic. We’re all terrified of doing that one thing wrong. But the truth is, you could be doing everything beautifully, and still not get the golden ticket.

So, try not to let it get you down. I know, I know, that’s a lot easier said than done.

But you’ve still got to go forward.

My Publishing Advice and Journey

I harbor no illusions of this being perfect advice or fully up to date. It’s really just what I have gleaned from years around other writers.

But I think it’s still useful, and publishing advice in particular can work well for self-publishing.

Because that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

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