Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Publishing Is SCARY!

Since its that day of the year when people like to frighten each other with costumes, decorations, stories, etc., I thought I'd make a list of things that are "scary" when it comes to publishing.

1) REJECTION -- It's the author's number one fear to have a story turned down for publication. But did you know that editor's go through rejection too? We have been known to find an author (or story) that we want to work with and have had our offer to publish turned down for various reasons: author goes with another publisher, author has a life crisis that takes her away from writing, etc.

2) STEALING -- Many authors fear sharing their proposals of story ideas, thinking publishers or other authors will steal the idea and cut the author out from making any profit for originating the idea. It is similar with editors. We get ideas that we think would make great stories, but it is scary to share that idea with anyone if there is the remote chance that they'd take the idea to another publisher who might profit from it. So, editors rarely seek out authors and ask them to write a story based on the editor's idea unless there is a contract in place first.

But ideas are subjective. We often all filter similar things like a TV show, a country music song, an emailed urban legend, and the like that sparks an idea for developing a novel. As an author, what you really copyright is the way you develop that idea into your own voice, because each author will tell even the same story outline in their own way.

3) EDITS -- Authors, editors, and really anyone who writes tend to fear being edited. We fear that someone else will want to change the essence of what we are trying to say in our writing. A good copy editor knows how to improve upon the wording of a piece without changing the author's voice. I think the main thing we fear about edits - if we're honest - is the work. We've put a lot of effort just into getting the piece finished, and it can be painful to revisit it and rework it. Sometimes in reworking we find we don't even like what we've written, and that can be really scary to a writer.

4) WRITER'S BLOCK -- It's a common fear of every writer that we'll sit down to the computer and nothing will come out. We might even know the plan for writing (story summary or article outline), but we can't seem to form the words on paper/screen. And the more we worry about being blocked the worse it gets. It's a mental war we play with ourselves, and the worst of it originates deep within our being at the root of feeling inadequate for the job, unworthy of an audience. Blockage at the very least can also come from the inability to relax and let the muse flow. In the midst of a block, a mini vacation might be in order. Even a 10-minute break from the computer to do something that mentally and physically relaxes you could help. Take time to be reminded of your personal value in God's eyes and His gift of writing for your life.

5) SALES -- How the sales results for a book will pan out is a worry for both author and editor. We fear a book that never sells beyond a handful of copies even though we've done our very best to make it marketable. We even fear a book that only sells enough to cover the initial costs. Without momentum to sell enough to actually make money, a book could be considered, by some, to be a failure. But I've even heard murmurings of authors who fear good sales. Sales success brings responsibility upon the author for more books that will sell as well, to get out and do book signings and other promotions where the readers are, and to answer other authors who are looking for publishing advice. Success puts authors in the spotlight, which many fear.

I'm sure we could increase the list by talking about other fears like deadlines or contract business, but I'll stop here and leave you with this prayer.

"When all is said and done, it simply comes down to this, Lord: In whom do I trust? If I allow messages from the devil to fill my mind, I will be defeated. You have overcome this world, You have overcome the evil one. Plant Your Word in my mind so that there is no room for the fears that threaten to consume me. Help me to remember that I need never fear, for You are with me."
(from Power Prayers to Start Your Day by Donna Maltese)

If you would like a copy of this book, post a comment about a publishing fear you've had that you've been able to overcome. On Monday I'll pick the best comment (or 2) and send you a book.

UPDATE: All very good responses to the fears in publishing, but I'm going to pick Patricia's comment about taking it a step at a time and Jess's comment about hearing the right voice. Both will get books. Thanks to all who commented.


Mary Connealy said...

You've covered all the major fear groups. minimum daily requirement for me is three servings a day everyday.
My major fear is marketing.
I think I've done okay at it but it is WAY outside my comfort zone. One of the things that saved me was a newspaper interview in which I discovered that the people who write newspapers are...brace yourself it's profound...writers.
Once I realized this I found out that most interviewers LOVED to talk writing. Sometimes the 'writing talk' wouldn't even make the story but it was actually fun to just yak away with another writer and the interview flowed from there.
When I sold my first book I made a promise to myself, Barbour and God. I'd been given this opportunity and I was going to step up and do what was needed all down the line. Including marketing so I've stepped out in faith over and over. First the blog interviews, those were pretty easy, just problem.
Then the phone interviews, scary but I did okay.
Then the face to face interviews...and they'd want a picture...yikes.
Then the true horror of giving a speech. so NOT my gift. But I did okay.
Then a live radio interview.
By this time my standard of success at the end of whatever event was, "No one was killed."
So, measured by that, things are looking pretty good.
Publishing IS scary!!!

