blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Last year, my husband broke three ribs. A reasonably coordinated man, he tripped on an uneven piece of pavement and fell hard. Broken ribs take an extraordinarily long time to heal. Small fall; big consequences.
It can take a long time to heal from publishing’s tripping hazards, too.
Common Publishing Tripping Hazards (not an exhaustive list)
- Pride that prevents or hinders growth. A writer who believes the book is perfect “as is”–so keep your advice to yourself, agents and editors–is presenting an “as is” project. And we all know what that term means in car purchases and home buying.
- Assuming that a contract is the end of a writer’s financial concerns. I still remember the counsel from a multi-published author who said she feels pretty good about herself if her royalty check covers taking her family out for a nice Italian dinner. No more mortgage concerns? Not realistic, at least in the beginning of most authors’ careers.
- Believing that turning in the manuscript means the hard work is done. If a writer trips on this hazard, he or she will be gravely disappointed when the tasks related to editing or rewriting, marketing efforts, publicity demands, social media management, and reader engagement kick in.
- Listening to another author’s career path story and attempting to duplicate it. Everyone’s path is unique. Success for one is not measured exactly the same for another. The fickle winds of publishing can change direction without warning. Survey any dozen authors and you’ll discover some common threads but a dozen key differences in what worked or didn’t work, how much time it took, and how they got to that point.
- Hanging on tenaciously to bad writing habits. Writers who leave all the tidying to the editorial team are doing both the team and themselves a disservice. Writers who work hard to break bad habits may not merit gold stars, but they gain a reputation for being easy to edit.
- Speaking rudely, thoughtlessly, or arrogantly to anyone in the industry. Today’s critique partner may be next year’s podcast host. The editor you thought “done you wrong”–and made sure he knew it–may be the publisher at another house in a few years. The agent you dissed for not taking you on as a client may turn out to be the one connection you need with a future project. Burning industry bridges can be as consequential as burning a bridge when you leave a job and discover a decade later that the smoke from that smoldering bridge keeps you from your dream job.
Avoiding Publishing’s Tripping Hazards
- Defeat pride with humility whenever it rears its ugly head. Stay grateful, teachable, open, and humble.
- Celebrate any financial benefit from your writing, but don’t anchor your family budget to advances and royalties, especially in the early years of publishing.
- Stay realistic about the writing and publishing process. It’s the hardest work you may ever do. It also may be the most personally rewarding. But there’s an effort-based price to pay.
- Learn from other authors but resist imitating them or measuring success by their experience. Enjoy your own ride.
- Determine to keep learning and improving…until the last word you ever write.
- Be perpetually kind, considerate, thoughtful, and supportive of others in the industry. Because it’s the right thing to do. And because this business runs on the fuel of relationships.
Healing from Tripping Hazard Mishaps
You may have already tripped on one of the above hazards. Now what? Understand it may take time to heal. If you’ve offended an editor, for instance, conduct yourself in a way that is above reproach from that moment on. If you blasted through your first book’s entire advance before it occurred to you that you’d need to pay taxes on that income, set safeguards in place for the next contract. Forgive yourself for mistakes of the past, and devote time and energy to ensure it won’t happen again. Enlist the first aid kit of wise advice from trusted experts.
Ribs do eventually heal, as do well-tended injuries from publishing’s tripping hazards.
What hazards have you observed or experienced?