Are You Ready for the Pain of Publishing?
Guest Blogger: Ed Cyzewski (@edcyzewski)
“Publishing a book would be neat.”
I hear that all of the time from people when I mention I’m an author. I rarely tell them what my experience of book publishing has actually been like—except for this one time.
A friend was just starting to explore writing full time with the goal of publishing a book.
“You’re serious?” I asked.
“Definitely,” he replied.
“Are you ready for two or three years of rejection?” I began. “It could happen. That’s how long it took me to get my first book deal. I’ve heard of successful authors being rejected thirty, fifty, or more times.”
His eyes widened as I continued.
“And then there’s the chance of a contract being cancelled—that’s happened to me and several friends. And that’s just the beginning…”
He looked at me with a furrowed brow and a sarcastic smile by the time I finished. “Thanks for that,” he said.
While he was and still is serious about publishing a book, he wasn’t aware of the hardships tied to publishing a book. I won’t ever downplay the joy of signing a contract, handing in a manuscript, or holding my book for the first time, but authors need to enter the publishing process aware of the challenges and pain ahead of them.
A “Publishing is neat” level of interest won’t cut it, especially when you start speaking with real agents and editors who can crush your dream in one brutal sentence. You need to love what you’re doing in order to make it. If you don’t love publishing, the pain will stop you cold.
If you love the work of writing and sharing your work with others, the pain can’t stop you. Nevertheless, the pain is coming, and you need to be ready for it:
• Publishing Demands Long Hours
I love going to bed at the same time as my wife so we can chat about our day, to say nothing of simply getting enough sleep. However, when a book deadline is approaching, I have to cut corners on the early or late ends of my day.
• Cutting and Revising
The only way I can write a half decent book is to work through several revisions over the course of months. And when I say “revisions,” I don’t mean tweaking a word here and there. I usually print out my draft, hack it to pieces with a pen, and then retype the whole thing so I’m not tempted to keep anything that isn’t the best.
I believe that I can write a good final draft, but the process involved in arriving there isn’t pretty.
You had to know this one was coming. Everyone gets rejected. Even legendary author Frederick Buechner’s latest book, The Yellow Leaves, was rejected by his long time publisher. There could be months of waiting with bad news on the other end.
While some authors have the perfect platform or idea, preferably both, there are so many things that have to line up perfectly in order for your book to be accepted, such as the publisher’s interests, current book line up, or financial status. Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them, but either way, a “no” is tough. At a certain point, the rejections stop hurting quite so much, but the first rejections will come and they will sting.
• Asking for Publicity Help
Even blogging legend Michael Hyatt admits that it’s hard for him to ask for book endorsements (see point #4). If you’re publishing a book, you’ll have to tap your friends, colleagues, and experts for their help with promotion. You’ll need to find early readers, blogs where you can guest post, radio shows where you can be interviewed, and venues where you can hold book events. When promoting my own books, I prefer rejection from an editor over libraries and book stores that didn’t return my calls.
• Indifferent “Readers”
I’ve spoken to a few authors about this, and I think this is the hardest part about book publishing. It’s not so bad if someone reads your book and disagrees. At least they read it. It’s especially hard when I send someone a free book and he doesn’t read it. Rejection is tough, but feeling like people are indifferent is difficult to handle.
Authors will only persevere through these hardships if they make a commitment to their creative passion to publish. If you love it, you’ll create it.
I think there are plenty of people who have what it takes to write a book, but before you take that plunge, make sure you know what awaits you.
While every author has a slightly different publishing experience, there will be plenty of pain.
Do you love the creative work of writing enough that you’ll take a tough day in book publishing over a tough day anywhere else?
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Ed Cyzewski is the co-author of Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus and author of Coffeehouse Theology and A Path to Publishing. His blog about imperfectly following Jesus is www.inamirrordimly.com, and his writing blog is www.edcyz.com. Follow him on Twitter: @edcyzewski.