Becky said...

Yes, I hadn't given much thought how scary self marketing can be. :)

Darlene Franklin said...

Mary, I LOVE your "minimum daily requirement" comment!

Another fear: will it last? Or is it a fluke? I say this as I battle multiple deadlines and wonder if I'll have anything else under contract next summer. That one, I know, is a lack of faith.

Regarding stealing: I once proposed a personality profile to a local magazine that had published several of my pieces. They never replied, and to my chagrin, they published the profile I had proposed--written by someone else! It took me a long time to realize that perhaps the other author had also suggested the same personality, and they decided to go with her proposal instead of mine.

Courage, they say, is not the absence of fear but acting in spite of fear ... so let us go forth and write, regardless of the fears and doubts that assail us!


Patricia W. said...

For a new writer, a big fear is the fear of the unknown. There's so much to learn. Where to start? Sure, begin by writing but does any of it make sense? Am I doing it right? Will I ever get someone to look at it?

Should I take online courses? Which ones? Should I go to conferences? What will I do when I get there? How do I write a query letter? What's a synopsis? Where do I get help? Who can I trust?

I've found lots of joy in hurdling each unknown, each mini-success pushing me closer to my goals. So many have helped, in ways they'll never know, which helps me to understand why so many writers give so much of themselves to others. They're simply doing what was done for them.

Margie Vawter said...

Mary's comment about interviewers who LOVE to talk about writing hit home once again. Too many times I'm one of those "interviewers." Becky, you did cover the major fear groups in this. As I read your post and the other comments, I was reminded of Proverbs 14:23 NLT: Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!

I tend to allow fear of failure or success or of almost any part of the writing/publishing process to delay my obedience to the Lord. I worry that when I'm editing, I won't do an adequate job. That I'll miss something huge. Talking about what I do, or am supposed to do, too many times takes the place of being obedient and getting to work.

When I do finally get to work, asking the Lord to conquer those fears, I find that He's right there beside me helping me know the next plot point I need to include in my own writing, or giving me a clear mind to see what needs to be edited in order to make another writer's work more powerful.

So yes, I battle fears on both sides of the publishing world—as an author and as a freelance editor. Thanks the reminder, Becky!

Jess said...

I have a couple of fears that have plagued me in the past. I was surprised to learn a lot of writers think like I do. In fact, had lunch with some writer friends the other day and we were discussing this very thing:

Fear of Failure: Everyone--church friends, family, neighbors--is watching me, wondering if I'll ever sell anything. When they see me they always ask: sold anything yet? They probably think I'm such a loser, wasting my time and I'm probably proving to them that I am.

Fear of Success: What if I actually do sell something? Yikes! Then my friends and family will really be watching and waiting. And when the book comes out, how will they judge me? Will they think it's stupid? Then I'll have to write another one and another one and ... Can I do it?

Talk about the voice of Satan! Most writers live inside their heads. We can conjure up all kinds of fears. We can easily drive ourselves crazy. A perfect example of why we should know and recognize the sweet encouragement of Jesus. He's my cheerleader. . . but sometimes I fail to hear His voice over all the other noise inside my head.

Robin Bayne said...

So many fears! Ugh.

I would say my biggest fear was leaving my first publisher, who was slowly changing to an increasingly "erotic" romance publisher. To write sweet and/or inspirational romance, I left a small press publisher who had achieved book store selling and was actually paying a decent royalty, but who no longer supported my values.

Mary Connealy said...

Oh, I've got another fear. This one should be in the dictionary.
Submitters Remorse.
Kind of like that feeling you get after you buy something big, a house or a car, where you beat yourself up, feel sick and spend days in self-abuse.
What was I thinking?
I'll go broke!
I'll die hungry and alone and my children will be taken by the state and...
Well, submitters remorse is like that. You hit Send on your proposal or you mail off your contest entry or you send the actual whole completed book in to your editor.
The minute the mail goes or the email goes you freak out.
Submitters remorse. I think knowing we having and admitting it is the first step to recovery.
Twelve step program and a support group.
Also, not appropriate nor necessary to mention, but:
Submitters remorse always sounds kinda dirty to me!!!!!!!!!!

Linda Ford said...

So many fears. I share most of them and more.

I think my greatest fear is that I can't find the words to tell the story in my head. My attempts always fall short of what I want but I fear they will also fall short of delivering a satisfying read to the reader. Every day I ask God for His help. He never fails but I know I do.

Kristy Dykes said...

My WIP is the hardest book I've ever written. I've started it at different places and time frames, trying to get it "right"--whatever that is. As you said, it's subjective. This novel has a unique format with a contemporary storyline that has a few chapters set in the past. Trying to get it right--meaning, which part of the story has the best hook so it'll reel in the reader? while being true to the story itself--is my biggest fear.

Yesterday I had an epiphany, and it's flowing like gravy over rice right now. Hallelujah!

Vickie said...

For a while, I had a fear of submitting a proposal. If you don't submit, you can't be rejected--but you also will never get published.

I'm writing for God, so at some point I realized it's all in His hands anyway and started sending in proposals. God has blessed me with sales, and I truly appreciate the Barbour folks involved in purchasing my books.

Sadly, I see this same fear within my writer's group. We have some fabulous writers who finally finish a book but never send in a proposal. I keep encouraging them, "Send it in. It just might sell."

Becky said...

Good comments. I see that picking a winner on Monday is going to be hard.

Lynette Sowell said...

Don't laugh, but I was terrified of talking to editors. It was VERY scary for me. I still remember 2002, the FIRST time I talked face-to-face to an editor (hi Becky). My hands were shaking before I went into my appointment. But I really, really wanted to talk to her, to see if she liked my ideas. I mean, hey, this lady had the POWER to yes or no. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I made it through. :) Those projects? They're long gone. I don't even remember what they were.

Then 2 or 3 years down the road, it dawned on me during an appointment...the editor sitting across the table is a fellow book lover, like me. They get paid to read for a living...and choose from all that they read. A tough job, but an editor has to be passionate about words. Realizing that the editor is a fellow reader really helped me. I still get butterflies, because I want to put my best foot forward and make my ideas sound great verbally, but I think that's part of the process. :)

Blissful said...

Okay, I have yet to conquer this fear - but it is coming. Public speaking about my writing ministry. Today I was invited to speak about writing to a middle school English class. Yikes! The ultimate clammy hands and thumping heart scenerio. But God does not give us more than we can handle. He prepares us, step by step. My son and I have had opportunities in recent months to speak about our hike in different public arenas. And I enjoyed it very much. I believe God used it in preparation for this next big step of faith - to speak about writing and in a way that will minister to others. Already when my husband told me about the opportunity, I was rehearsing what I would say.

So this is a fear still to be overcome. But God is already at work, praise be.

Mary Connealy said...

Just gonna go ahead and ask Lynette. If you're Dorothy then, well, I'm going through the powerful people in Oz and not liking the possibilities...
Hey, maybe Glinda, huh? Hope?
Oops, I shouldn't have asked.
Flying monkeys at three o'clock!!!

Anita Mae said...

Well, since I haven't been published yet, most of my fears have to do with the submission process such as: Did I spell the editor's name right?
But when it comes to the actual publishing process, I worry that I will miss a simple mistake in my proofing and everyone else will miss it as well. Because I work on a couple wips at a time, I have been known to use one heroine's name in more than one wip.
In one of my wips, I am thinking of changing the dog's name but even using the find and replace feature, will I get them all changed or will I leave a strange dog in the novel?

Pam Hillman said...

# 4, Writer’s Block reminded me of an incident last week. I had struggled for a couple of hours to plot some additional scenes for a wip. It was like plowing through a field of rocks, and I didn’t make much headway.
Later, when I wasn’t even thinking about my story, someone said something that jumpstarted my creative juices. Thankfully, I wasn’t driving and had the back of a grocery list and a pen handy. In about 5 minutes, I jotted down ten ideas for scenes.
Maybe there’s such a thing as thinking TOO hard!

Becky said...

Jess and Patricia,
Please send me your mailing address to rgermany at Barbour Books .com.