November 24, 2010

The publishing industry may be SLOW...but take heart!

I often hear that the publishing industry moves at a glacial pace, yet I often find stories to the contrary. You know the ones...

* The writer who lands an agent within a week of querying.
* The agent who sells a book within three days of acquiring it.
* Or the editor who buys a manuscript for a six-figure deal seemingly overnight. 

It's enough to make you pull your hair out and wonder if you'll ever land an agent or if you'll ever find that elusive publishing contract. Fortunately, I found this piece of wisdom on Agent Jennifer Laughran's blog a few days ago and it has given me hope:

The fact is, publishing is a very slow business. Very. Very. Slow. As far as publishers go, it takes many people to make an offer, and to make a real book, and at least one of those people is ALWAYS on vacation or at a conference.

Yay! This made me feel better...and it also got me thinking. 

I think we as writers often memorialize such stories (Six Offers of Rep! A Seven-Figure Deal!) because they are so tantalizing. Who wouldn't want to be like Stephenie Meyer who had a dream about vampires and then went on to pen a multi-million dollar empire? But the problem with idealizing these stories is that we rarely hear about the slog and the suckage that came before the ever-so-shiny publishing deal.

For instance, a friend of mine recently received four offers of representation. Four offers! Doesn't that sound wondrous? But most people don't realize how hard it was for her to get to this point: breaking up with her first agent, re-writing her entire book, and then re-writing it again. All in all, it took her two years of suckage before she went on submission again.

And for another example, my own agent has sold books overnight but he has also sold a book three years after putting it on submission. Holy waiting times, Batman! But hey, it happens.

So I guess what I'm saying is this: Writers, Take Heart! We may be surrounded by Cinderella stories where a writer gets fifteen offers of rep and goes on to secure a billion-dollar deal in two weeks, but you know what? That's okay! Chances are, that lucky writer went through years of rejection and dejection before she hit it big. And chances are, we will go through the same thing before we reach our own goals.

At the end of the day, the publishing industry is a slow industry. There are times it may move like a cheetah, but more often than not it runs at the speed of a sloth.

Take heart, this Thanksgiving weekend! Lord knows, I need to take this advice!


  1. Oh me too :) This was a perfect pick me up post seeing as I came here from a blog that said "a year ago I had a new born baby and hadn't even had this idea and now I have a book out next year and we just sold the film rights."


    I had a baby last year and I have a book that maybe, be ready to query now. Not quite the same. So thanks for reminding me everyones' journey is different and maybe she'd written five books before that got nowhere. That's what I'm telling myself anyway .

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Excellent advice! The word I like best for this business is mercurial. I think so long as we're persistent, it will all pay off in the end.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Timely advice Caroline. I couldn't agree more.

    My limited experience so far with publishing is lo-ong periods of nothing and then, bam! Something happens (usually not so good, but the occasional nice surprise is in there) almost before you realise, and then it's back to the lo-ong waits of nothing again.

    It's probably for the best, or we'd all be hyper like kitties on catnip flavoured milkshake (mmm, milkshake).

  4. Yes! Exactly that. Slow like molasses. And now that the holidays are upon us it will be even slower. Publishers have parties to go to and presents to wrap.


    Hope you have a great Thanksgiving! :)