Myth Busting – Part 1
One of the great things about the Internet is that it has made it so easy to find information. But the downside is that it’s just as easy to find misinformation. With authors, agents, and publishing people out there on blogs, loops, and forums, constantly talking with one another and often contradicting each other, it’s sometimes hard to discern what’s true and what’s rumor. So this week I’ll take some time to bust some myths you shared with me in the comments of my March 4th post. Today we’ll start with…
Myth: You have to have an “in” to get an agent or a publisher. It isn’t what you know but who you know.
Truth: While having an “in” helps, and networking can be quite effective, it’s not necessary nor is it the only way to break in. Many agents and publishers take on new writers through queries.
Myth: If you want a big publisher, get published at small presses first and work your way up.
Truth: While this can work, it’s not the best strategy. With a small publisher, your books may have modest sales figures, which may make it impossible for you to get a big publisher later. However, sometimes a small publisher is right for you, and can be a good home for you long-term.
Myth: Getting published is a catch-22. You need to be published in order to get an agent; but you can’t get published without having an agent first.
Truth: You do not need to be published to get an agent. Getting published is hard, but is not a catch-22. We always need fresh voices, so there are always new authors getting published.
Myth: Publishers can buy a spot on the NYT bestseller list to debut their author’s work.
Truth: While the formula for making the NYT list is somewhat mysterious, it does NOT involve publishers paying the NYT for a spot.
Myth: If your first book tanks you might get blacklisted and be banished from the publishing community forever, requiring you to change your name and begin from scratch.
Truth: If your first book tanks, you definitely have an obstacle to overcome, and using a pseudonym might be one way to try and deal with it. It’s not a matter of blacklists and banishing, but a very real concern about whether your future books can sell.
Myth: Once you are published, you no longer need to submit a proposal for each book thereafter. A synopsis will do and your publisher will keep you indefinitely.
Truth: This varies publisher to publisher, and is totally dependent on the performance of that first book together with the quality of your writing. As an author, you are constantly beholden to the sales of your latest book, and if your books are not performing, the publisher can drop you. If you’re making money for the publisher, they’ll want to keep you.
Myth: When your books are published, they will automatically be in bookstores.
Truth: Distribution to every single bookstore in the U.S. is impossible. When you walk into any Barnes & Noble or other bookstore, it’s a crapshoot as to whether your book will be there.
Myth: You’re finished with rejection once you’ve signed your first book contract.
Truth: Rejection is a part of every single phase of your publishing career…and it’s the worst when your book is published and “rejection” comes in the form of nasty reviews on Amazon and cruel letters from readers.
Myth: A good story with good characters and strong writing will eventually find success with a traditional publisher.
Truth: There is a good deal of mystery, serendipity and luck involved in getting published, and once you’re there, the level of success can be unpredictable. A great book may or may not find a publisher, and if it does, it might be modestly to wildly successful, or it might not live up to expectations. In her March 7 post, agent Kristin Nelson said:
Regardless of whether an author self-publishes or pursues traditional publishing, some writers just win the publishing lottery and their books become major successes. We honestly don’t know why that sometimes occurs; and even more telling, why it sometimes doesn’t occur—even for some really good books. It’s basically a mystery. (And of course I know every blog reader can point to one book they think is totally awful and was a big success. Truly a mystery!)
Myth: There is a formula for getting published and if you just crack the code, it will happen.
Truth: There is no “one” path to getting published – every author’s journey is unique.
Any questions about these myths?
TOMORROW…Myths about agents, and myths about self-publishing.
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent