Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
Several people have told me about how their friends and family don’t quite understand the process of publishing. One writer wrote:
“If you even mention an agent or editor is looking at a proposal, my family wants to know when the book is coming out! They’re excited about having a famous relative. Hold on folks, it’s only a proposal and a rejection could be on the way!”
Many of you have experienced similar things. The minute you have an agent, everyone wants to know when they’ll be able to get your book at Barnes & Noble. It can be difficult, and a little humbling, to try and straighten them out on the facts.
There’s another scenario that illustrates how most people are clueless about publishing. It’s when you’re sitting around shooting the breeze with your friends, telling about something that happened to you, and the friends start saying, “You should write a book!” Maybe it’s because of an amazing incident or an inspiring life journey. Maybe you’re funny or have a way with words. Whatever it is… it causes otherwise totally rational people to exclaim, “You should write a book!” I get several query letters each month that begin with some variation of: “For years, all my friends have been telling me I should write a book.”
Even though most people don’t know anything about publishing, it sure is flattering when they say, “You should write a book!” We want to believe them. If we hear it often enough, we start to take it seriously.
The way I see it, this makes about as much sense as watching your friend shoot hoops in the driveway, seeing them sink five in a row, and exclaiming, “You should play for the NBA!” In reality, you know nothing about what it takes to play in the NBA. And five baskets does not a Michael Jordan make.
But everyone is familiar with books. We’ve all been reading them our whole lives, so it’s easy for people to feel like they “know books.” And it’s easy for people to believe there’s nothing difficult or specialized about writing a book and getting it published… after all, so many people do it, right? (It can’t be as hard as training to be a professional athlete.)
Most people don’t understand the business aspects and the daunting competition, let alone the difference between being able to write, and being able to write something people will want to read. Most people simply have no idea what they’re talking about, whether they’re asking when your (unwritten) book will be on the NYT bestseller list or saying you should write a book.
What’s the point of this blog post? I’m not sure! Maybe I just want you to make sure you’re writing a book because that’s want you really want to be doing, and you’re willing to commit to the hard work of it. Don’t write a book just because everyone says you should.
And if you’re in the writing/publishing process, be patient with friends and family who ask when your book will be in Barnes & Noble. Try not to be annoyed when a stranger, upon finding out you’re a writer, asks, “Anything I might have heard of?” Most people just don’t get the world of books.
Are you a writer partly because others told you that you should be? True confessions, now. Share your story.
Photo by Rodolpho Zanardo from Pexels
When I set out to write a book,
my mates all thought me barmy,
and that, with all the time it took,
and the thinking, it might harm me.
They feared that I would become
someone they’d not prefer to meet,
an intellectual, quick of tongue,
and borderline effete.
But all the worry was for naught,
I’m still the same old thug,
but one thing my fame has bought:
ladies, how ’bout a hug?
I’ll write another tome someday;
just need to figure out what to say.
Damon J. Gray
You’re a thug?
My cat is a thug. I love him anyway.
We thugs is lovable, Damon!
Damon J. Gray
Rachelle, I laughed when you said, “…what’s the point of this blog post? I’m not sure.”
When you were talking about the reason, or the driver for writing, it brought to mind Ken Costa’s “Know Your Why.” Toward the end, he discusses the undaunted, relentless mentality of one who will not be denied their goal/prize. Beaten and bleeding, with multiple insurmountable obstacles in their paths, these people constantly press forward, never backward, not because it is fun, but because that’s where the finish line is.
He wrote about the two gentlemen who free-climbed El Capitan in Yosemite, and how the skin was ripped from their fingers by the razor sharp rocks, yet they pressed upward. He spoke of how climber Kevin Jorgeson fell ten times over seven days trying to get past one of the most difficult sections, but made in on his eleventh attempt. So inspiring.
I want that “never to be deterred” passion in my writing.
Damon, this is composed just for you.
It’s not about the finish-line,
or the tunnel-ending light.
It’s not about the heights you climb,
it’s all about the fight.
The win you should not bank upon,
and however hard it gets
you may yet face a blood-red dawn
and the glint of bayonets.
But quitting’s not an option here
not for men like you,
who know what in their heart is dear,
and hold their faith as true.
And it matters, thus, not where you go,
to success or holy Alamo.
Thank you, Rachelle! We shouldn’t write a book because someone says we should. Flattery gets you nowhere in that case! I appreciate your insight on the whole writing process.
Well written and well said….
Are you seeking new clients? I have three books running on Amazon, and I think I am ready to find the right agent, and right publisher….my latest novel: DAMIEN RISING (The Ghosts of Saigon) is a stunning tale of hope, despair, and redemption told with Vietnam as the backdrop…it’s pretty serious stuff; my editor has told me it is very well done and should be dropped on an agent ASAP….
This is useful information for those of us looking for an agent. Outside of our world, people rarely understand the glacial process that occurs _after_ a contract with a publisher has been signed, much less the vicissitudes of finding representation. I think I’ll keep my mouth shut outside of my writing contacts until a publication date is set, if God is so gracious as to allow that to unfold. Thanks, Rachelle, again.
I’m a writer in spite of the fact most people told me I shouldn’t be. Not because I’m no good but because it wasn’t practical.
Share my story, you request at the end?
I have been encouraged by readers at the Lab and in my writing cohort, which means a great deal to me. My father was encouraging even with my very early attempts, but none of them were initial motivators for me–they just enjoyed the final products. Interesting issue!
A while ago, I drove my daughter to a State Honors Choir audition. Her performance was scheduled at 8:00 a.m. at a site forty-five minutes away. We were in the car before sunrise. She sat in the front seat next to me and was priming her early morning voice pump with all sorts of crazy sounds before she eventually gave a swing at “Oh Sleep Why Doest Thou Leave Me”.
She hesitated. She coughed. She apologized. She got frustrated. She started over … and over … and over. She finally quietly squeaked out her piece. All along my ears were anticipating the beautiful song she had sung so many times. I couldn’t wait to hear it.
I squeak out words, write and rewrite, and chew on my thoughts with a desire that my experience and the way I see things through the lens of a faulty life, would encourage someone to keep going. Many times the only audience though is my own soul and heart. (OK, it’s most of time.)
I write to process life and, like my mentor says, to join myself in my own journey. Maybe one day the words I write break out into a song for someone else, maybe not. Either way is fine.
I loved your analogy and your truths here, Heidi. They spoke to my singer/writer heart. 🙂 Great perspective.
Jeanne, I would love to know how you pronounce your last name??? Is is like “take an acre”? Forgive me … I get sidetracked easily 🙂
Grinning, Heidi. Officially, it’s pronounced–Tok-AY-nock-uh. Most people pronounce it tock-uh-nock-uh. 🙂
Janet Holm McHenry
No one ever encouraged me to be a writer. I write because while at a women’s retreat at Tahoe more than 30 years ago God said, “I want you to write for me.” I had no idea what that meant. I had been a newspaper journalist. I knew how to who-what-when-where for a newspaper, but I never wrote for myself. I never “always wanted to be a writer” as most of you probably have. I’ve never had a compulsion to write; I write on assignment. However, when God says something, you listen and do what he asks. Even with Book #24 coming out next month, I’m still figuring it out. Blessings to all you real writers.
God calls me write, this I know. God calls me to be published? I’m not sure. God calls me to support myself by writing? This I question, because He’s graciously provided other means of income.
If no one reads my words, it’s been worthwhile because I’ve grown spiritually by writing them. I have shared my writing with others, and they’ve grown spiritually. I have a plan which pursues publishing. I perfect my words, develop a proposal, wait for a response–all with a “Your will be done” prayer. I’ll do my part, and published or not, I can live joyously with His answer.
A great post about life, in general, Rachelle. Thanks!
I may have chuckled out loud at your line about not being sure why you wrote the post. 🙂 I have had people tell me those things. I usually just shake my head internally, thinking “If they only knew . . . ” Sometimes I take their words as a compliment, as their belief that one of my books could actually BE in a store someday.
I began writing because God gave me the seed for a story thirty some years after the desire to write first implanted in my heart. It’s been a journey of learning to trust God for the timing of each step, of learning to depend on Him, and of learning where my true value comes from. I love processing life through words, and sharing what God shows me.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Ha ha! Yes and no. In first grade, my teacher sent me to a young writer’s conference and essentially told me, “You could write a book!” I wrote and wrote and dreamed into adulthood when my husband grabbed a brochure for a distance writing course and handed it to me. He encouraged me to actually try for me dream. I have written 13 manuscripts since then, picture books, YA, middle grade, romantic comedy … . Some have found a home with a small press and I keep on revising and sending out proposals for the others. But yeah, sometimes at the beginning you just need someone to believe in you … and then the reality and hard work hit you and you keep on going despite all that pesky pragmatism!
I’m not sure I’ve ever pursued anything because someone told me it’s what I “should” do. I do what I’m moved to do.
I distinctly recall, many years ago in elementary school, a classmate mentioned they were writing a book. I’d always been an avid reader, but it had never occurred to me that stories were written by people like me, and I could write my own. I’ve been writing ever since.