I recently had a coaching session with an author who's finished with her manuscript and ready to shop it. Like most of the writers I work with, it's taken her a year to complete, and there were another five years before we started our work together during which she was plotting and figuring things out and writing in fits and spurts. Writing a book is a long haul, as anyone who's completed one can attest. And yet often I witness an odd correlation with writers that goes like this: The more time they've spent on the book, the more anxious they are to rush the post-completion phase of shopping, author platform, and publishing, even though none of these arenas can or should be rushed.
If patience is a virtue, then impatience is a flaw, a fault, a vice, a trap. And we live in a society that cultivates -- if not celebrates -- impatience, so it's also somewhat inevitable. Where authors are concerned, impatience leads to wishful thinking, which feeds these five delusions I see new authors suffer from, when they allow impatience to distort their path to successful publication.
1. Though the writer has spent upwards of five or six years on their manuscript, they think they should be able to execute their query letter, proposal, or shopping strategy in a matter of months. They don't take the time to figure out the ins and outs of the publishing world, and then they fling themselves out into this world like a bird leaving its nest too soon. Then they wonder why there's not a soft landing.
2. Realizing they don't have an author platform to speak of, a writer looks to outsource, but to the wrong third party. I'm all for outsourcing social media, even blog posts where it makes sense, but you can't just hire anyone to do it. You need to hire someone who knows your voice, and who understands your market. Otherwise you're putting out a hollow message that's not about who you are. There's no such thing as a quick and easy fix online, and you're required to show up. Even if you outsource, you need to monitor and handle your own comments.
3. Feeling a little desperate for more likes and follows, a writer pays someone to get likes and follows, thinking the number alone will boost their chances with editors and agents. This is like the snake pit of social media followers, because these followers have no investment. They're probably not even real people but proxy accounts. If their likes and follows can be bought, you're not gaining true fans, which is all that matters. Publishing companies may want a high number of social media followers to prove your fan base, but you need and want to be able to back that up come your pub date -- or else you've led with a false promise, and that will hurt you in the long run.
4. Having spent money on writing classes or a coach or a developmental edit, the writer decides not to get their book copyedited or proofread. I see this every single day. There is nothing more valuable than a copyedit on the manuscript you think is complete. It's the best investment you will ever make, and it's worth doing it before you shop. Editors are reading countless letters, proposals, and manuscripts every single week. You have one shot.
5. No matter how many statistics well-informed writers have seen about the number of books published every year, or how much they get on a cellular level that it's hard to sell books, writers feel about their own book much the way they feel about their children -- that it's special and unique and beautiful and brilliant. You get to feel this way about your book; it's okay. The problem is not that these things aren't true, but that we live in a very educated society with lots of great writers, so just as is the case with kids, a lot of people's books are special and unique and beautiful and brilliant. So you're up against tough competition. Take this as a reality check that it's hard, especially as a debut author, not only to sell books but also to get a book deal, to get serious media attention, to get reviews. It can happen, but the more you go in with your eyes wide open and with serious work ethic and patience, the better shot you'll have at not being disappointed, and at experiencing some level of satisfaction with your publishing experience.
Are there things that you were naïve about going into your publishing experience? Things you know now that you wish you knew then? Please share!
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