Fears about the Publishing Process
“Jsfrog” left me this note:
If you get an agent, how do you decide what form of publishing to pursue? Do agents typically have a list of preferred houses to pitch to or do they take input from the author? And if you are lucky enough to get a few offers, how do you decide which one to take if there is a difference of opinion somewhere? Like if one prefers the intimacy of a smaller house, but the other is just looking at the financial bottom line?
I am an independent introvert so while I would like the validation before publishing, I worry about being overwhelmed by the process. That is one reason I might consider self-publishing or by-passing a few of the steps with a smaller house that still has open submissions.
When an agent offers representation, most likely they already have some ideas about what type of publisher would be appropriate. You and your agent would discuss this, and if you have some input to offer, you should speak up. I often ask my clients, “Who is your dream publisher?” and then we have a place to start the discussion, regardless of whether I think their dream is realistic.
If there are multiple publisher offers, usually you go with the publisher offering the best deal, because the agent wouldn’t have submitted the project to a house you didn’t want to publish with. But there may be other considerations, and by this point your agent should already be clear on your priorities so she’ll be able to guide you in making a choice.
You mentioned “the intimacy of a smaller house” vs. “the financial bottom line,” which is an interesting way to look at publishing. A smaller house may or may not feel more “intimate.” A larger house may or may not be a better deal financially. They’re not mutually exclusive or automatic opposites.
Keep in mind the agent’s job is always to get you the best deal possible. This means financially the best deal, as well as a good strong contract where your long-term interests are protected. They also want to put you with a publisher that gives you the best chance of being a success—a company who knows how to sell the kind of book you’ve written, and with an editor who “gets” your book. There are a lot of things that make a publisher right for you (or wrong for you).
Don’t make too much of the fact that you’re an introvert. While your fears are valid, many writers are introverts, and somehow they manage to make it work. I’d say: feel the fear and do it anyway.
Also, regarding your last two sentences (the fact that you might consider self-publishing). I think you may have a skewed view of the requirements of self-publishing, vs. small indie publishing or traditional big publishing. If you’re afraid of being overwhelmed by the process, it’s not going to be any less with self or small publishing, unless you want to put your book out there and sell zero copies – then, sure, you won’t be overwhelmed because you won’t have to do anything. The truth is, you are far more likely to be overwhelmed by self-publishing; and no matter which way you decide to go, you have to face one fact:
If you want to put your words out there for people to read, it’s going to feel risky, it’s going to feel vulnerable, and it’s going to require you to step out of your comfort zone.
Don’t be afraid of that. It’s how we grow, right?
Q4U: Does anyone else out there have some trepidation about the process of being published? Published authors, did it feel risky and overwhelming? Was it worth it?
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
As a web-site owner I believe the material here is reallymagnificent. I appreciate it for your efforts. You should keep it up forever! Best of luck. tea infuser
Wonderful blog post, saw on…
I do accept as true with all the ideas you have offered to your post. They are really convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are very quick for newbies. Could you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.
>My biggest fear isn't rejection so much as acceptance. Doesn't that sound weird? I think the "acceptance" portion scares me because of then being responsible not to let down my agent and eventually an editor.
As a working mom with minimal hours to do laundry, eeking out writing time where I lock myself away from baby(s) and DH is hard at best. I can't write at mach speed so I'm afraid I wouldn't live up to expectations or necessary demands.
That's my biggest fear, letting those rooting for me down.
>My biggest fear about the publishing process is that no matter how many agents I query, nobody is ever going to say yes.
>Thanks for sharing this post. I have a poster with your "feel the fear.." quote over my writing desk. (It was a gift after I spoke at a Women's Event on Conquering Fear.) Fear is a threshold that will either stop us at the door or usher into a new environment. It's our choice to move on or stay put.
On a side note:
I would like to hear your thoughts about an article in yesterday WSJ about product placement in books. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704132204576285372092660548.html?KEYWORDS=this+book+brought+to+you+by
>I'm going through the process of wondering if my novel was ready. I've only re-written it eight times and have read every book on writing that I can get my hands on for the last decade, but my biggest fear is my own self-doubt. My husband said, "you signed the contract and it's a done deal–sink or swim." I intend to swim. 🙂 I don't think you're ever a failure if you never give up on your dreams.
