June 10, 2011

After The Call: You Should Really Read This Link

Thanks to a suggestion by Tracey Neithercott, I recently read a fantastic blog post by YA author Kirsten Hubbard. In the post, Kirsten talks about being a mid-list author and how excruciatingly hard it can be. It's so honest. And beautifully written. Go read it now if you have the time!

(If you haven't heard of Kirsten, she's the founder of the YA Highway blog and the author of the YA contemporary novel, Like Mandarin, which was published in March.)

So...did you read Kirsten's post yet? No? Why not?! Go ahead. I'll wait. :)

*Tries to wait patiently* *Gets a little twitchy* *I haz short attention span*

Okay. Wasn't that such a good post? I love when authors open up---I feel that it gives me a peek into what published life is like---and I very much appreciate Kirsten's candor concerning her fears. This paragraph was especially eye-opening for me:
A couple months ago, I wrote a really honest blog post about how hard (excruciating) (devastating) it's been to debut as a midlist author -- not by choice, it's never by choice, but because it's where the Big Guys decided the book should be placed. Never mind how big my deal was, my solid early reviews, my blurb from a Printz-winner -- or what matters most, how good the book is. It's a numbers game, and miles outside my limited reach, in that faraway place where the power lies, it was decided my beloved book would not be given much of a push, and would not be stocked at Barnes & Noble bookstores. Among other things.
Wow. It's scary to realize how much of our career is out of our control. We hear so often that we must write a good book, revise it until it shines like aluminum foil, and then find a great agent and editor...but we rarely hear how this might not be enough to achieve the sort of success we dream about.

'Cause let's face it. We all want our books to get a fighting chance. We all want our publishers to promote and market our work. We all want to earn out our advance, not necessarily because we want to make more money (although that's great!) but so we can sell another manuscript more readily.

We all want to get published but, even more, we want to get published well.

But the sad truth is...not every book will get the chance that it deserves. I realize that this is "all part of the business" and that "this is a very competitive industry," but it still sucks, you know?

And yet, we can't let this get us down. No, we shan't! We have to keep forging ahead, even if publishing seems kinda scary and even if so many factors hover out of our control. Here are a few thoughts I have about this matter:

1. Sometimes it takes time. 
Some books seem to skyrocket right out of the gate, climbing up the bestsellers' lists in a matter of weeks upon their debut. But other books need time to build a readership. For instance, Agent Kristin Nelson once blogged about how certain novels are a "slow build." In other words, some books require months or perhaps years to garner a following. Which I find very heartening. The audience for your book is out there...but it may take a little while to find them.

2. Surround yourself with love and support. 
This writing gig is pretty damn tough, ain't it? I used to think that the hardest part was querying. Then I decided that the hardest part was being on submission. And now, I realize that there is no hardest part. It's all hard! Querying, subbing, editing, promoting. There will always be bumps--and sometimes giant pot holes--on this road called publishing. Which is why it's so important to reach out to other writers, whether it's in-person or online or via pony express.

In the past year, I've been incredibly lucky to have connected with some fabulous writers both online and in the DC area. They have been my lifeline when the going has gotten tough. They've listened to my gripes. They've comforted me with cupcakes. They've given me a swift kick in the pants whenever I entered my I-will-sulk-forever phase. And I know they'll be there for me if/when I get a book deal and I won't be able to share as much on my blog.

Writing is hard enough on its own--don't let it be lonely too! Honestly, if you haven't found anyone to commiserate with yet, commiserate with me! (Email me! Tweet me! Send me a letter!) You bring the tissues and I'll bring the dessert. Deal?

3. Try to forget about what you can't control.
Oh man. The more time I spend in the writing world, the more I realize just how much lies out of my autonomy. Editorial boards. Publishing trends. Editors' tastes. Deal amounts. Book covers. Release dates. Print runs. Distribution. Lead titles versus mid-list.

Yipes. It's quite overwhelming.

But you know what? This stuff isn't going to change. You'll never be able to set your release date or increase your first print run or negotiate yourself a million-dollar advance. These issues lie in your publishers' hands. They don't lie in yours. (Wouldn't it be great though to negotiate a million-dollar deal? Ah, I could finally pursue my dream of opening a sloth orphanage!)

On one hand, it can be a bit terrifying to think about all of the things we don't have any control over. But on the other hand, this realization can make us focus on the things that we can change. Which leads to...

4. What can you control? 
For one thing, self-promotion. You can visit local schools or organize a blog tour or give out bookmarks to market your work. Self-promotion may not launch you onto a bestsellers' list or win you an award, but it can help you widen your audience and reach out to a greater readership.

More importantly though, you control your writing. You control your craft. At the end of the day, we are writers. Not publishers. Not agents. We write. We create worlds. That's our job.

And so, whether you become a bestselling author or a mid-list one, whether you sell your book or you have to shelve it, it's always important to focus on the next project. Out of all the numerous things out of our control, this is the one thing that only we can do.

In closing, I just wanted to thank Kirsten for her incredibly insightful post. Seriously. THANK YOU! Kirsten probably has no idea who I am, but I've truly enjoyed getting to know her through her blog and through YA Highway for the past year or so. She has always been so helpful and so honest. And after reading the first few pages of Like Mandarin online, I've come to see that she's so talented as well. I can't wait to read your book, Kirsten!

7 comments:

  1. Caroline, every time you blog I find myself sitting at my computer, nodding my head over and over and over. You rock.

    I loved Kristen's post as well. So very brave.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Caroline,

    Thanks for sharing Kirsten's post and thanks for yours as well. I love the sharing. Keep it coming.

    Hey, have you entered the contest on my blog yet? Get going...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the link Caroline and for your great post! It's one I need to print out and keep for my grey days :)

    Sending virtual cupcakes your way ~ I'm having a Mint Julep one :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I LOVED that post by Kirsten--and I love your response as well. :) I think so many of us think that once we get that book deal, it's uphill from there. I'm glad to read about Kirsten's honesty--and I encourage everyone to go pick up Like Mandarin. It's truly an awesome book!

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is fantastic, Caroline, as was Kirsten's post. You're so right about focusing on the things you can control, like self-promotion and your growth as a writer--great advice!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I loved her post, too. So often we only hear about the good stuff, so when someone writes an open and honest post about the harder parts of being an author it's so refreshing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. hi caroline,

    thank you for linking to me, in such a thoughtful and uplifting post. (and thanks to tracey for sharing it!) some of the realities are definitely depressing, but the journey is still worth it, I think -- not least of all because of our amazingly supportive community.

    xo
    -kirsten

    ReplyDelete