A Publishing Fairy Tale?

Michelle Ule

Blogger: Michelle Ule

Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.

Once upon a time, I thought a writer was someone who sat in a garret–hopefully with some apples to eat–and crafted a wonderful story in long hand. The scribbler would read it through, make a few corrections, and then type it up on onionskin paper or erasable bond. The would-be-authoress then would ask someone whose opinion she valued to read the work, and then she would figure out how to turn on the computer and keyboard in the entry.

The writer then learned how to use Microsoft Word and revised the manuscript, hoping she wouldn’t need to access track changes. Voila! A book! She was an author! Her parents’ investment in her education was paid off! People would no longer sneer at her for staying home to raise her children! She’d have a job title at cocktail parties! But best of all, a book would be available to prove she had worth–after all, not everyone can be a published writer.

Unfortunately, our published-writer-wanna-be quickly learned not everyone, even she, can be a published writer.

Anyone can be a writer–all you need is a means to tell your story. But being an author and getting that work published for profit–is another fairy tale altogether.

Publishing is a business, and it needs to be treated as a business.

You wouldn’t expect to run a corporation the first day you showed up. You need to learn skills, gain insight, observe, and practice. It takes time; you need to pay your dues. The same is true in the publishing world.

We recommend people attend writer’s conferences and join critique groups. We suggest publishing articles or stories in magazines. Even writing a church newsletter or posting on a blog is excellent training for the writing life. Rejections teach you perseverance and toughen your skin for editing. And if you want to work in publishing–say, as an editor or for a publishing house–take some business classes and computer training.

But if you just want a hobby and you don’t care about a business–write away and enjoy yourself. You very well may be able to live happily ever after.

Some days the magic almost works for me.

7 Responses

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  1. Wonderful post, and one to which I’m going to refer the people who tell me they want to “get their story out there” by writing a book. If it were easy… But you know that already.

  2. Nicole says:

    you just described the way I wrote my first novel . . .

  3. Samantha Bennett says:

    What? That’s not how it works? 🙂

  4. Kathleen says:

    I agree with your wise words. I haven’t gotten my book published….yet….haven’t come near to finishing it. I have been published in a magazine….a very small article, and I have a lot of rejection slips to keep me reminded of how serious a business it is in the publishing world. I may never be known for what I write, but I keep on writing…for the pure love of it. Your words on joining conferences and critque groups is a great suggestion. Blessings,Kathleen

  5. Way back when. . .editors wouldn’t accept anything on erasable bond. Well, now you know when I started writing. . .Thank goodness I learned to use the computer! A lot of trees gave their life for my rejections. 😉

  6. Lynn Dean says:

    Actually, you’ve probably described how a number of us fell in love with writing while we were still kids–just playing with words, telling stories, and feeling encouraged when our families and friends enjoyed them.

    The learning curve is a little steeper now, but I still sort of hyperventilate over a fresh idea and a blank sheet of paper. 🙂

  7. I was reading Sol Stein again, and came across a favorite quote: “Only writers, it seems, expect to achieve some level of mastery without practice.” Just last weekend, someone came up to me at a book signing and wanted to know how to get her book published. Turned out that she hadn’t even written it yet.