>My book will be published March 2012. I'm in the editing stage…which means it's becoming MORE of reality and it's quite scary. Yes, I'm a bit nervous because my book is a memoir so it's a very personal story, but I feel it's a story that will help many people so I'm willing to put it out there. I'm no longer in the "OMG I'm getting published" stage. I'm in the "OMG people in North America (Canada/USA) will be able to purchase my book at B and N and other bookstores and READ IT! That reality is getting closer and yes, I am feeling the fear, but I'm going to do it anyway!
>I try to remember the fear I had of NOT being published, of not being heard. The thought of that makes the overwhelmed feeling ease a bit. (I just finished self publishing at Westbow Press.)
>I've been so intimidated by the publishing process I've failed to query for several months. It is all so daunting.
And from what I've been reading of my self/inde pubbed friends, that process can be so much more frustrating than the query process.
I'm grateful someone asked these questions. I know it's all a part of "what an agent does", but I like how focused your answers were.
>My publishing fears:
* end up with an editor that doesn't edit
* end up with no marketing
* end up with a lousy cover
* end up with reviews behind a pay wall
And then fail to earn out because nobody had heard about the book.
>I can speak to working with a large publisher. I'm with Simon and Schuster and can't say enough nice things about the experience. My editor is very available to discuss issues and with my first book explained each part of the process. I can't speak to small publishers or going indie, but I can reassure people that I didn't feel lost or overwhelmed at a bigger house because I didn't deal with the house, but rather with a direct contact, my editor.
I think it is normal to have some fears. Before I published I was talking to another writer and expressing my worries. She told me "Look, you're already not published. The worst that will happen is that you still won't be published." That motivated me to go for it.
>I really appreciate what you said about self-publishing: it could overwhelm you more than traditional publishing. It seems to me that traditional publishing seems big and mystifying, so people pursue self-publishing out of a desire to be in control of the process. I think if people were exposed to a good education about trad. publishing, they might feel differently. Thanks for this blog, which helps us to learn.
>I'm worried that my desire to occasionally be told I'm good enough and that I can write will be construed as me being a "needy writer" and prevent me from getting an agent. Same goes for my occasional bouts of "omg can't write, should quit and move to Australia". I know that just about every writer experiences this, including the writers with agents and editors and published novels, so I'm really overthinking things, but there's still a part of me that says real writers are too awesome to ever lose confidence in themselves.
I'm worried that I'm going to ruin my chances at an agent by crying over the phone when I'm offered representation.
I'm worried that my novel's structure doesn't fit the norm well enough for it to be published. The pitch/hook presents as one kind of book, while the structure's that of another, and that's the way it needs to be for the story to be told. Even if an agent gets it, will an editor? Enough to sign me?
>The first time I held a published piece in my hands was….odd. To see my thoughts staring back at me on from the page. Could they stand up on their own?
Heck, would anyone even read 'em?
It is easy to get discouraged. At what point do you get one more rejection slip and say, "Hey, I actually gotta pay rent and eat," thus putting away your Great American Novel to write about Teenage Mutant Amish Vampires?
When you see your words staring back from the page, one realizes that YOU had to take the stand yourself to get them there. 🙂
>The good (ish) news is that the average number of people showing up at a book signing in the USA is *wait for it!* four.
Most of us will never, ever struggle with overwhelming crowds.
>I've blogged about this before. Fear of Success is very real, and probably a psychological something-or-other. We seek success, maybe even crave it, yet fear it. If only we could have success anonymously, if that makes any sense.
>Trepidation holds me back, definitely. But in my case, I'm thinking it's a good thing. As long as I keep striving to improve my writing and test my ability to achieve under pressure then I'm growing even within all this fear and inching my way closer to taking the leap.
One of my most favorite songs has a line "I'll worship while I'm waiting." One of my greatest forms of worshipping God is to write the stories He puts in my heart. So I'll keep writing while I wait for the go-ahead to take that leap into searching for publication.
>An excellent post. Lots of informative stuff for would be published novelists. Wish I was one of them…
>"Or they will insist I give them another book in six months…"
This is pretty much the only thing that scares me at this stage in my writing career. I've published a couple of ebooks with a small press (which has been a great experience!), but I want to sell my other work, in a different genre, to a large established publisher. BUT what if they want my book, which is what I've been *praying* for, what then? Will they want me to write 2 books a year?? For a while, I've had the goal of writing one book a year & that's been a stretch (changing genres, rewriting, etc…), but I am confident I could do it. Two books a year just kind of makes me panic and my eye starts to twitch. 😉 I'm writing commercial paranormal romance for young adults and, looking at comparable titles on the shelves, two books a year looks like the norm? I don't know if I'm just inventing things to worry about, or if I should really be concerned (and prepare myself accordingly). The unknown doesn't help. But otherwise? I am SO good to go. I'm ready.
Also, to pipe in on the self-publishing topic (or even publishing with a very small press with limited advertising), the marketing piece is just enormous. This is what makes me hesitate more than anything to self-publish. Am I willing to fork over thousands of dollars on print & online advertising? Up front, out of pocket, my money? This is such a key service a publisher performs (especially the one I have my heart set on :)). They have the distribution, a name people trust, they're a marketing machine, they run the ads, they have presence on shelves, etc… Having seen how few copies of my ebooks I've sold via a small press, it's opened my eyes to the importance of marketing (and I'm not just talking about maintaining a blog, or maybe setting up a blog tours, Twitter & Facebook, securing the occasional author interview, having a website, and book blogger review. These have become expected promotional efforts and they're helpful, but only to a point. Advertising and, for print books, shelf placement is huge and I think it's easy to underestimate how important these pieces are to a successful book launch. You have to have the finances (and the willingness to expend them) to put behind advertising.
>Linnette R. Mullin,
Just how does that work? You write to 49 agents and if they don’t respond you send to number 50? Some agents don’t respond unless the answer is yes, so you could be waiting for 49 agents to respond who have already trashed your proposal. On the other hand, if several of them are interested, what could be wrong with that? You get to decide which one you want. And it isn’t like they’re talking about how many agents you submitted to. Even if they were, at least they would know who you are.
>I love you for telling this person to plow through their fears. Anyone who's accomplished anything worthwhile has had to do this.
>No, I don't have any fears about being published. I've already been there in a lot of ways. I was the author of a Tokyopop manga and I have had a lot of what other people fear already happen to me. The book suffered long delays when the original artist quit. People waiting for the book didn't like the new artist. The book wasn't marketed at all. The only book signings I could get to were local and very few showed up to any of them. With low sales the book was cancelled at volume 2 and I heard it while working on volume 3. Book 2 didn't even get to the printed page and was just posted on the TP website. I may or may not get my rights back even with the company folding they may be able to hang onto them.
So no. I'm not afraid of book publishing. I know that the world doesn't end if no one shows up to your book signings. I've learned more about self promotion since the early days of Dark Moon Diary. I know more about patience and the fact that once you get that publication you aren't 'set'. In a lot of ways every project is like starting over. You have to keep going and writing and don't EXPECT that people will judge by past projects and accept anything you do after you've 'made it'.
>In the past, I was afraid.
There's so much to learn about the publishing industry, but I keep chugging along and learning something new everyday.
I'm not so afraid anymore.
>I've got a few publishers I've chosen, but since they haven't chosen me, let alone seen my work, it all means very little right now. But it's still fun to think and plan and get excited.
>I got a big chuckle out of this one. It's human nature to be afraid of what we don't understand or haven't experienced. I guess the only way to counteract that fear is to educate outselves about the process and then set our fears aside and jump right in.
About the book signing and not having anyone show up (which would either have me doing a jiggy to entertain myself of hiding my head under the table) I have attended a couple of book signings for other authors. The best thing to do is to schedule multiple authors. I've seen where an agent represents several and will toss in a seasoned author to help out the newbies. Awesome!
>Rachelle, It's been frightening at times, indeed, to step out of my comfort zone, but I have found it to be an exciting experience, as well! I'm just entering the preliminary stage, but other authors and publishing professionals have been so welcoming! I think, as "newbies" at times, we really don't know what to expect. You can fantasize about how you think or hope it will be, but until you're actually there, it's difficult to predict.
Reactions to criticism? I've been told I'm somewhat of a Pollyanna. I guess that can be a good thing…or do you think that's "criticism" and I just don't know it? : )
>How do you know which agent is right for you?
How many agents should you submit to without it sending a red flag to those agents? I realize you probably shouldn't send out 50 submissions, but what is an amount agents won't frown on and do you list each of them in your proposals?
>I got my first two books published (traditionally) without an agent (not really possible anymore). Having an agent for my 2nd two books was a huge relief. Now, my agent is working hard to get a publisher to buy book #5 and it's been a long, rough road (well, compared to how easy the others were). So, no fears really about the publishing process–just the fear that my manuscript will never be a book.
>My journey has been one of following what was necessary to do and available. I self-published "Amish fiction" first because I had a ready supplier, (Choice Books) who told me what they wanted, but we couldn't sign on a main line publisher. After several novels and some sales, Harvest House took my next series. The painful part of working with a big publishing house was the editing upgrade, which was necessary I knew, but still quite uncomfortable. I have now written an edgy Amish novel, (I finished it last winter in my spare month) and have the same problem all over again. Mainline publishers will not take the manuscript. So I am self-publishing again, under another name, in addition to the regular Harvest House releases. Can I do it twice? I guess we will see.
By the way. I enjoy the blog.
>I’ve got to agree with those that disagree with the statement that self-publishing is overwhelming. But I can’t speak for anyone but myself and I certainly can’t compare it to the traditional publishing route because I’ve never done that. Which is a big problem with this traditional vs. self debate. Too many people who haven’t done both are planting their flags in the sand and arguing for the one side or the other when we don’t really know anything about the other side.
>I definitely have had this same fear. All these what if's and possibly's and could happen's and omgosh, can I survive the bureaucracy! Just trying to work on what's right in front of me, though. 🙂
>Absolutely I feel the fear. I keep getting ahead of myself, and my husband has to reel me in. I'm worried about speaking engagements (I don't know what to speak about! I have 10,000 heart attacks just thinking about speaking to a large audience!) and writing the next book, and he keeps reminding me,"Ah, let's focus on getting the first book published." Oh yeah, that hasn't happened yet!
>It's funny, I'm hesitant about self publishing _because_ I'm an introvert and the amount of brazen marketing self-pubbing (or any small business, realy) requires is a bit intimidating. Not that I wouldn't have a lot of marketting work to do with a tradiational publisher, but it seems less intimidating.
>I cannot imagine NOT having a certain amount of anxiety. Though I have yet to publish a novel, one of my short stories is included in a children's collection. I had butterflies just going through the contract and playing the "What if this happens or that happens?" game. However, I'm willing to do it again and just let the butterflies take flight.
>I feel like Jack’s beanstalk because of how much I feel the fear and do it anyway. It’s grown me though, that much is true.
I can’t wait to share my dream publishers someday.
And in regards to the whole introvert/extrovert deal, I’m an INFP. I slip into E skin when I must. Hoping that makes sense to at least one person out there. 😉
>@ Keirah. I've had a book signing at which no one showed up. (Am I admitting this aloud?) It wasn't easy for me to do, as I am an ultimate introvert. Lots of people just walked right by me. But in the end, it wasn't so bad! Afterward, my husband took me out for a great dinner. Hey, I survived. It's not a big deal, really. And you get to know the book store people pretty well. Lots of good things come out of it one way or another.
By the way, the book I was signing has now been in print for more than 12 years with a major publisher, so I guess I can say it's done well, no?
>You asked, "Published authors, did it feel risky and overwhelming? Was it worth it?"
Yes, it felt extremely risky. Then the gut-wrenching fear of getting a contract gave way to the whirlwind of publication, and I was swept away. And it was worth it.
Note to the questioner, who says he's an introvert. I am, too. When you put your words out there, in print or on the Internet, you make yourself vulnerable to criticism, and believe me, it will come. Be prepared. But it's still worth it.
>My experience with a small publisher (Mercury House) was great. They were always totally supportive, and they became my friends. There was a lot of work, yes; and at first I was a bit overwhelmed, but the joy was seeing the improved produt that resulted from working with professionals. I was never told that I "had" to do anything. They made suggestions for improvement, but the final decision was mine. This was in 1988. This morning I received an email from someone who had found a used copy of my book and liked it so much she wondered where she could find a copy of Heat Lightning. She must have seen it mentioned on my website. It is as yet unpublished but being reviewed by a few agents. Nice way to start the day.
Yes with self publishing you answer only to yourself, but you have to do everything yourself also. The formatting, cover design, marketing, promotions, distribution if you have paper copies, legalities, etc. Doing all of that, wondering if you're doing it right, if there's a better way of doing it, it is very easy to be overwhelmed.
>Thank you for this post. It is very helpful.
>Awesome post and VERY timely for me. I just recently took that feel the fear and do it anyway step of submitting a query. But to me, writing has been that overwhelming, what if…feeling all along. I have looked into self-publishing, e-books, and the gamut. I chose to go the more "traditional" route as I have a dream publisher but it requires an agent to even be heard.
Additionally, I have a few friends that are self-published and it is quite overwhelming TOO. Personally, I have come to the conclusion that anything that we truly want AND is meant to be comes from facing those fears.
AND writing is a tool for just that
>It never occurred to me to be overwhelmed by the publishing process AFTER getting an agent.
Overwhelmed by the work that need's done, maybe, but not the process.
With so much conflicting advice out there, I look forward to the relief of one set of directions.
>I try not to think too hard about my book being out there for everybody to read. Right now, I'm still in the "Oh my goodness! I'm getting published" phase. I haven't yet reached the "Holy crap, people are going to read my book" phase. I've heard it's unavoidable though.
>Wow, I just blogged about this very subject today. In fact I linked back to one of your previous posts. The timing of your post today is uncanny.
I find the whole process of become a "published author" extremely intimidating after learning so much about the "publishing game". Especially since being a "published author" has never been high on my list of goals. I've been asking myself if I'm willing to pay the price. But, now that I think about it, I am discovering that my conviction to make known my story is greater than my discomfort about what I have to potentially endure to make it known, so…I'm just walkin' the mile, lol! One step at a time, one day at a time, learning as much as I can along the way, trusting the Lord to lead and guide my steps, guarding my heart and expectations and enjoying the journey.
>So, long time reader first time poster here who finally has something to add to the discussion!
Just been offered a publishing contract (and signed it right away of course — don't look a gift horse in the eyes or something) with a small indie press.
My MS is epic fantasy, and I've been on the whole merry-go-round of agent query, rejection, re-draft and send it out again for 2 years… On a whim I submitted to a small press and voila, they came back with an offer two days later.
After I sobered up from the two bottles of red wine my wife and I drank (well, mostly me) I was consumed with anxiety… Not the same kind of uncertain anxiety that I have lived with ever since draft one, but a new kind, one brought about by two years of reading blogs like this…
My publisher doesn't believe in ebooks, and only has distribution deals limited to Australian bookstores and their on line checkout.. This is far removed from the future of books I had come to believe in…
You see at the start of this year I was almost at the point of self publication. This was less surrender and more a decision to take fate by the reigns and side step the evil gate-keepers of the publishing world from holding back my brilliance. Or at least that's what I convinced myself. The truth was I was scared and my self confidence had been half beaten to death by agent rejections and I just didn't think I could handle it again. But I had come to believe that this was The Future, and the idea of an amazon ebook, with a free audio chapter by chapter giveaway was my ticket to fame and fortune.
Now, after a week of telling all the people I had previously tortured with endless draft readings that I have a book deal, the truth of my situation is starting to sink in. I will soon hold a book that I wrote in my hands. And whilst there is a long long road ahead, and even though I'm thrilled to death that I have a publisher that cares about my book and the genre enough to forge ahead in uncertain times, I am scared this could all be a flash in the pan.
So, just like I was ready to do with self publication, I am gearing up to make a website, twitter and facebook; as well as a youtube book trailer and all the while posting all I can on these blogs that once I read with the bitter belief that I would never have anything to add.
Honestly, I am over the moon to be in this position, but I guess my final point is that in today's world, a writer (even one by a pond in the woods) can still connect to his potential readers in a way never before possible, and that if you aren't ready to learn about this community, then you don't know your audience.
Now I'm going back to dafont to see what my book title looks like in something other than courier.
Anon.. for now..
>An excellent and valid question and answer. My first book (Regency romance) is coming out next week with a small Canadian publisher and the overwhelming feeling began as soon as I signed the contract!
So much publicity has to be done by the author these days that it really helps if you already have some kind of platform like a website or blog. It also helps if you're already published in another form (short stories and articles in my case).
But I've had to throw myself into the online forums and blogs across the Atlantic as well as here in the UK and it's been hard work, yes, but I've met so many great new people online. And if you're slightly shy, interacting on blogs is a good way to start.
I'm now looking for an agent/publisher for my more mainstream novel and I'll be ready for the hard work if (when) it happens!
>I already knew enough about the process going in so that I didn't have too much worry, except when deadlines within the publisher's house came and went without comment. Eventually, the books were published. Having done it both ways, as I have mentioned previously, I'd rather self-publish, but I like having more control and the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing.
>Anon- I think with self publishing all of the fingers point to yourself whether things go wrong or right.
For sure putting your work out there for readers is unimaginable until it actually happens. There are so many people with so many varying opinions it feels as though you're floating in an ocean of uncertainty constantly looking for that good review to keep you afloat emotionally. No matter how thick a skin you have, you can still ride that roller coaster of emotion when reading reviews, critiques, etc… but oh so worth it!
>"you are far more likely to be overwhelmed by self-publishing"
Disagree. With self-publishing, you answer only to yourself.
>There's certainly a large learning curve when you becomes a published author, even if you've done all your research beforehand. I've found, though, that my agent and everyone at my publisher has been really great in explaining things along the way so long as I speak up and let them know I don't know a term or understand a concept.
By the way… I'm with a relatively large publisher (Tyndale) and I've had a great experience that has felt intimate and friendly. In fact, I just had lunch with my acquisitions editor today, because she was in town for a conference! I've loved working with them….
>My biggest fear is having a book signing. No, actually it's that no one will show up to my book signing.
>I think my biggest fear is that I will sign with a house, thinking they really get my book, and will then discover they want me to change it in ways I would find unconscionable. Or they will give it a horrible title and cover and try to sell it in a completely wrong market. Or they will insist I give them another book in six months (having given me an advance that wouldn't even keep the lights on for six months). Or . . .
Yeah, I guess it's a little scary.
>Was being published risky? Yes. I didn't want to disappoint my publisher & editor, who invested both time and money in me. I wrote the book because I believed in it, but I also knew not everyone was going to love it like I did. This whole writing gig is subjective, as we all know.
Worth it? Yes. I sat in a writers conference a few weeks after I got my contract and listened to a speaker urge all of us to pursue our dreams. And I sat there and cried because I was humbled to realize I was living mine. And I still am.
>Totally worth it. I didn’t have much trepidation about being published, but maybe that’s because I was so clueless about the whole process when I went into it with my first novel and/or because I’d been working on the book for a decade so by the time it finally went to print it felt a little less immediate and a little more separate from “me”. I didn’t have an agent and I did have trepidation about figuring out the contract and whether I should sign with the first publisher that offered me a contract when there was also another publisher interested, but I muddled through it, got a lawyer to check the contract, and followed my instincts. In the end it was a great experience!
>Thanks for this post–I've been wondering about a lot of this. Is it POSSIBLE not to feel nervous about this stuff? 🙂